2019 Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Cohort Metrics

2019 Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Cohort Metrics

The applications are closed, the interview calls have been made, the finalists have been informed and we are now preparing to welcome our 2019 GSBI® cohort. Let’s look back at this year’s recruitment journey.

 
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About the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI)

Setting up a social enterprise to impact the lives of those living in poverty is not a bed of roses. At Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, we understand the hardships; we know the questions that keep social entrepreneurs awake at night, and we recognize the positive benefits entrepreneurs reap from a support system made up of those who have walked a similar path.

Each year, our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBIⓇ) programs help social entrepreneurs make their journey exciting and a little less lonely. Since 2003, Miller Center has accelerated 900+ social enterprises, who have raised over $940M+, and positively impacted the lives of 320M+ people.

How do we do it?

The world is filled with social entrepreneurs making their impact within or outside their local communities. This makes it difficult to handpick only a few for our GSBI cohorts every year. To narrow down our criteria, GSBI supports social entrepreneurs who run non-profit, for-profit or hybrid businesses that are operational and aimed at improving the lives of people living in poverty.

What did we do differently this year?

In addition to selecting entrepreneurs to participate in GSBI Online, In-Residence, JumpStart, Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM), or Technology Entrepreneurship for Change (TECh) programs which include combined curriculum and mentorship, we launched four affinity groups which solely focus on Bay Area impact, last mile distribution, energy, and women-led enterprises. These affinity groups will have additional exclusive content and peer-to-peer collaboration opportunities.

ENERGY affinity group consists of organizations that are focused on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for people living in poverty.

LAST MILE DISTRIBUTION affinity group has organizations that build distribution channels for a range of beneficial products and services to rural or urban populations.

BAY AREA-BASED IMPACT is for  organizations that focus on beneficiaries within the San Francisco Bay Area.

WOMEN-LED affinity group has organizations whose founding or executive team is woman-led.

Brief insights and comparisons of last year’s recruitment journey

Through website updates, social media reminders, strategic email campaigns, targeted outreach to discovery partners, and by attending in-person events like SOCAP, we actively recruit the best social entrepreneurs from around the world to apply to the GSBI. Every year, the response is overwhelming and we end up getting a high number of qualified applicants who meet our criteria.

As compared to 228 completed applications for the 2018 cohort, 196 entrepreneurs started the application for 2019 cohort. To keep the quality bar high, this year we added-in automated filters to help weed out those applicants right away who were not a fit with the program. As a result, we had a lower number of completed applications than last year but those applicants were all qualified, which resulted in selecting more applicants to move forward to the quarter-finalist interview round.

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Where are our applicants from?

The answer is, everywhere! GSBI programs bring social entrepreneurs from all around the world and match them with Silicon Valley’s executive mentors who accompany them along the GSBI journey. This year, we received applications from 46 countries in total, out of which the United States, Nigeria, India, and Kenya had the most applicants.

To view data on interactive Google Map,   click here  .

To view data on interactive Google Map, click here.

Where do we stand on gender parity?

Gender parity is a human rights issue and a strong prerequisite for a sustainable future. With our efforts towards a gender-balanced cohort and launching exclusive women-led affinity group, we received 79 completed applications from female founders out of a total of 196, which raised the men vs women ratio to 60:40 respectively, as compared to 75:25 ratio in the year 2018.

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Which sector or industry are they from?

Social entrepreneurship, in all senses, is a broad term covering a number of industries, sectors and business types. GSBI 2019 applications remained open for all social enterprises working on businesses from all sectors. According to 2019 applicants’ insights, agriculture is the leading sector where social entrepreneurs are trying to create an impact followed by education, energy, and the health sector.

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What type of business do they have?

Social enterprises do not necessarily only operate nonprofit models. In fact, this year, 51% of the social enterprises that applied to GSBI are for-profit. GSBI actively supports for-profit, nonprofit and hybrid organizations. We do, however, prefer established organizations with a potential to scale their business and impact.

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Insights into the 2019 GSBI Cohort Finalists

After an extensive screening process of the applicant pool, our interview team scrutinized the best possible applicants throughout the quarter-finalist, semi-finalist, and finalist interview rounds. Out of 196 completed applications, we were able to handpick the best 42 social entrepreneurs to join the 2019 GSBI cohort who will receive custom support through executive mentorship and custom learning tracks based on their organization’s stage of development.

With our Women’s Economic Empowerment initiative (WEE) efforts to bring gender parity across our programs, we were able to bring some exceptional female founders onboard.

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Out of our 42 selected social entrepreneurs, 24 enterprises are making an impact through a for-profit model, 11 enterprises have a nonprofit model, 6 of them are following the hybrid approach and 1 identifies itself in ‘others’ category.

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Education and Agriculture remained dominant sectors where social entrepreneurs are making their marks. Out of 42 finalists, 12 are working to solve the problems in the Education sector, 10 in Agriculture, 7 in Energy, and 4 in the Health sector.

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Miller Center's GSBI program for the year 2019 is set to launch on January 29, 2019. We are thrilled to welcome all of these brilliant social entrepreneurs from around the globe and work together to scale their business and impact. To learn more about our social entrepreneurs and their enterprises, keep following Miller Center website social media updates.

About the author

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Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

A Call for Philanthropic Risk Capital for Refugees: Lessons Learned from the Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins Accelerator

A Call for Philanthropic Risk Capital for Refugees: Lessons Learned from the Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins Accelerator

SEM Cohort with Thane Kreiner and Marie Haller

SEM Cohort with Thane Kreiner and Marie Haller

Miller Center’s Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) accelerator program graduated a cohort of 18 organizations in December 2018 that are all serving and/or led by refugees, migrants, and human trafficking survivors. As we accompanied the entrepreneurs leading these organizations over the past year, we learned more about the needs of social enterprises serving these marginalized communities that were formerly supported solely through humanitarian aid. In order to share our learnings and encourage other stakeholders to join us in this work, Miller Center convened and facilitated a panel at SOCAP 2018, presented at the December 2018 ANDE Network Update, and is now publishing a report, “SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT THE MARGINS Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures”.

An important tension that surfaced throughout the SEM accelerator program is the gap between the funding needed by each enterprise to grow its impact and the minimum investment current refugee-focused funders are able to deploy. This disconnect emerged onstage at our SOCAP panel discussion featuring 4 SEM program alumni and 3 funders including Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundation, and KOIS Invest. Experiences of the SEM accelerator social enterprises confirm a gap between what social enterprises in the emergent sector need and what funders seek.

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Impact funds for refugee-focused entrepreneurship are seeking organizations with earned revenue in excess of US$1 million. Our panelists shared that typically seed-stage funding for start-ups comes from friends and family. Many refugee-focused social enterprises haven’t yet attained $1 million in earned income, however, in order to implement their growth strategies, need more funding than can reasonably come from friends and family.

I wondered: how would an entrepreneur who is also a refugee have a network of friends and family with money to fund her start-up? How can entrepreneurs looking to fill in the large gaps left by humanitarian aid change a broken system with only donations from friends and family?

The ideas put forth by Anand Giridharadas in his book Winners Take All, and referenced in his own talk at SOCAP resonate, “I once heard a quote attributed to Archbishop Desmond Tutu addressing a room full of philanthropists, ‘Your job’ he said, ‘is not to make the poor more comfortable in their chains. Your job is to break the chains.’ The question I would ask those of you who seek to change the world through capitalism [...] is whether you are really breaking the chains or making them more comfy?”

This is an essential question for those pledging to fund the creation of new systems that can better support our world’s most vulnerable communities. Is reserving both philanthropic and impact investment capital for only those enterprises that are able to scale to US$1 million of earned revenue really helping change the broken system that is leaving millions of people in refugee camps for decades? Is it even making refugees more comfortable?

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In this same speech, Giridharadas calls on philanthropists to provide the capital to “serve as the start-up incubator for government action [...] test things in the quiet of philanthropy and then seek to mainstream them into our laws and institutions and systems.” Using philanthropic capital to propagate emerging, more socially responsible systems, is not a new idea. Monitor Group and Acumen Fund’s “From Blueprint to Scale - the case for philanthropy in impact investing” talks explicitly about the idea of “enterprise philanthropy” and how, “philanthropy is the essential but often overlooked catalyst that unlocks the impact potential of inclusive business and impact investing.” The urgency and scale of the refugee crisis demands impact capital solutions across the entire spectrum of available options. Philanthropic capital is a key part of the equation, and could be the vehicle that ensures the nascent social enterprise solutions that support refugees are able to flourish and exceed  that magical–some might argue arbitrary–million dollar revenue mark. Natasha Freidus, co-founder of Needslist and a Miller Center SEM program alumni, agrees, “I find it disappointing that philanthropic institutions who frankly, can afford to take the risk, are not investing in early-stage startups or providing philanthropic capital to help cover the 'pioneer gap'."

Miller Center and other stakeholders, such as the Refugee Investment Network, are working diligently to try to connect the seemingly disparate needs of entrepreneurs whose passion is to change a broken system and impact investors who are averse to risking capital in new and untested ways. There is no impact without risk. You can read more about our findings from working with our initial Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins cohort in our report: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT THE MARGINS Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures. We look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together to build new and better systems that allow everyone in our human family to thrive.

 
Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins: Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures

Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins: Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures

 
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Marie has been working as an educator for 10 years. After discovering the concept of social enterprise in 2012, she has been focused on learning about and supporting the growth of the ecosystem through running various education programs at Impact Hub San Francisco and more recently with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Inspired by her Miller Center work with maternal and child health organizations in east Africa, Marie has also recently trained and now practices as a birth doula through the SF General Hospital volunteer doula program.

All Wrapped Up

All Wrapped Up

THE VOICE IN MY HEAD

I have always felt the calling of Mother Nature. It has never been particularly strong, but it has always been present. As I grew up, perhaps I had pushed it aside to follow in the dreams of my parents, who stressed a life of financial stability and personal growth. After the hardships they faced growing up, they wanted to ensure that I would not endure the same struggles and thrive in modern society.

Only recently have I realized the loss of focus on my own goal.

When I first declared electrical engineering, I was never truly set on becoming an engineer. Yes, I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation and the practical and theoretical mix of work, but something was missing. I knew what I wanted to do with my life and where I wanted to be, but I lacked a clear path towards my end goal.

I wanted (and still want) to combat climate change, but telling people I was interested in the environment consistently led to discussions on the topic of renewable energy, and I slowly embodied everyone’s thoughts and this idea began to define who I was.

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In everyone’s mind, I was to use electrical engineering, create power systems, and somehow save the world by only implementing solar and wind. This was unrealistic and not who I wanted to be. But it was what everyone saw in me.

At the same time, even going along with everyone’s perception of me, I realized that I lacked action behind my words. I was a fraud, and this needed to change.

Declaring a double-major with environmental science proved as an outlet to help me come to terms with my identity (as I’ve mentioned in my introduction). I found myself diving headfirst into anything related to sustainability. I went on an immersion trip to Appalachia to learn more about coal mining and environmental injustice. I joined the Center for Sustainability and worked hard to make an impact on our campus through any means possible. I started a Solar Regatta team to teach people more about the intersect of renewable energy and engineering, interned at a solar company and at an engineering consulting firm to further the development of power systems, and recently began an internship at a utility company. Yet, throughout all this, I still felt like a fraud.

Tree planting through the Center for Sustainability (Source: Center for Sustainability)

Tree planting through the Center for Sustainability (Source: Center for Sustainability)

I kept ignoring the voice in my head. The one that made me passionate about the environment in the first place. I had the urge to do something and to do it well. I was tired of having this dream of helping the world, but when it came down to it, I couldn’t follow through. I needed something new. Something to turn my cynicism into hope and to remind me what life truly means. Something that showed that people aren’t self-obsessed and stressed about the minute details of life, but to create a vision of the world that they want to live in.

Luckily, Global Social Benefit Fellows (GSBF) was that something.

(read more about that here)

 

MIND GAMES

Having a momentary existential crisis? (Source: James Wang)

Having a momentary existential crisis? (Source: James Wang)

Applying for the fellowship was a last-minute decision. I had originally decided to intern once again at the same engineering consulting firm due to the lack of engineering-related projects provided through GSBF, but I realized almost too late the value of this program. This was an opportunity to broaden my horizons, explore social entrepreneurship (I had previously taken a class in high school about entrepreneurship and hated it, so I was a little scared to try again), and learn more about creating the impact that I was dying to achieve.

Yet, even after being accepted, I continued to question my decision.

When I told people that I was going to Zambia this summer, I received mixed reactions. Some of awe and support, others of fear and ignorance, and there were others who simply disapproved of my life’s path.

One remark haunted my decision: “Are you even a real engineer?”

Now, this may not seem too complicated. Many reading this might respond, “Of course you’re an engineer. You’ve taken the right classes, you’ve had a few internships, research opportunities, and participate in engineering clubs. Why wouldn’t you be one?”

Well, think about it this way. Here I am, a student who is so passionate about wanting more out of his life that he abandons a highly technical internship to undergo a fellowship that has little to no connection to engineering whatsoever. I’m “throwing away” my future to take part in a summer trip where I will not gain the same skills as I would at a company. Taking this class has a time conflict with other electrical engineering classes that would make me more qualified to be a designer, so instead, I’m on the path towards sales engineer at best, which apparently, would make me not a “real engineer.”

Wow. I truly struggled with this statement. Sure, I had come into college not really knowing or wanting to be an engineer, but after three years, it had grown on me. It was the first thing I told people when they asked me to introduce myself. It was my second skin. I had been a dorm counselor for a summer program (S.E.S.) educating high school students about what it was like to be an engineer. I gave tours every week to prospective students to show them what it was like to be an engineer. I had dived headfirst into engineering with the full intention of becoming an engineer, but suddenly, people were telling me that I wasn’t real.

It was an identity crisis. If I wasn’t an engineer, then who was I?

I found my answers throughout my journey in Zambia. I saw firsthand how beneficial an engineering product could have on the lives of so many people, but also the importance of even having the engineering mindset that I developed studying engineering. It helped me discern some of the problems within the agent trainings by being detail-oriented. It helped me optimize visuals and graphics within the sales manual, create schedules to ensure efficiency at work, and even with conflict resolution by rationally listening and explaining both sides of the story. I learned that being an engineer is more than just creating products. It is about fostering a problem-solving mindset to do good and help people. 

Engineering is like a social enterprise, regardless of the classification, what really matters is the intention. I had the intention to create change with my engineering degree, and I slowly came to terms with being an engineer, or at least not being the stereotypical engineer. 

Interviewing one of the sales agents

Interviewing one of the sales agents

 
And in this, I learned to appreciate that there are so many opportunities in life that we don’t need to just focus on only being good at one thing. We’re not trained for assembly lines, but to use our minds and think creatively. Sure, maybe we don’t know what our true interests are or where we may end up in 10 years, but we know what we like to do and what we want to do. If we understand that our passions can all be interconnected, then we have achieved what we set out to do.

I know this is a simple lesson, but it has had profound impacts on my future. Before the fellowship, I had always considered following the engineering route and seen myself as just another engineer who dabbles in sustainability, but now, I’m excited to learn more about different opportunities within the realm of sustainability with my engineering mindset to enable success.

MENTAL RENAISSANCE

College, especially Santa Clara University (though I cannot speak for other colleges since I have only ever attended SCU), spends a lot of time focusing on the individual.  What is your mental health status, how stressed are you, and what can you do to move forward in your life? We are rarely ever asked the bigger questions about who we want to be in the world, so we forget to think about ourselves in the bigger picture. I’m not saying that we should neglect who we are, but I believe that finding ourselves requires more external action rather than internal self-reflection. Like Gandhi says (which doubles as my favorite quote): “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

The meaning behind this quote has truly helped me come to terms with my idnetity. Throughout my youth, I volunteered consistently, and that gave me a purpose. Talking with people and seeing the reactions on their face as I provided a simple meal or helped a child with homework made their and my day a hundred times better. But the ambiguity of my own future and the need to finalize it within four years of college put me at a standstill, where I focused more on my own development rather than on addressing the needs of others.

Coming back from this fellowship provided this mental break that I needed. Throughout my journey, I met so many inspirational people—peers, mentors, and Zambians—who all reminded me to be my unapologetic self. That smiling at strangers was not creepy. That being optimistic didn’t make you a dreamer. That sometimes, a conversation with an open mind and an open heart is all that is required. I truly enjoyed being able to be present and interact with the people I was helping, and I can honestly say my heart is a little bit fuller.

Lying on the mattress on the way to Shiwang’andu

Lying on the mattress on the way to Shiwang’andu

I remember lying down on a mattress in the back of a truck on our way to Shiwang’andu from Mpika. Drew and I had begun talking about how all the upcoming and popular movies were about superheroes. We discussed how our culture continually looks for a savior in times of need, with people projecting concerns onto others, hoping that one person can create the change, so the rest of us remain complacent. Drew noted that social enterprises don’t focus on the individual, but rather on encouraging everyone to step up and become their own superhero. 

Before, I had always envisioned business as an evil entity to exacerbate planned obsolescence and consumerism, the work we did showed that business can and should create social value (echoed in Laudato Si). After reading Poor Economics and Getting Beyond Better, I had already really liked the concept of social entrepreneurship, but Drew’s statement at that moment resonated with me. The entrepreneurial mindset was not taking advantage of others but engaging them in the world.

Group of sales agents trained in Kasama and the future for VITALITE

Group of sales agents trained in Kasama and the future for VITALITE

Looking back at these past nine months, I feel both pride and sorrow. Pride at all the things that I have accomplished, learned, and experienced, but sorrow at no longer having this class and seeing all the amazing people who went on this journey with me. Although I never quite realized my transformation throughout the fellowship, as I write this, I finally understand how much I have grown and changed.

And although my future remains uncertain and my path somewhat undecided, I cannot wait to find my place, knowing that we are not limited by our major or our skills, but by the passion and dedication we hope to bring. 

Sunset on the Zambezi

Sunset on the Zambezi

In true engineering fashion, here are some TENTATIVE markers of success for me within the next ten years:

  • (1 year from now) Carry out Fulbright research in France OR find a sustainable company to work for

  • (2 years from now) Develop a useful product

  • (3 years from now) Apprentice at a bakery, while working in a sustainability-related career

  • (4 years from now) Earn another degree, potentially in something related to the interconnection of technology, environment, and sustainability

  • (6 years from now) Pursue geoengineering (now referred to as climate change intervention strategies)

  • (8 years from now) Work with a social enterprise (or multiple) to travel through different countries in West Africa to address needs and encourage participation


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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James Wang is a fourth-year double-majoring in Electrical Engineering and Environmental Science with minors in Mathematics and French & Francophone Studies. He is currently researching the ethical implications of geoengineering and working on his senior design project, an aquaponics system for food insecure communities.

Upon graduation, he hopes to receive a Fulbright scholarship to research in France regarding a new energy storage system—a hybrid supercapacitor. In the future, he hopes to couple his passion for the environment with his interest in technology to pursue climate change intervention methods, potentially geoengineering.

For more information, he welcomes anyone to contact him through email or Linkedin and exploring the rest of his blog!

Miller Center’s Top 10 List of 2018

Miller Center’s Top 10 List of 2018

As the end of the year quickly approaches, I look back over these past twelve months and am humbled by our community’s progress and accomplishments. The urgency to advance and accompany the social enterprises that our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs serve was undeniably powerful this year.

I start each day scanning streams of social media and news outlets. This routine has unsuspectingly become my daily dose of hope. There is an abundance of stories that are at once poignant and energizing. One morning I’ll come across an approach developed by a Miller Center GSBI alum to help refugees earn respectable livelihoods, the next day I’ll read a fiery piece from a female-led enterprise that invokes my personal commitment to social impact. One of my favorite parts of my day is sharing these updates across our channels and amplifying the work of our Global Social Benefit Fellows, GSBI alumni, partners, mentors, and my Miller Center colleagues.

As a marketer, I appreciate that these stories–all this “content”–also offers context about you, our readers. With the help of Marketing Associate Alexis Tong, we collected and analyzed a year’s worth of media mentions, website analytics, click-throughs from our bi-monthly newsletters, and social media engagement across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to inform the composition of this Top 10 list. We generated an algorithm that ranked each news story, blog, and social media post to discover which were most engaging.

Serendipitously, this data-derived list authentically aligns with what the team agrees as our 2018 highlights. Here are the results:

10. #MeToo at SOCAP

In October Miller Center joined 20,000 participants at SOCAP (Social Capital Markets)–a gathering of impact investors, entrepreneurs, and cross-sector practitioners focused on increasing the flow of capital toward social good. Our staff and Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni participated on a variety of panels, including Tools for Scaling Social Ventures, Pioneering Social Enterprise Solutions for Refugees and Trafficking Survivors, and Creative Tensions: Investment & Impact. Yet, it was Senior Program Manager Karen Runde’s submission of Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo that was granted both a panel session and a workshop to explore the topic within the social impact ecosystem. The sessions at SOCAP explored restorative justice, the paradox of power, and even inspired this post-event blog by Avary Kent, Founding Executive Director of Conveners.org.

Senior Program Manager Karen Runde introduces panelists participating on Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo Part 2. (Santa Clara University)

Senior Program Manager Karen Runde introduces panelists participating on Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo Part 2. (Santa Clara University)

9. Social Entrepreneurs, Mentors, Impact Investors… Oh My!

In August we welcomed 25 social business leaders, 63 executive mentors, and 18 social enterprises to the Santa Clara University Campus for our GSBI In-Residence accelerator. The gathering is an intensive 10-day convening of changemakers focused on scaling their innovative solutions that address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  Journalist Catherine Cheney of Devex met with a number of entrepreneurs in the cohort at the Investor Showcase and reported [h]ow grants can help for-profits and nonprofits alike fund pathways to scale. Visit our YouTube channel to view the pitches from the showcase.

Miller Center Chief Operating Officer Cassandra Staff hosts the 2018 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator Investor Showcase. (Chuck Barry)

Miller Center Chief Operating Officer Cassandra Staff hosts the 2018 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator Investor Showcase. (Chuck Barry)

8. Mastering Scale Out

Replication can significantly decrease the time and resources spent on getting a social enterprise up and running. In fact, replicated enterprises present reduced risks for impact investors. Associate Director of Replication Neal Harrison’s Scale and Adaption: The Two Sides of Replication and Global Social Benefit Fellow Lauren Oliver’s 5 Lessons Learned from Creating a Sector-Specific Accelerator Program make Miller Center’s Replication Initiative #8 in our Top 10 List of 2018.

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7. From Fellows to Fulbrights and Beyond

The accolades abound in 2018 for Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Fellows (GSBF). Poets & Quants recognized Haley Harada as one of 2018’s Best & Brightest. Nithya Vemireddy received a William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India from the American Indian Foundation. Five of the fellows were awarded Fulbright scholarships, one of whom, Erika Francks was also named a Rhodes Scholar Finalist. However, the GSBF story that took top honors in 2018 was the announcement that Athena Nguyen was not only awarded a Fulbright but was also named Valedictorian for the Class of 2018.

Santa Clara University Undergraduate Commencement, Class of 2018. (Santa Clara University)

6. Alumni in the Headlines

There was an abundance of news and updates from the social enterprises that make up our GSBI alumni network. For the first time, two GSBI alumni made a pivot to partner, forging a stronger path to scale. Vava Coffee, Neopenda, 734 Coffee, and Good Nature Agro were named by Conscious Company as Social Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2018. KadAfrica was one of four winners of the 2018 Roddenberry Prize. Of note, the alumni story that had the greatest reach in 2018 took place just over one week ago on stage in Johannesburg at the Mandela 100 Global Citizen Festival. Recording artist Usher and Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins presented GSBI alumna Wawira Njiru, Founder of Food for Education, with the Youth Leadership Prize and $250,000!

 

5. Bay Area Boost

This summer Miller Center joined forces with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to offer a three-day capacity building workshop specifically for social entrepreneurs that are impacting the lives of those in need in the Bay Area. Journalist Heather Adams of the National Catholic Reporter covered the collaboration and Miller Center’s Chief Innovation Officer Pamela Roussos and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County’s CEO Greg Kepferle wrote this op-ed. "The university brings intellectual capital; Catholic Charities brings social capital," Kepferle said. "Marrying them both helps us address the reality of poverty in innovative ways."

 

4. The Power of Partnership: Addressing Maternal and Child Health

In partnership with GE, Miller Center ran its second cohort of the Healthymagination Mother and Child Program. Eleven social enterprises participated in the program and in March presented to impact investors in Nairobi. One of the eleven cohort participants, doctHERs, connects female doctors in Pakistan to underserved communities such as refugees. doctHERs was in Rome last week as one of the top 13 companies to be recognized by the Laudato Si’ Challenge.  

 
Robert Wells, Executive Director, New Growth Markets and Business Innovations at GE featured on CNBC Africa.

Robert Wells, Executive Director, New Growth Markets and Business Innovations at GE featured on CNBC Africa.

 


3. Ending Poverty Takes Energy

There are 1.2 billion people worldwide who have little or no access to electricity. This lack of access perpetuates a poverty trap and that’s why we are so focused on accompanying social entrepreneurs who make clean energy affordable and available.  Energy Access India was a program run by Miller Center and New Ventures from 2015 to 2018, with the support of USAID, which helped 30 renewable energy companies raise $40 million of investment and provide clean energy to over 2.5 million Indians through a customized capacity development and investment facilitation program. Andrew Lieberman, Miller Center’s Senior Director of New Programs, together with Colm Fay of William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan, and Mark Correnti of Shine Campaign, published the research paper Closing the Circuit: Accelerating Clean Energy Investment in India.

The report analyzes business models and strategies, identifies barriers, and offers actionable recommendations.

The report analyzes business models and strategies, identifies barriers, and offers actionable recommendations.


2. Impact Investing: Positioned to Accelerate Impact

It may come as no surprise that the blog most read in 2018 was The Justifiable Ask: Realities of Raising Impact Capital written by GSBI Funding Facilitation Lead Anastasiya Litvinova. Lack of capital can be the biggest obstacle to growth. Bringing on the right investors can be course defining. Case in point is Miller Center GSBI alum Husk Power Systems–raising $20 million in equity investment in January, making it one of the largest investments in the mini-grid sector.

GSBI alum Husk Power Systems closed $20 million in funding in January 2018. (Husk Power Systems)

GSBI alum Husk Power Systems closed $20 million in funding in January 2018. (Husk Power Systems)

1. Accelerating Solutions At The Margins

Miller Center launched an experimental cohort named Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) in January: could the lives of refugees, migrants, or human trafficking survivors be improved at scale through social entrepreneurship? In his blog Mobilizing for Migrants, Refugees, and Slaves, Miller Center Executive Director Thane Kreiner wrote about the third Vatican impact investing conference that convened in July. It sought to mobilize capital to address pressing, interconnected, global problems, including migrants and refugees. Of the final 13 winners of the 2018 Laudato Si’ Challenge, four are Miller Center alumni, three of which are from the SEM cohort (Five One Labs, Leaf Global Fintech, and Workaround).  From the accolades and media coverage surrounding the cohort to growing commitment to unlock the power of refugees, the 18 social enterprises that made up the SEM cohort captured our attention throughout the year and tops our list for 2018.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Karen Paculba had the privilege of serving Miller Center in 2018 as its Senior Marketing Manager. With an eye for the nitty gritty and a natural curiosity for the big picture, Karen enjoyed the breadth of programs and sectors supported by Miller Center accelerator programs. Karen is continuing her career at Santa Clara University and will kick off 2019 as the University’s Director of Social and Digital Strategy.

Banner/thumbnail image photo credit: Instagram/Wawira Njiru

Dare to dream bigger | Lessons learned from Yvonne Otieno, founder of Miyonga Fresh Greens

Dare to dream bigger | Lessons learned from Yvonne Otieno, founder of Miyonga Fresh Greens

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They say talent exists everywhere but opportunities don’t. This statement stands true in every part of the world where entrepreneurs like Yvonne exists. Yvonne Otieno is an alumna who participated in Miller Center’s 2018 Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Online Accelerator program. She is a farmer from Kenya who embarked on the journey of entrepreneurship to change the livelihoods of fellow farmers. Yvonne’s enterprise, Miyonga Fresh Greens, exports fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenya to the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Ireland and South Africa. Miyonga started exporting from a horticultural farm with 10 acres located in Lukenya, Machakos County and expanded to become a fully-established exporter with access to a network of 5,000+ growers with over 200 hectares of land.

How did this happen? Let’s hear from Yvonne.

The lifelong journey of exploration

Starting and managing a business most commonly originates when an entrepreneur identifies a way to solve a problem or serve a need. What’s unexpected is that, once ignited, one’s entrepreneurial spirit permeates and turns into a lifelong endeavor. To move forward, a founder has to trust her instinct when it comes to decision making and, in those moments, there may not be any indication whether her choice will work out favorably or turn out to be disastrous. The journey is a roller coaster ride of emotions sprinkled with moments of unexpected wisdom. Once Miyonga Fresh Greens achieved its initial milestones, Yvonne regretted not dreaming bigger. (Well, don’t we all?)  “We executed what we set out to do. We have grown from farmers to exporters, diversified from just fresh produce to value addition of fresh fruits to dried fruits and fruit powder and were positively impacting our community by creating employment. But, my only regret is not dreaming bigger at that time,” reflected Yvonne.

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Perhaps, the point to ponder here is that even the best-laid plans can go astray. Even though Yvonne carefully crafted a solid business plan, there was a stark difference when it came to the first round of financial actuals. The first planted product was a failure and, to her great frustration,, nothing was making sense to Yvonne. “There are days everything looks bright and there are days when you aren’t quite sure anymore why you are still in business. Our business began farming on a 1.5-acre piece of land growing green beans, or Haricot verts, as commonly known in Europe. Our first planting of the product made huge losses. When preparing the business case, all numbers seemed to make sense and I just couldn’t understand why we were seeing losses,” she shared.

The phase with patience, persistence, and passion

Patience, persistence, and passion make an unbeatable combination for success. When plans take an unexpected detour, entrepreneurs do not quit; they stay patient, become persistent and use their passion to explore the avenues to get back on course. In Yvonne’s case, her business found hope in remodeling the entire business plan and transitioning from just farming to an agricultural business. Since then, Miyonga has won multiple accolades including the 2016 Gender in Innovation and Agriculture, Social Impact award for women and top 50 innovators in Africa.

Besides the initial USD$10,000 seed capital Miyonga Fresh Greens received as an award, it has grown organically and is currently on its first round for investments. Yet, the journey has been quite challenging with a lot of questions that used to keep Yvonne awake at night. “One of the challenges we faced was where to find investors? Another was what type of funding should we seek: equity or debt? If equity, how much equity should we be giving up as a company? And last, because our business cares about positively impacting the community, how does our organization measure its social impact? Those are questions that we struggled with,” listed Yvonne.

Paving the way to find the “right” investor

Making the decision to let someone invest in your company is harder than anything for a founding entrepreneur. You find people showing interest in your idea, but do they really believe in it? Do they trust your passion or commitment towards it, or are they just after the ROI? These questions linger in every entrepreneur’s mind when they are seeking funds.

At Miller Center’s GSBI program, we prepare social entrepreneurs for investment, scaling their business and growth. 93% of the participants in the 2016 GSBI Accelerator cohort raised funding within six months after the program concluded. We match Silicon Valley executive mentors who accompany selected social entrepreneurs for the duration of their time in the program. Oftentimes, this accompaniment goes beyond the program dates to develop the operational excellence and investment readiness required to scale impact. Yvonne benefitted from her mentors’ expertise and now understands how to measure the impact for her business and what to look for in investors before shaking any hands for investment.

She said, “After going through the GSBI Online Accelerator program this year, we now have an understanding of our metrics and how to measure the impact. We have a living investment profile and now know what type of investors we should be speaking with. We keep a database of potential investors and maintain an internal checklist on what type of investor would best fit our company. Before the program, we would get excited every time any investor showed interest and we would share information. Before long we would see our ideas being implemented by others.

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Right now, we still get excited, but we now approach  fundraising like dating: you have to find the right fit. Plus, we are more protective of our innovations. Through GSBI, we also learned about a pro bono legal services resource; we applied and qualified. We are in discussions with potential investors and an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is a prerequisite before we engage in any discussion.”

From a farmer to every entrepreneur in the world

“I just want to say: you can do it! If this farmer with little or no business experience is now contracting other farmers and impacting the livelihoods of 1,500 other farmers in Kenya, and exporting to five different destinations in Europe, you can do it, too.

How will you do it? Know your mission and focus. If you hold a magnifying glass over a pile of dry leaves on the hottest day of the year with the sun shining overhead, nothing will happen as long as you keep moving the magnifying glass. But as soon as you hold the magnifying glass still and focus the rays of the sun on just one leaf, the whole pile of leaves will erupt into flames. Take one day at a time and solve one challenge at a time.

Learn: Make use of the numerous opportunities available to empower you with the skills needed to run a business. The GSBI is just one of those programs that changed my perspective.

Lastly, you will fall 1,000 times and you will get up 1,001 times. Trust your instinct or intuition. It’s a God-given compass to guide you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

Photo credits: Miyonga Fresh Greens

Miller Center 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Miller Center 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

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Every time I come to work at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, I get a daily dose of inspiration and hope. I consider this one of the perks of the job. The sheer scale of social impact by Miller Center Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni is impressive and gives me hope that positive progress can prevail when it comes to addressing poverty. Another perk of the job is discovering the premium products from Miller Center social enterprise alumni. As the holiday season begins, we’ve curated an assortment of products from some of our alumni and compiled a gift guide from us to you. Click on any of the images below to be linked to the product page or continue to read below to learn more about each selection…and even some exclusive Miller Center friends and family savings! We hope this guide offers you some inspiration and hope knowing that you’re able to make a positive social impact this gift giving season.

1. 734 Coffee (CODE: MILLERCENT)

Coffee is almost an absolute staple here at Miller Center. 734 Coffee is providing a special offer on coffee beans for Miller Center friends and family! Purchase any medium roast coffee beans and receive 15% off all orders over $20 with the code MILLERCENT before December 7, 2018. Coffee from the Gambela region is lauded for its rich flavor—medium bodied with hints of caramel, spice and berries with a smokey chocolate aftertaste.

About 734 Coffee (Miller Center cohort: 2018 GSBI Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins)
734 Coffee is more than a number. It is a place of refuge. 7˚N 34˚E are the geographical coordinates for Gambela, a region in Ethiopia, where over 200,000 displaced South Sudanese citizens now live after fleeing war, atrocities, drought, and famine in South Sudan.

Our coffee is harvested by growers right in the Gambela region, and after it is brought to the US, 80% of sponsorship dollars go to educational scholarships for refugees of Sudan.

Our mission is simple: make great coffee for the greater good. With your support, we can make 7˚N 34˚E not the end of the story, but the start of something wonderful.

2. All Across Africa/KAZI Goods (CODE: MILLER30)

Looking for a new centerpiece for your coffee table? Check out the lovely handwoven Small Lake + Peach Pink Hope Basket from KAZI Goods. Enjoy 30% off this basket with the code MILLER30. Baskets carry their own symbolism in Rwanda because friends give them to celebrate major life events such as weddings, births and graduations, baskets are proudly displayed as symbols of wealth of friends, family and life. The sunburst pattern on these baskets is known as the “hope” design. Reflected on the Rwandan flag, this sunburst images stands for the county’s collective hope for a new dawn and brighter future. This design means a lot to the weavers as each basket they sell increases their chances for a better life.

About All Across Africa/KAZI (Miller Center cohorts: 2016 GSBI In-residence Accelerator, 2018 GSBI TECh)
We endeavor to bring to life your vision of home and style with artful craftsmanship that does good.

When you purchase and enjoy our handcrafted goods, you are creating opportunities for men and women across Africa to thrive.  It’s that simple. Inspired living, opportunities to thrive. Go ahead, take in your love for the world every day and share in the delight of connecting with African artisans. It’s what we do every day at KAZI.

Our business model reaches deep into rural villages in the developing world and provides training and fair wage jobs that restore dignity and promote self-sufficiency—we see it as the way forward for sustainable development in Africa.

3. Kiva

This holiday, create hope around the world by giving Kiva Cards. For just $25, your loved ones can make a loan in the country of their choice and extend a hand to entrepreneurs and those in need. When those loans are repaid, they can use their funds again and again to make an even greater impact. Best of all, Kiva Cards can be emailed or printed at home, so you know they’ll arrive on time.

About Kiva (Miller Center cohort: 2006 GSBI In-Residence Accelerator)
Millions of lenders have come together to support entrepreneurs, farmers and students around the world on Kiva.org, collectively funding more than $1.2 billion in impactful loans.

4. Rebel Nell

A perfect gift for the fashion forward and socially conscious person on your list, Rebel Nell’s Sterling Silver Post Drop earrings are handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces made out of repurposed layers of fallen graffiti paint. The earrings are crafted in Detroit, Michigan and have a sterling silver bezel and backing, as well as resin and graffiti paint. Every piece sold directly supports the women employed at Rebel Nell. These earrings are priced at $80 and are available online.

About Rebel Nell (Miller Center cohort: 2016 GSBI Online Accelerator)
Rebel Nell exists to employ, educate, and empower women transitioning out of homelessness in Detroit. We repurpose fallen graffiti, revealing the beauty underneath each layer. Forged through fierce determination, our jewelry is a testament to the woman who created it.

5. Relevée

Relevée’s Icon earrings represent the label's geometric approach to style with a hidden meaning inside the symbolic design. In ethically-sourced recycled Sterling Silver, these earrings have a sleek design, with an arrow pointing upwards encompassing the meaning behind Relevée—“to rise”. This upscale gift is priced at $85 and makes a beautiful gift for the sophisticated someone on your list.

About Relevée (Miller Center cohort: 2018 GSBI Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins)
Relevée is an international socially conscious fine jewelry brand. Our mission is to empower women through beautiful designs that elevate not only the wearer and beholder but the designers themselves. Our passionate jewelry team is guided with the ideology of "feeling beautiful inside and out". In part, our collection is inspired by purposeful designs featuring classic meets modern, day-to-evening styles that are foundational pieces in your personal jewelry collection. Every Relevée piece is simple and elegant with extraordinary attention to details. With precious materials strictly chosen through ethical channels and a global initiative to uplift the world's most marginalized women, we aim to deliver nothing less than perfect to our customers. Inspiring beauty inside and out.

6. Someone Somewhere (CODE: MILLER CENTER FRIENDS)

This holiday you can expand your wardrobe while supporting artisans from Mexico’s five poorest states. Someone Somewhere’s Confetti t-shirt pictured above is a playful cotton t-shirt with hand embroidered details made by artisans from the Northern Sierra of Puebla, Mexico. This is a great and impactful gift for both men and women. The retail price is $37 but with the special code MILLER CENTER FRIENDS, you can purchase this whimsical piece for $33!

About Someone Somewhere (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
Someone Somewhere works with hundreds of indigenous artisans, combining their traditional handcrafts with products that are carefully designed for the modern world. Each product is hand signed by the artisan involved in its creation. Click here to learn more.

7. Moringa Connect/True Moringa (CODE: MILLERCENTER15)

This holiday season, think global and shop local with a collection of True Moringa’s favorite Boston-based brands that care deeply about ethical and sustainable sourcing from around the world. Each Holiday Gift Box includes Taza Chocolate's Peppermint Dark Bark, your choice of MEM Tea's Moroccan Mint or Lemon Chamomile Tea, and the signature True Moringa Oil for Face, Body and Hair. This gift box is regularly priced at $35, but you can receive 15% off and free shipping in the U.S. using the code MILLERCENTER15.

About True Moringa (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
True Moringa works directly with over three thousand small farming families throughout Ghana to cultivate our cold-pressed moringa oil. To date, we have planted over two million moringa trees.

8. Yellow Leaf Hammocks (CODE: MILLERCENTER)

If you visit our Miller Center office on the Santa Clara University campus, you’ll discover that we have three comfy hammocks from Yellow Leaf Hammocks set up in our Innovation Space. They are the softest, most comfortable hammocks I’ve ever had the opportunity to lounge in. Now you can get your very own with a 20% savings using the code MILLERCENTER until December 17, 2018. The Montauk hammock, which is featured above, is one of Yellow Leaf Hammocks’ best-selling products at a great gifting price-point!

About Yellow Leaf Hammocks (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
Yellow Leaf Hammocks is breaking the cycle of extreme poverty through sustainable job creation. Our artisan weavers and their families were previously trapped in extreme poverty and debt slavery. Now they are empowered to earn a stable, healthy income through dignified work (we call this a "prosperity wage"). This is the basis for a brighter future, built on a hand up, not a handout.

9. Vega Coffee (CODE: MillerCenter)

Vega Coffee’s roast sampler is the perfect gift for office colleagues, party hosts, and any coffee lover in your life. You will receive four 6 oz bags of exclusive, curated coffees, one in each level of roast. The four bags of coffee will represent a range of high-quality microlots from Nicaragua and Colombia, making it the perfect gift for anyone who drinks coffee (everybody?). The price is $30 and comes with a note card and information about the farmers that grow the coffee. Enter code MillerCenter for 20% off any item purchased on the website!

About Vega Coffee (Miller Center cohort: 2017 GSBI In-residence Accelerator)
Vega Coffee reinvents the traditional coffee supply chain by empowering women farmers to earn four times more than through typical export channels. Vega connects farming communities who roast their own coffee to customers worldwide.


About the author

Sally Park is a fourth-year Web Design and Engineering major with minors in Communication and Computer Science and Engineering working towards a Master of Science in Engineering Management and Leadership at Santa Clara University. She is currently a Community Facilitator (Resident Assistant) with the Cyphi Residential Learning Community helping many first-year students transition into college. In her free time, she is working on a project to help animal shelters simplify the adoption process.

What You Give is What You Shall Receive

What You Give is What You Shall Receive

THE POWER OF SPREADING LOVE AND BEING GENUINE

Lots of laughter. And lots of love.

Lots of laughter. And lots of love.

When I look back on my summer fellowship in East Africa, I can't help but think of the first memory that I have from there. Walking out of the airport in Uganda, I remembered feeling an overwhelming sense of what I can only describe as home. It is the same feeling that I get when I walk out of the Islamabad airport in my home country of Pakistan. And it feels like a wave of peace has washed over you. As if the arms of the universe are cradling you and welcoming you back to your true nature.

My trip to East Africa made me think a lot about my "true nature". When I speak of my "true nature", I am referring to the part of me that connects with others on a level outside of the superficial. In Pakistan and in East Africa, no one cared what university I went to. No one knew about my extracurricular activities. My value to others did not stem from any superficial forms of success that I had attained. Instead, people cared about who I really was as a person. They cared about how genuine our interactions were. We often engaged in conversations that I find so difficult to have here in America. In Uganda, we often conversed about the hardships of political corruption or the complex nuances of Western charity work in Africa. In Rwanda, I bonded with many of my friends and co-workers over discussions of the shared genocidal history of Rwanda and of Kashmir (my mother's homeland). I've gotta say: things just felt so much more real in East Africa. I didn't feel like I had to put on a front. Though people on the streets often referred to me as a mzungu because of the color of my skin, engaging them in conversation made us realize that we had more in common than I often feel like I have with people in America.

In East Africa, people cared about the love we shared and the laughter we bonded over. They cared about what we could learn from each other's lives and shared experiences. And it never took too long for me to engage in genuine conversation with anyone. It was as if I could finally throw away the rose-colored glasses I often feel pressured to wear in the US and actually immediately dig at what I wanted to know most about people: how they engage with life, what they genuinely struggle with, what brings them joy and what brings them pain, and what they really care about doing with their lives.

Our incredible Rwandan translator, Agnes, sending us off at the airport.

Our incredible Rwandan translator, Agnes, sending us off at the airport.

People in East Africa were so open to being genuine and spreading love. And it was evident in everything they did. People often went out of their way to be kind to us. To be generous. Women in the villages we visited would often make us food or bring us water bottles they had gone out to buy for us, even though water was a scarce resource in their village. I remember getting really sick at one point during our trip in Rwanda. We made a visit to the office at some point and, upon mentioning in conversation that I had a sore throat, the country manager, Benon, left the office in the middle of work just to buy me Amoxicillin from the local pharmacy. Agnes, our translator and good friend in Rwanda, went out of her way just to drive with us to the airport so she could send us off before our flight back to Uganda.

One particularly memorable moment was when some of the lovely staff at the Uganda office surprised us on our last day in Uganda by making an impromptu visit to our hostel just to squeeze in one last goodbye to us before we left the continent altogether. What made this moment so memorable, was the fact that we'd had the loveliest goodbye party full of cake and dancing and pictures the day before. We had so woefully said what we thought would be our last goodbyes the day before, but were absolutely thrilled to find that half the staff had piled into the company van just to see us off one last time.

We were so thrilled to find the staff from the Uganda office waiting for us downstairs on our last day at Bushpig!

We were so thrilled to find the staff from the Uganda office waiting for us downstairs on our last day at Bushpig!

Even the staff at Bushpig (the hostel we stayed at in Uganda) along with Father Innocent and the guards at Centre Christus (the Jesuit center we stayed at in Rwanda) were so beyond hospitable and loving towards us. From having long and lovely chats at breakfast with some of the waitresses at Bushpig's breakfast (who would later sneak some extra fruit onto our plates) to playing cards at midnight with the security guards at Centre Christus, everything about East Africa just felt so fun and so homey. It was little moments like these that made me realize that the people there truly understood the value of making others feel welcome like family. 

I think more than anything, what my trip to East Africa made me realize is that what you put into life is what you get out of it. What you reap is what you sow. If you spread love and kindness and are genuine with others, you will receive it in your own life. If you live a life where you choose to be generous to others, the universe will find a way to bring that generosity back to you. If you go forth into the world seeking a means to make it a better place, life will find a way to make itself better for you. Life is about choosing to embody certain values in your interactions with the world. And whatever you embody, life will embody that back for you. 

All smiles and good times at the weaving center in Rwanda

All smiles and good times at the weaving center in Rwanda

A snapshot from our goodbye party at All Across Africa's Ugandan office.

A snapshot from our goodbye party at All Across Africa's Ugandan office.

We live in a culture where we can often get lost in attempting to increase the importance of our own individual journeys in the grand scheme of things. This can lead to high rates of depression, anxiety, lack of self worth, and endemic self doubt. I find that the East African culture can inspire a lot of positive change in our lives if we choose to let it do so. From both East African culture, as well as many other Eastern cultures, I find that the West can benefit from learning the value of community building and choosing to live a life beyond ourselves. Uganda and Rwanda are by no means perfect. Decades of government corruption in Uganda as well as the ghosts of the genocidal past that haunt Rwanda make it clear that both countries still have a lot of work to do for their citizens, as do all nations. Any success stories from both of these nations, whether they came in the form of women empowering one another to develop financial livelihoods outside of depending on their husband's income, such as the weavers in both nations did, or whether they came in the form of people from conflicting backgrounds choosing to put aside their differences to work together, all stemmed from the basic value of prioritizing community needs over individual desires.

I think that if we work together as a nation on creating a culture that fosters more of this, we will be so much happier for it at the end of the day. If we focus on improving the lives of others, on spreading happiness and love wherever we go, and on fostering more genuine interactions with others, we will come to find our own lives improved, our own happiness skyrocketing, and our own sense of self strong and secure. We will find strength in places we never knew we could rely on before. We will climb mountains higher than we think we could, and we will boundlessly open new doors. We will break barriers that lie in our relationships between each other and connect deeply on levels beyond what we had once perceived. For what you give to this world, is what you shall receive. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Huda Navaid is a fourth-year Political Science major and Creative Writing minor. After college, she aims to pursue a gap year before applying for graduate school. In her gap year, she intends to travel and do research on how culturally-competent mental health care policy can be implemented across the world. She is currently working on writing her first book and is jumpstarting a PAUSD student mental health initiative called The Palo Alto Project. Huda also runs a blog where she reflects on life, discusses cultivating life skills, and talks about developing organizational skills. She also posts her own music, poetry, and short stories on her Instagram page.

Will the social impact community be any different in our engagement of #MeToo conversations?

Will the social impact community be any different in our engagement of #MeToo conversations?

“We can shift how we talk about it, we can shift how we respond to it, we can shift how the culture understands it—because it’s going to make a difference in the number of sexual assaults that we see. It’s going to make a difference in the way people respond to survivors of sexual violence, and that difference is really everything.”
- Tarana Burke, #MeToo Movement Architect,
The Cut

A year ago at SOCAP17, Karen Runde Senior Program Manager of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship heard a #MeToo story that exposed harm in our community. A former student had experienced a sexual assault at SOCAP years ago and was continuing to experience harassment from someone who had been well respected within the community of social enterprise change makers.  This conversation had a profound impact on the team that runs Miller Center, and thanks to the leadership of Karen, this experience had a ripple effect across the organization - and now the field of social enterprise. At the session, Executive Director Thane Kreiner, Ph.D. shared, “I was shocked. I thought our community was different.” Are we different? Is there a different standard when we are working for justice and to support social enterprise around the world?  Or is our community even more likely to attract the wolf in sheep's clothing —those who are attracted to a community and workforce that are willing to sacrifice so much in the pursuit of their mission, vision, and passion?

This year at SOCAP18, Karen hosted and organized two discussions on “Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo.”  She brought together a wide range of voices and perspectives from our field—-from funders, technology innovators, restorative justice practitioners, and those who have experienced their own public #MeToo experiences—-showing how this movement has impact across the entire field of social enterprise and impact investing.

“We explored our stories of feeling powerless—-and powerful—-and the paradox that arises when we realize how each of us exists on a spectrum in our relationship to power.”

“We explored our stories of feeling powerless—-and powerful—-and the paradox that arises when we realize how each of us exists on a spectrum in our relationship to power.”

Our first workshop focused on the relationship between #MeToo and Power.  We explored our stories of feeling powerless—-and powerful—-and the paradox that arises when we realize how each of us exists on a spectrum in our relationship to power.

We opened the workshop with stories shared by courageous members of the community—-I cannot share those stories as part of what made our discussion on Wednesday so effective was the promise of confidentiality that we may share and connect with others in a way that we are rarely afforded at large big tent convenings like SOCAP.  However, I can share some of the high-level insights and takeaways from that conversation.

“Because the hard truth is that we all have times—-often within the same day—- where we feel both powerless and powerful."

“Because the hard truth is that we all have times—-often within the same day—- where we feel both powerless and powerful."

When sharing our stories of feeling powerless, part of the paradox was uncovered as some felt powerful in being able to share their stories and in being able to listen deeply to others, while others felt powerless in hearing the stories and not being able to do anything about it.  Across the room the variety of contexts and the recognition that we all have stories to share—-regardless of our race, gender, orientation, or economic status.  This shared experience provides each of us with an entry point to empathy and recognizing our shared humanity.

When we flipped the question of sharing stories of when we felt powerful, the entire energy of the room changed.  People were animated, smiling, laughing, leaning in. One participant shared she “felt a different feeling of intensity—-like a kick of energy as opposed to feeling weighed down.” Because the hard truth is that we all have times—-often within the same day—- where we feel both powerless and powerful.  Recognizing the dynamic nature of our relationship to power is one of the first steps to owning and doing more to responsibly steward our power to shift the culture of the impact ecosystem.

Click image to visit  Conveners.org

Click image to visit Conveners.org

One of the reasons I was asked to join this conversation came from a conversation we hosted with our members of Conveners.org to explore the responsibility of Conveners in light of the #MeToo movement.  As conveners, we wield immense power from whose stories are told, who has a voice from the stage, and who is invited to participate in the conversation. We also have power in how we handle incidents of assault and harassment that occur at our events, as many of our events blend the line between personal and professional, between networking and socializing.

On Thursday we hosted the second session with our incredible panelists sharing their stories and perspectives.  We framed the discussion around the spectrum and paradox of power - from enablers who keep predators protected and allies who help us to find our voice, to the power that comes from funding relationships to positions of power within an organization, to the power we have with others when we raise our collective voices to the power that we have over others—-and that others have over us.  We also explored if we as the social enterprise/impact investor ecosystem are above #MeToo.

We were joined by Ayla Schlosser, co-founder of Resonate, who is working on leadership development with women in Rwanda.  She shared her stories of the dynamics that are raised when fundraising—-especially for the first time—-and the importance of having resources available to help others.  Part of the predatory nature of power in our space is when young women and men who are new in their careers and new to fundraising are exposed to abusers of power who leverage their financial assets to physically take advantage of others.  

Click image to visit  projectcallisto.org

Click image to visit projectcallisto.org

Jess Ladd the founder of Callisto, a recent Skoll Awardee and SheEO-supported ventureshared her history of growing up during the AIDS epidemic and seeing the risks from when sex becomes stigmatized and we no longer celebrate healthy sexuality.  She also saw the trauma that comes from the reporting process and the continued loss of agency harmed parties face when telling their stories. Callisto’s technology empowers survivors, providing options and allowing disclosure in a way that feels safe. Their unique matching system securely connects victims of the same perpetrator to identify repeat offenders and connects them to pro bono legal services to better understand their options.

We were also joined by Jackie Rotman of XSeed who is building a new fund focused on intimate justice.  Jackie supported the conversation as we explored the challenges and opportunities in incorporating restorative justice models into the process.  One key insight raised in the conversation was the structural challenges presented when restorative justice processes require the responsible party to own that they caused harm and cannot begin until that is admitted—-which runs directly counter to our criminal justice system.  There are little to no repercussions for those who drop out of the restorative justice process, and Jackie shared the specific challenges presented by institutions who are primarily concerned with protecting the institution—- not the person who has been harmed.

Thane Kreiner of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship spoke to the organizational perspective—-especially when working in a university context to respond, prevent, and help shape the dialogue.  A lot of the choice lies with the harmed party - whether they want to be public about their story or share the name of the person who harmed them.  One key question that Thane raised was about the responsibility to protect other students and entrepreneurs whose safety is in the hands of Miller Center?  What do you do if the person wants to access the space? This did come up and was handled accordingly, but in some ways, it was easier as the person was not a faculty or staff member.  Universities face a great deal more complexity when the person causing harm is part of the institution.

Miller Center’s Karen Runde introduces panelists for the “Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo” session on Thursday at SOCAP18,

Miller Center’s Karen Runde introduces panelists for the “Collective Voices Beyond #MeToo” session on Thursday at SOCAP18,

Anika Warren Chief Organizational Effectiveness and Talent Development Officer at Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation joined us from both the perspective of a funder as well as in her work as a psychologist working on intersectionality.  Anika shared the duality of power in both voice and silence around the world—-while tech can be a part of lifting voices, there is also a deep need for in-person connection.  While talk therapy is typically held up as a solution, it can also be retraumatizing. As funders in the space, it is important to take a nuanced response in our approach if we learn of sexual harassment or abuses of power within grantee organizations.  Simply cutting off funding would likely have the unintended consequence of silencing voices even further.

Finally, we were joined by Sara Schacht Principal Consultant at Smarter Civic who has one of the few public #MeToo stories in our community. Sarah emphasized the impact that these stories—-and going public—-can have on our careers.  Foundations do have a responsibility to understand when they are supporting a serial predator and rather than enabling, or even worse, actively creating additional harm to those who have already survived the victimization of assault.  

Sarah raised the point that there are other ways to track and see warning signs without requiring those who have been harmed to step forward.  Through simple data scraping of teams and tracking career transitions on LinkedIn, you can start to notice trends. “Why do women ages 24-30 only last less than one year on this team, but the same demographic is averaging 3.8 years on another team?”  Too often when women (and sometimes men) are harmed by harassment,they leave either the company or the entire field, if that is what is required.  This has a compounding impact on the earning potential of women who are unable to unlock the full growth potential that comes from growing a career over time. “When people leave it is the canary in the coal mine.”  Foundations would just have to ask for staffing lists and demographic data to be able to track these changes over time.

This was only the beginning of a conversation, and we recognize it can feel overwhelming. Thanks to the increased visibility from the press, it can feel like there are stories of harassment arising everywhere.  However, there is hope. There are new tools and resources available to individuals and organizations who are grappling with sexual harassment and assault including https://metoomvmt.org/ and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and tools like Callisto.  Those who have experienced harm are coming together to support one another, and in hearing one another’s stories, we can draw strength from our shared experiences.

We can also each commit to better understanding the nuance and impacts of power in our relationships.  Are you an ally or an enabler? The system can only keep going when we enable perpetrators of harm to stay in positions of power.  Do you have power over who receives an interview? Who receives a promotion? Whose voice is heard in the room? By staying mindful of all the ways in which we have power in our lives, we can start to be more mindful and equitable in how we use that power.

Thank you to Karen and the team at Miller Center for bringing this conversation to the table, thank you to the organizers at SOCAP for including these conversations, thank you to our courageous panelists for sharing their stories and for our incredible participants for being open and engaging.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Avary Kent is a serial social entrepreneur with expertise in bringing ideas to life. She is the Founding Executive Director of Conveners.org building the impact ecosystem through more effective convening, accelerators, and mapping initiatives. She is a leader in experience design to support her clients in the development of participant focused events integrating human centered design techniques that deliver outstanding feedback and results. As an on-site facilitator she has worked with politicians, academics, cyber security experts, factory owners and workers, investors, and foundation leaders. She is adept at navigating challenging conversations and supporting groups towards productive dialogue and action. She has designed and led the Convening17 initiative to identify urgent, important, and actionable next steps to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. She was also the co-founder of ImpactAlpha, The Happiness Institute, and Puzzlebox LLC. She received a BS in Genetics and Geobotanical Field Ecology from George Washington University and an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise from Dominican University.

Banner photo courtesy of Santa Clara University

What are our Global Social Benefit Fellows up to now?

Some of our GSBF alumni are engaged in exciting international work!

Click on bolded fellow names and company names to learn more.

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Kaci McCartan (GSBF 2014, Bana/Mechanical Engineering) is in Ghana on a fellowship with Burro to develop frugal agricultural technologies.

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Lauren Oliver (GSBF 2017, Teach A Man To Fish Foundation/Civil Engineering) has accepted an offer from the Peace Corps to work with agricultural technology in Benin starting next year.

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Erika Francks (GSBF 2016 ONergy/Environmental Studies and Class of 2017 Valedictorian) begins her Fulbright research project on socio-economics of solar microgrids in Lesotho (South Africa) in December 2018.

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Athena Nguyen (GSBF 2017 KoeKoeTech/Public Health Science and Class of 2018 Valedictorian) is in Vietnam as part of her teaching Fulbright.

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Katrina Van Gasse (GSBF 2013, Solar Sister/Marketing) begins her Fulbright research on women and entrepreneurship in Fiji early next year.

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Marisa Rudolph (GSBF 2017, Farmerline/Environmental Science) is conducting research on women’s economic empowerment in Ghana’s agricultural sector.

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Katie Diggs (GSBF 2017, Sistema Biobolsa/Environmental Science) has a year-long internship with Impact Amplifier, a GSBI Network partner in Cape Town, to support their acceleration work with energy enterprises in Southern Africa.

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Nithya Vemireddy (GSBF 2017 Awaaz.De/Psychology) received a William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in India from the American Indian Foundation, and has begun working at Chindu, a nonprofit focused on promoting capacity building.

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Carson Whisler (GSBF 2016, ONergy/Economics) is preparing to start Fulbright research on solar energy in Indonesia early in the new year.

#SheMeansEntrepreneurship - In Conversation with Manka Angwafo, Founder of Grassland Cameroon and Her Journey’s Challenges

#SheMeansEntrepreneurship - In Conversation with Manka Angwafo, Founder of Grassland Cameroon and Her Journey’s Challenges

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The hashtag in the title speaks for itself. But, I came up with this after an enlightening interview with our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumna, Manka Angwafo, a member of the 2018 GSBI Online cohort and the founder of Grassland Cameroon. 

Grassland Cameroon is a premier grain-handling company in Cameroon. It works closely with smallholder farmers in the North West region of Cameroon to improve the lives of farmers, their families, and their communities at large.

Manka along with other female entrepreneurs know that entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey. There are challenges every step you take and it is not an overstatement to say that those challenges are multifold when you are a woman.

 Manka’s story is full of such challenges. One day she is struggling to have a seat at the table and other days she is being mansplained that she will never get married because of her career choice. 

I am constantly told that my job is a man’s job and that I won’t ever get married because of my business.
Manka Angwafo, founder of Grassland Cameroon and Miller Center GSBI alumna (‘18)

Manka Angwafo, founder of Grassland Cameroon and Miller Center GSBI alumna (‘18)

On some of the biggest challenges she faced 

There are countless women in this world working hard in their respective fields who are eager and able to make a difference as peers; but when it comes to representation, the table is “usually” full. Manka faced a similar challenge initially when she was working with an all-male advisory board and constantly doubted her potential. She had to fight really hard with her need to validate her decisions to the men.

“I think the biggest challenge I faced initially was not believing that I ought to have a seat at the table. Given the country/industry my business is in, and the type of operations we run, I had only male advisors to look up to, and male counterparts to work with. Subconsciously, it made me doubt every decision and plan I would come up with, and then go back to the same men for validation. As time went on, I started noticing my advisors asking me for my input and feedback on their business strategy and it helped me realize that I actually am able to think strategically, and I had, without any doubt, earned my place.

I think more female founders need to find that strength to keep believing in themselves, especially in fields that are male-dominated,” shared Manka.

Fundraising was not easy for her

Unsurprisingly, in June 2018, the Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge published a report based on the study of 350 companies in total and found that startups founded or co-founded by women received an average of US $935,000 in investment. This figure contrasts sharply with the average US $2.12 million investment received by startups founded by men. Manka identifies with the reported disparities and believes the imbalances are not only limited to tech startups. She said, “I should also mention that fundraising is a bigger challenge for female founders than it is for male founders. The numbers on this are very stark. Female founders receive much less financing than males. I know that this topic has started to get more coverage, particularly in the tech world. However, as we are currently fundraising, I am realizing this disparity is across all industries.”

Let’s talk about Gender Bias

Photo courtesy of Grassland Cameroon

Photo courtesy of Grassland Cameroon

In our previous newsletter, I wrote a blog on challenging your unconscious bias and this week I am drafting an example of that bias. Manka and many other female founders are constantly being told that their job is a man’s job, that their chances of getting married are very low if they choose the path of entrepreneurship. All of this comes down to one word: discrimination. Society never questions the choices of our male counterparts and constantly nudge when a female does a similar thing. Manka had a similar story to share on this when I asked her if she ever faced any sort of discrimination during this journey.

“Absolutely. I am constantly told that my job is a man’s job and that I won’t ever get married because of my business. I obviously, don’t think either of this is true, and also feel it is really unfortunate that in 2018, society still places marriage as a woman’s definitive achievement (note no emphasis on happily married). As with all bias, I think the best way to deal with it is by outperforming everyone else and proving them wrong. I use that in business and try to extend that to other parts of my life,” she added.

advice FOR female founders

“Being a founder/CEO is a very lonely journey and, as such, is one that you should be ready for and in it for the right reasons. Seek out other female founders, regardless of their business sector. I stress on seeking out female founders because your female friends would never understand what you’re going through and the decisions you have to make every day. Your female founders will become your sisters and best friends. Create a tribe of unfailing supporters, and hold them close to you. This is what will keep you going through all the tough times.” 

Why Women’s Economic Empowerment?

Manka’s story tells us there is so much more work that needs to be done. At Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, we believe in women’s economic empowerment for a sustainable future and highly discourage gender bias within our center and programs. For the initiative and commitment-to-self, a new affinity group of women-led social enterprises has been introduced in our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. The goal for this affinity group is to bring more women, social entrepreneurs, onboard, refine and validate their business and financial models, provide a customized resource library with curated content specific to their businesses, match them with industry-relevant mentors, foster peer-to-peer connections with our alumni, and offer opportunities for their businesses to flourish.

 As Manka said, your female founders will become your sisters and best friends and, in their company, you will find a tribe of unfailing supporters. So let’s create a tribe of hard-working and talented women social entrepreneurs in the world and make this world an unbiased place to live.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

Banner photo courtesy of Grassland Cameroon

Recognizing and Questioning Unconscious Gender Bias

Recognizing and Questioning Unconscious Gender Bias

Every day we make decisions that are unconsciously biased. This means that you don’t realize the moment you make the decision that you are being biased. The decision can be a reflection of multiple reasons or situations which may or may not be your fault.

Image credit:    https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/41789870962

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/41789870962

By definition, unconscious bias is the term used to define the concept that individuals have preferences for objects and people at a subconscious level that unintentionally influence their behavior and decision making

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Most of us believe that we are ethical and unbiased. We imagine we’re good decision makers, able to objectively size up a job candidate or a venture deal and reach a fair and rational conclusion that’s in our, and our organization’s, best interests. But more than two decades of research confirms that, in reality, most of us fall woefully short of our inflated self-perception.”

Why does it happen?

It’s natural. As humans, we tend to make decisions based on the given knowledge about a subject. That knowledge comes from the people we meet, the books we read, the places we visit, the events we attend and many other situations and scenarios. All these events create a set of information in our brain for the purpose to create certain opinions and make decisions. Most of the times,  our brain creates shortcuts and uses past knowledge to make assumptions. This is when you start forming opinions which are biased towards one race, one ethnicity, one cast or one “gender”.

Credits:    https://www.aauw.org/files/2014/08/gender-bias-600x301.png

Credits: https://www.aauw.org/files/2014/08/gender-bias-600x301.png

Realizing unconscious gender bias to question it

While this applies to both genders in our society bias towards women and their ability to perform a certain job is alarming. Most of the advocates of gender equality do not realize the unconscious gender bias they have towards women because even before you question your bias, the first step is to come to this realization that you have one. When we become aware of our biases and watch out for them, they are less likely to blindly dictate our decisions.

A study through the Clayman Institute of Gender Studies concluded that the total of women musicians in orchestras went up from 5% to 25% since the 1970s–a shift that happened when judges began auditioning musicians behind screens so that they could not see them.

Some superficial biases we need to debunk right now

Credits:    http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/how-can-scientific-publishers-combat-implicit-gender-bias

Credits: http://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/how-can-scientific-publishers-combat-implicit-gender-bias

Your unconscious belief system leads you to think in a certain way, that after some time, seems correct to you. Unconscious gender bias makes you ignore the ability of one person and start hindering it with the pre-conceived notions that society fed you. Some of these superficial biases that I’ve observed include:

  • Women can’t do business because of their personal commitments.

  • Women let their business and clients suffer because of their emotions.

  • Women’s emotions dictate their decision-making ability.

  • Women are bad with numbers, hence they can’t project the ROI of an investment.

  • Women entrepreneurs tend to avoid the technical aspect of the business.

  • Women will leave their professional careers when they get married or have a child.

Challenging the unconscious bias so it doesn’t affect your decision

Getting rid of the unconscious bias is not cookie-cutting in real life. After realizing that you may be making unconsciously biased decisions, the next step is to challenge it and start questioning it. In the same way as questioning others, you can question your own unconscious assumptions and biases as well.

Whenever you notice yourself making an assumption without the evidence to support it, remember to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is this true?

  2. Is it always true?

  3. What evidence do I have?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, reconsider your thought and trace this assumption or association to challenge it for future.

Gender parity and unbiased inclusion for the better world

At Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, we envision a diverse and inclusive world for all. We also believe that it’s high time we all start questioning our gender bias and walk towards a future that is free of gender discrimination because when you bring diversity and inclusion to the table, it benefits all.

While programs at Miller Center equip both men and women with tools and practices that help them become successful social entrepreneurs, we support more social enterprises’ focus on women and girls as customers and beneficiaries. Why? Because we reckon that conversation-led-actions around gender-bias should be started by stakeholders and conveners like us and this is why we also put our trust on women economic empowerment for a sustainable future. Our new affinity group of women-led social enterprises in our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) online accelerator program is  one step toward the same direction. Applications for our 2019 GSBIⓇ programs are being accepted through November 2, 2018, and we encourage women-led social enterprises to take a step forward and apply.


Should you have any questions, click here for details or email gsbi@scu.edu.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.

5 Lessons Learned from Creating a Sector-Specific Accelerator Program

5 Lessons Learned from Creating a Sector-Specific Accelerator Program

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship accelerates the success of high-potential social enterprises all over the world. We have worked with more than 900 social enterprises through our suite of accelerator programs. These enterprises have raised more than $940 million, and impacted 320 million lives. While each of the enterprises that make up the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni are unique, many operate using similar business models, face common challenges, and employ common strategies for distribution, customer education, sales management and more.

With this in mind, Miller Center’s Replication Initiative works to understand the best practices of our most successful alumni and other pioneering enterprises in order to help early-stage enterprises grow more quickly. We created the Last Mile Distribution (LMD) Playbook, a comprehensive guide for distribution-focused enterprises, and designed a four-month program for the entrepreneurs. To create the LMD Playbook, the Replication team took Miller Center’s proven business model-centric curriculum and tailored the material to meet the needs and specific challenges faced by LMD enterprises. The LMD Playbook not only includes examples and advice from “Originators”— successful distribution-focused enterprises—it also incorporates several distribution-specific modules designed to help LMD enterprises recruit and train sales agents, manage inventory, and more. See Figure 1 for a full list of the LMD Playbook Modules.

Figure 1: Last Mile Distribution (LMD) Playbook Modules

Figure 1: Last Mile Distribution (LMD) Playbook Modules

Miller Center’s Replication Initiative has now successfully run two cohorts of the Last Mile Distribution Playbook program for a total of 20 early-stage distribution enterprises that sell a range of products from solar lanterns to water filters and agricultural inputs. After working with these entrepreneurs and testing the playbook concept for the first time, here are the five most important lessons we’ve learned:

1. Replication works

After the completion of the two cohorts, we sought to answer two core questions in our evaluation of the LMD Playbook and the program itself:

● Is the LMD Playbook program valuable for early-stage entrepreneurs?

● Are we achieving our goal of helping LMD enterprises launch and grow faster?

Through a series of phone and online surveys as well as analysis of the lives impacted, investment, and revenue data from the Originators, we found that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes. On a 10-point scale (10 being highly valuable and relevant) participants rated the program, on average, an 8.7. When giving feedback, participants frequently noted that they appreciated having the opportunity to learn from both the successes and failures of the Originators, followed by feedback and expert advice from their mentors.

Additionally, data collected from the participants and the Originators suggests that the LMD Playbook participants are, in fact, growing their social impact more quickly than the Originators did in their early years. Figure 2 compares the average “Total Lives Impacted” metrics of nine Originators to the Playbook participants, and shows the significant and enhanced growth of LMD participants. We also compared the Originator’s revenue and investment data to that of the LMD Playbook participants and discovered similar, positive results. However, this is data collected 1-8 months after program completion and we plan to keep monitoring the progress of the enterprises so that we can better understand how these early-stage enterprises continue to grow and develop, and what continued support they need to be successful.

Figure 2: LMD Program Participant KPI Data compared to Originator average

Figure 2: LMD Program Participant KPI Data compared to Originator average

2. There is no “one-size-fits-all” or “business-in-a-box” solution

The LMD Playbook program was designed to help entrepreneurs replicate the best practices of the Originators, but it has limitations. Even if LMD enterprises share several common traits with another, each will still face unique challenges that cannot be aided through replication guides. In fact, several of the entrepreneurs reported that some of the distribution-focused module content was too specific and could not be applied to their region and/or growth stage. For example, Module 7: Technology and Tech Requirements advises entrepreneurs to manage their business operations using software like Salesforce and QuickBooks. While these complex software packages may work very well for enterprises that have been operating for several years, three of the LMD Playbook participants reported that this module was not as valuable as others because the specific technology requirements suggested in the module are too sophisticated for their enterprises.

Feedback collected from the participants’ mentors also emphasized the importance of learning by doing, rather than learning by studying the LMD Playbook. For example, a new solar distribution enterprise in Kenya should understand the Originators’ business models and how successful enterprises segment determine their target markets, but the new entrepreneur should also be prepared to spend time in the field working with customers and defining their own unique target market. The LMD Playbook was designed to help entrepreneurs avoid some of the most common challenges associated with operating a distribution enterprise, but participants should still expect to make mistakes and learn from them.

3. The Playbook material was valuable for all enterprises, regardless of their growth stage

Figure 3: Cohort Growth Stage Breakdown

Figure 3: Cohort Growth Stage Breakdown

When recruiting participants for the first and second cohort, we tried to identify enterprises that we felt could derive the most value from the program. Based on the content of the playbook, we decided that enterprises in their pre-pilot, pilot, and immediately post-pilot growth stage were the best candidates. We analyzed the survey responses to determine how the experiences of the entrepreneurs varied depending on their growth stage.

We learned that all participants found the program to be valuable because it is focused on the specific needs and challenges of growing an LMD enterprise, but the enterprise’s growth stage dictated which modules the entrepreneur found most valuable. For example, entrepreneurs who have yet to launch their pilot found the first module, “Mission and Impact” to be especially helpful because it encouraged them to first clearly outline the problem they are trying to solve and how they are solving it. But, entrepreneurs who have already successfully completed a pilot found the modules on fundraising and modes of financing to be more helpful as they are looking to raise money to expand their operations.

Regardless of their growth stage, all of the entrepreneurs found the Financial Modeling module to be particularly useful. Several of the entrepreneurs reported that the financial modeling spreadsheet, also known as the “What-If Analysis” tool, was the most valuable aspect of the entire program, and several more plan to keep using this tool regularly. Participants also gave high marks to Module 4: Sales and Sales Agents as the module offered entrepreneurs advice on building and managing a network of sales agents, which is key to the success to any LMD enterprise.

4. Early-stage entrepreneurs working in the same sector value peer interaction and support

There was one key difference between the Cohort 1 program and that of Cohort 2: Webinars. After collecting feedback from Cohort 1, nearly all of the entrepreneurs suggested that future participants have the opportunity to communicate with each other during the program. In response to this feedback, we added a group collaboration component to the second cohort program. This collaboration occurred during scheduled webinars, a time when the entrepreneurs would all join on one call and review the most recent modules with each other and with the webinar facilitators (Miller Center staff).

The Cohort 2 entrepreneurs unanimously agreed that these webinars were one of the most valuable aspects of the LMD program. Several of the participants enjoyed the webinars because these meetings allowed the entrepreneurs to share vendor lists, grant opportunities, business advice and more with people working in the same sector. Participants also found intrinsic value in them, valuing the camaraderie of talking to like-minded entrepreneurs and knowing that they are not alone in the difficult challenge of growing an early-stage LMD enterprise. In this way, the webinars provided additional value to the participants by providing a space the entrepreneurs to support each other.

5. Focusing on a specific sector allows us to leverage the knowledge and expertise of partners

The LMD Playbook program would not have been possible without the assistance of expert partners. While Miller Center has worked closely with social entrepreneurs for more than 20 years, the creation of new sector-specific content required additional knowledge and resources. Therefore, Miller Center looked for partners with experience working in distribution who could add value to the content of the LMD Playbook, support recruitment efforts, and provide additional resources to the participants during the program.

The Replication initiative was fortunate to find and work with several organizations such as D-Prize and Global Distributors Collective (at Practical Action UK) , that share a similar mission and dedication to working in this sector; D-Prize provides grant funding to distribution enterprises and the GDC offers “support, information, and expertise” to last mile distributors. To create the LMD Playbook and run two successful cohorts, Miller Center worked closely with both D-Prize and GDC before and during the program. By focusing on distribution, the formation of the LMD Playbook created this opportunity to bring together like-minded partners who could offer their expertise. This collaboration with both organizations also created additional value to the participating entrepreneurs as D-Prize and the GDC provided distribution-specific support and resources to the participants.

With the success of the first playbook behind us, Miller Center’s Replication Initiative looks forward to creating more sector-specific playbooks for early-stage entrepreneurs. In a few months, we plan to launch both a new playbook and an accompanying program designed for Microgrid enterprises. Like the LMD Program, this new program offers participants the opportunity to learn more about operating a microgrid enterprise through a series of modules and the support of a trusted Miller Center mentor.

As we create new playbooks, we will keep helping LMD enterprises by incorporating the LMD Playbook content into Miller Center’s GSBI Accelerator program as an affinity group. For more information about applying to GSBI and the new affinity groups, click here. Applications are due November 2.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Lauren Oliver started working with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship as a Global Social Benefit Fellow in 2017. For her fellowship, she worked with the Teach a Man to Fish Organization in Uganda researching social value products. Lauren is a Santa Clara University graduate who completed her Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering with a focus in Water Resources in June 2018 and plans to continue working in the social impact sector, ideally for an organization focused on improving access to clean water.

Banner photo courtesy of Empower Generation.

Miller Center and University of San Carlos Kickoff GSBI® Accelerator in the Philippines

Miller Center and University of San Carlos Kickoff GSBI® Accelerator in the Philippines

Twenty-eight local mentors gathered in Cebu City, Philippines to learn the methodology, skills, and best practices to provide effective mentorship to the inaugural accelerator cohorts of Philippine-based social enterprises. Andy Lieberman, Senior Director Growth and Innovation, Jeff Pilisuk, Manager, Growth and Innovation, and Michael Wray, a Senior Mentor with Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), were there to kick off the launch of two accelerator programs in partnership with the new Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of San Carlos (USC).

The Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands and has a population of more than 100 million people. Over half of the residents live in rural areas and, though poverty levels have declined in recent years,  about one-fifth of the population still live below the national poverty line.

In February, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the University of San Carlos, and sponsoring partner, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc, formalized an ambitious 3-year partnership focused on building three key pillars of the local social enterprise ecosystem in the Philippines:

  1. University of San Carlos (USC) Center for Social Entrepreneurship: a center of excellence in Social Entrepreneurship that will develop courses and academic programs, facilitate field-based action research projects for faculty and students, and offer direct acceleration services to promising social entrepreneurs. A knowledge resource center for students, industry professionals, and entrepreneurs.

  2. Accelerating Local Social Enterprises:  a set of programs offering direct training and mentorship for promising social entrepreneurs, as well as the ability to proactively replicate/translate proven social enterprise operational models from around the globe into the Philippine island context.

  3. Locally-based Impact Investor Network: identify, engage, and educate current and potential impact investors and catalyze the local impact investor network.

Local Cebu mentors prepare to meet their mentees.

Local Cebu mentors prepare to meet their mentees.

Through collaborative partnerships such as this, Miller Center can share the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) Methodology for Social Entrepreneurship, build the capacity of partner organizations, and greatly expand our reach and impact well beyond what we can achieve on our own.

On Tuesday, the second day of our trip, 27 social enterprises gathered for the start of the Boost accelerator, a 4-month program based on an extended version of our GSBI Boost curriculum. This group of entrepreneurs was made up of small and micro businesses, including bakers, tailors, weavers, furniture makers, soap makers, retail shop owners, food and agriculture producers, and a nonprofit providing housing to underserved populations. It was an incredibly diverse group yet all demonstrated a commitment to begin the journey to strengthen their business and increase their social impact.

Entrepreneur (left) and mentor getting to know each other.

Entrepreneur (left) and mentor getting to know each other.

The following day, nine entrepreneurs, representing seven social enterprises, gathered in Cebu for the start of the six-month GSBI Online accelerator. This impressive group of mostly women-led enterprises included: Orgunique (organic food and teas), Kinamot Nga Buhat (handmade jewelry and crafts), Fishers & Changemakers (sustainable seafood products), LoudBasstard (passive speakers), Que Alegre (organic products and farming), Pestales Agriculture Cooperative (organic products and farming), and Green Enviro Management Systems (mango flour and other mango byproducts). You could literally feel the enthusiasm and energy in the room as these entrepreneurs sat together with their mentors and began digging into the fundamentals of their social impact and business models.

By the week’s end our visiting team, together with the local team from USC, had completed two mentor workshops and launched our first two cohorts of social enterprises in the Philippines. We met with local impact investor Rico Gonzalez, Managing Director of Xchange.com, who shared his experience and perspective on the social enterprise ecosystem in the Philippines. We visited with leaders from Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), a social ministry that has built new housing for scavengers living near waste disposal sites.  It was a busy and fulfilling week, punctuated by new friendships, food, and hard work. And this is only the beginning.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Jeff Pilisuk has more than 20 years experience developing new products and marketing programs, incubating new businesses, and advising and mentoring SMEs and entrepreneurs. Jeff currently manages Growth and Innovation programs at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Shifting the Paradigm

Shifting the Paradigm

What do you do when poverty stares you in the face? When it’s five years old, chasing you down the street with a basket full of maize and grabbing your hand? Or when it’s a hesitant smile from a villager, mustering up the courage to speak what’s on her mind? Throughout my time in the fellowship, I witnessed three differing responses to poverty that have radically altered the way I view the world and plan my future.

Kristi Chon conducting action research for NUCAFE as part of Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Fellowship (Summer 2018).

First, the response of the privileged. The one who uncomfortably averts their eyes from poverty. The problem of poverty is something they don’t see on a day-to-day basis or are trained by society to ignore. This was me, and at last I lived day to day next to the problems my classmates and I have only read about, without a comfortable distance of a book in between us and the problem.  

Second, the response of the man or woman who has “made it out” yet fights to do everything he can to distance himself from the problem. My coworkers tell me of their friends who receive a western education and end up returning to Uganda, discouraged by the lack of employment opportunities and institutional support in their countries of education.

Third, the response of the man or woman who stays for the fight: the response that gives me hope. NUCAFE encapsulates this response throughout its entire organization. After interviewing farmers, my partner and I left deeply moved by the impact the organization is making in many lives and generations to come. We saw how farmers were able to grow financially through receiving higher and consistent prices, having access to trainings to transform their farming capabilities, and in general be united as a community through cooperatives.

NUCAFE was essential in providing this support to farmers when no other institutions had done so. Since the liberalization of Ugandan coffee in 1951, the cooperatives that had previously supported coffee farmers collapsed. Rather than the farmers having bargaining power in numbers, they found themselves isolated and targeted as individuals by middlemen and large multinational corporations that underpaid the farmers leaving them in a cycle of poverty.

However, after our time learning about NUCAFE, I left inspired seeing social enterprises challenge the first two responses to facing the issue of poverty in society. I look forward to exploring how organizations such as NUCAFE harness the third response to address poverty through a career in social impact.

 

About the Author

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Kristi Chon is a fourth year Economics major and Sustainability minor. Since her time as a Global Social Benefit Fellow working with the Ugandan social enterprise NUCAFE, she desires to pursue a career of social impact consulting. She currently works as a Program Assistant advancing Replication efforts at Miller Center.

The intersection of a movement and metrics

The intersection of a movement and metrics

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I am very happy to report a successful Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Boost in Yaoundé, Cameroon! The Boost was organized on the campus of the Université Catholique d’Afrique Central (UCAC), in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on July 20-22. Local Jesuits animated a local team of excellent professionals. There were 30 social entrepreneurs representing 29 enterprises, drawn primarily from Yaoundé (the political capital) and Douala (the commercial capital on the coast). Of the 30, three-quarters of the participants are under 36 years old, and 17 of the 30 were women. Ten of the 29 enterprises have a focus on serving women, mostly providing other women entrepreneurs IT support and training. Several others worked with women farmers and artisans. There was also a strong emphasis on IT and creating local innovation centers. There is a strong interest in forming local support groups according to geography and interest. Fr. Bossou (one of our Jesuit partners), as well as local mentors, plan to visit these support groups, for reinforcement of key ideas. These groups will identify a representative, who will serve as a liaison with the local team of mentors. 

This group of social entrepreneurs was well educated, with many of them having completed BA degrees. There was a strong focus on creating employment, especially for youth. Cameroonians are much more forward than most Rwandans or Beninois, and the women are quite spirited. They are unafraid of speaking their minds. Bossou reminded me that we are next door to Nigeria and that explains some of the cultural dynamics. There is indeed a social enterprise movement here, but the principle of social impact, and the ideas about social impact measurement, appear to be new. I think that our GSBI Boost, with the ongoing efforts of the local team, will continue to resonate here after we leave. Despite Cameroon being a Francophone nation, most of the participants can read English and speak it with only some difficulty. Some are perfectly fluent in both languages. Many expressed interest in networking with the global social enterprise movement through Miller Center and our newsletter, and some expressed interest in applying. You can see photos from the Boost here.

This GSBI Boost was able to take advantage of the university’s resources. The four excellent Cameroon mentors are alumni of UCAC. They are the best cadre of mentors I have met in Africa. These four would bring great value to our programs, were they our mentors. Fr. Chris Ngolele, SJ (STL@JST/SCU 2016) pulled together an excellent team. Ivan Djossa is a tenured faculty in the management and social sciences school, and was so excited by the GSBI methodology that he was bouncing off the walls. He wants to integrate our methodology into the teaching he does, and to train his students to do action research with the SEs. I will continue this knowledge exchange by extending our action research materials to help Djossa start his own action research program. Aurel Tayou runs a local women rising IT incubator. She recruited several other women entrepreneurs, including one who will be in an accelerator in the Bay Area this fall. Yves and Krystal were also mentors. 

Jose Flahaux, as usual, was the star. He radiates enthusiasm while holding the bar very high. He draws out the best from these groups, and has a good time doing it. On this trip, I have learned a lot more about him, and appreciate his cross-cultural skills. Bossou is ever the fixer, and an essential teammate in helping us to navigate the vagaries of Africa. 

Here are a couple of innovations we developed for this GSBI Boost:

  • Jose got the participants to share one word in public each day, and then created a word cloud. You can see those, here. These allow you to get a sense of the emotional tenor of the sessions. 

  • Several of the social entrepreneurs (SEs) did not get the memo about bringing a computer, so Ivan Djossa gathered seven of his MBA students, who assisted the SEs with their own computers. This helped the SEs, and stimulated enthusiastic conversations among the students. 

  • Working with the local team, we developed a plan that requires each participant to submit their Pitch Deck and Financial Model to the local team and then to us before they can receive their certificate. This delayed certificate distribution is meant to help motivate the SEs to continue relations with the local team and Miller Center. This will not yield 100% of the deliverables, but this will also allow us to follow up, and communicate with them, and potentially report their impact. 

  • The local mentors are organizing regional support sub-groups with mentors acting as liaisons. Bossou will follow up with those in Douala, and the local mentors will follow up in Youndé and other locales. 

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On the Monday afterwards, Jose and I had dinner with Manka Agwafo a Cameroonian-American social entrepreneur in GSBI Online. She is a visionary, determined, warm, wonderful social entrepreneur trying to make the West African agrofood system more humane, sustainable and just. We gave her a bit of feedback on her deck for her upcoming pitch. She explained some of the difficulty we have observed with Cameroonian SEs articulating a clear sense of social impact and metrics. Manka is terrific person, and we want to see her succeed in her mission. I have introduced her to a few more resources for her mission. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Keith Douglass Warner, OFM, PhD directs Miller Center’s education, fellowship, grants and action research activities. He directs the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, which provides a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and research for SCU juniors within the Center’s worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. With Thane Kreiner, PhD, he designed the fellowship and wrote the grant that funds it.

How Human-Centered Design Thinking is Transforming Lives Around the World

How Human-Centered Design Thinking is Transforming Lives Around the World

Cooperative leaders and micro-entrepreneurs gathering empathy at an innovation workshop in Kigali, Rwanda.

Cooperative leaders and micro-entrepreneurs gathering empathy at an innovation workshop in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Design thinking is just a fad.”  “We’ve been doing design thinking for the last 20 years–it’s just the same old process with fancy new words.” “People who use design thinking never follow through with their projects–it is a waste of time to generate ideas that never get implemented.”  These are examples of a few of the kinder critiques of design thinking. Detractors are suspicious, antagonistic, and downright hostile about design thinking and the types of promises being made about its integration into business and education.

In my own journey as an educator learning human-centered design thinking at the Florida Hospital Innovation Lab (FHIL) in Orlando under the tutelage of Dr. Karen Tilstra, I must admit the process seemed at best silly, and at worst absurd.  I kept thinking, “What is the deal with all those sticky notes and whiteboards filled with insights?”  But then I started seeing the results of design thinking firsthand. Teams of students came away from the innovation process empowered, and with an important tool to make social impact.  FHIL helps Florida Hospital save lives and money, while social enterprises use design thinking to serve the poor around the world.

In the last six years, I have been transformed from a doubter into an evangelist for human-centered design thinking.  I integrate it into every class I teach, and I am always thinking about new ways it can be used. Instead of depressing students with the problems of the world, I now teach them to use their knowledge of problems to come up with desirable solutions.

What is Human-Centered Design Thinking?

Human-centered design thinking (HCDT) is a helpful tool that guides interdisciplinary teams to create viable solutions to social and environmental problems.  At its essence, human-centered design thinking is an innovation mindset and a problem-solving methodology used in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. It is also increasingly taught in colleges and universities.  HCDT focuses on the needs of the end user or beneficiary and can be used to tackle any problem. The fast pace of change and the complex problems of our world demand new ways of innovating solutions, and HCDT is a game changer for social enterprises.

Makers Unite is an inspiring example of how HCDT is being used in the social enterprise space.  Makers Unite, a Global Social Benefit Institute enterprise based in Amsterdam, works with Syrian and African refugees and integrates design thinking throughout its business.  Refugees, called “newcomers,” are taught creative confidence and HCDT in a unique 6-week curriculum, and make products that are sold through e-commerce. Newcomers are then matched with appropriate employment or educational opportunities.  The founder of Makers Unite, Thami Schweichler, is a trained designer; he is always asking the end users how his enterprise can be more helpful and he constantly strategizes how Makers Unite can be financially sustainable and better able to scale.

Design Thinking at Santa Clara University

Human-centered design thinking is transforming the lives of students at Santa Clara University, and specifically at Miller Center.  Our Education and Action Research division trains and sends out interdisciplinary student teams to work alongside social enterprises in the developing world.  A year ago, student teams used HCDT to assist a rural cooperative in Mumeya, Rwanda, in building a business plan for a crop storage facility, and to provide insight to Pollinate Energy, a clean energy social enterprise serving urban slums in India.

Kelly Grunewald, Social Enterprise Intern, leading a design-thinking activity.

Kelly Grunewald, Social Enterprise Intern, leading a design-thinking activity.

Source: PICO International

This summer, working alongside PICO-Rwanda, a community-organizing nonprofit, Miller Center deployed six Santa Clara students to conduct “Business 101” and innovation workshops for rural cooperative leaders and urban women micro-entrepreneurs.  HCDT was at the heart of the preparation of the students and the content of the workshops.  Kelly Grunewald, Miller Center Social Enterprise intern, summed up the power of design thinking: “Human-centered design thinking is a vehicle for transforming the world into a more just and sustainable place.”  Kelly experienced firsthand how design thinking guided Rwandan leaders in framing their challenges and discovering solutions “on their own.” She remarked that it helped leaders “tackle big problems,” by making them “more manageable”. The foundation of design thinking is empathy–listening to others and getting to the heart of the challenge.

Michelle Stecker's innovation model, developed at Santa Clara University (2018)

Michelle Stecker's innovation model, developed at Santa Clara University (2018)

The HCDT method we use at Miller Center is called “The Innovation Journey,” which I developed this year with the help of Shagun Patel, illustrator; Caitlin Blohm, graphic designer; Allan Báez Morales, Director of Frugal Innovation Hub; and countless students, staff, and faculty, who were kind enough to give terrific feedback at all stages of iteration and refinement.  A class of engineering, business, and arts and sciences students, learning how to facilitate HCDT, inspired the model. The Innovation Journey focuses on the needs of end users and reminds us that the journey never ends. We now have teams of SCU students using HCDT for field research, Engineers Without Borders projects, student club challenges, and everyday life problems (like how to keep the kitchen clean!).  A team even used HCDT to create an innovation space in Nobili Hall for Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship employees and SCU students.

The PICO-Rwanda/Miller Center design-thinking innovation team at Centre Christus in Kigali, Rwanda.

The PICO-Rwanda/Miller Center design-thinking innovation team at Centre Christus in Kigali, Rwanda.

Human-centered design thinking transforms people.  Instead of being paralyzed or overwhelmed by the complex problems of the world, practitioners are trained to develop solutions while focusing on the spoken and unspoken needs of the end users.  HCDT is not a fad–it is here to stay, and it is a new tool in the hands of passionate change makers. There are innumerable examples of people around the world who are following through with HCDT projects that are changing lives.  Our Santa Clara students are living proof of how human-centered design thinking is transformative!

Note:  If you would like to help support the Global Social Benefit Fellowship or Social Enterprise Internship program, please click here or contact David Harrison at dmharrison@scu.edu.  These transformative programs are dependent on financial support from generous donors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Michelle Stecker, PhD, Miller Center’s Director of Education and Action Research, teaches and designs social innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum and leads the effort to integrate human-centered design thinking into the College of Arts & Sciences at Santa Clara University.

Photo and image credits: Video produced by PICO International; all other images and photos property of Santa Clara University.

The audacious goal of energy access

The audacious goal of energy access

Over the last decade, I have worked directly or indirectly with dozens of social enterprises tackling energy access. Solar lights, biomass-powered chillers, and solar pumps are just a few of the well-known technologies that have been proven to dramatically improve quality of life for the global poor and often pay for themselves in as little as a few months. The challenge remains getting them out to everyone who can benefit from them.

Chasing the 2030 Goal

We understand that it’s more than a distribution problem, aspects of which Miller Center originally documented in 2015 in Universal Energy Access: an Enterprise System Approach. There remain persistent business model and financing challenges, which we have explored in our latest paper, Closing the Circuit: Accelerating Clean Energy Investment in India, written in partnership with the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.

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Progress has been made, as evidenced by the number of people lacking modern lighting dropping from 1.5 billion in 2009 to 1.1 billion in 2018. We are moving in the right direction, but not fast enough to meet United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal #7 of affordable and clean energy for everyone on the planet by 2030.

Optimism Prevails

I go through periods of optimism and pessimism about achieving anything close to such an audacious goal. Logic dictates that the easiest to serve are being reached first, so progress will get harder instead of easier. Sure, I am optimistic when I hear about new technologies, business model innovations, and new investment funds focused on energy access. But I also become pessimistic when I talk to brilliant, committed, focused entrepreneurs who are spending more time fundraising than running their businesses.

Right now, I’m optimistic, having spent last week in Delhi for events including the National Dialogue on Distributed Renewable Energy and an Energy Access Practitioner’s Roundtable. These events culminated Miller Center’s work over the last three years with New Ventures to implement the USAID-supported Energy Access India program, providing accompaniment to a portfolio of 30 social enterprises and developing relationships with key investors.

Much of the optimism comes from spending time with dear colleagues including the New Ventures India team, our advisors, Rakesh Rewari and Harvey Koh, and many of the social entrepreneurs we have worked with. There have been wins for many of the entrepreneurs in the program, including major investment into Cygni and Husk Power Systems.

Yet, lack of capital is holding companies back. $275 billion dollars of investment are needed to provide enough off-grid and mini-grid systems to achieve SDG #7. The best that social entrepreneurs can do for themselves is develop a solid business plan, a justifiable ask, and seek out capital that is aligned. But I am now convinced that ever larger numbers of capable social enterprises with strong business plans alone won’t unlock capital.

To many of us working at the ecosystem level, it is clear that there are many excellent entrepreneurs that are not getting funding, or are getting funding, but not in a timely and efficient fashion. Why is that?

The Risk/Return Spectrum for Clean Energy Investments

One of the biggest areas of learning for me during this project was to better see the energy access challenge from the investors’ point of view. I had the privilege of working with investor-minded colleagues like Mark Correnti (now of Shine Campaign, a co-sponsor of Closing the Circuit) and directly with insightful investors. Through them, I have learned much about what unlocking capital truly means.

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Investors face their own sets of constraints that guide how they deploy capital. In our research for the paper, we detected opportunities for investors to consider alternatives in credit risk assessment to increase access to affordable, short-term debt and to develop a more realistic risk/return spectrum for clean energy investments (especially in India). Progressive investors such as SunFunder are proving that such investments can work. We hope these models will be built on by others.

Of course, it’s easy to write these ideas here and much harder to implement them. Yet, given the proven clean energy solutions we have at hand and the knowledge that energy access is an enabler for so many quality-of-life improvements, shouldn’t we all continue our push to support the intrepid energy entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of this movement?


About the author

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Since joining in 2008, Andy Lieberman has been a driver in developing Miller Center's strategy, programming, and curriculum. He is also responsible for many of the efforts to formalize Miller Center's knowledge into whitepapers and presentations.


 

Why we need Women’s Economic Empowerment for a Sustainable Future

Why we need Women’s Economic Empowerment for a Sustainable Future

Fortunately, we live in a time where female entrepreneurs are gaining recognition for their innovative and socially impactful work. Miller Center alumni like Lesley Marincola (’11) and Shivani Siroya (’12) immediately come to mind.

But, even in 2018, with the proliferation of reporting fueled in this #MeToo and #TimesUp era, we are reminded that our ecosystem remains unequivocally male-dominated. While I will not be discussing the sexist remarks and gender prejudice that still prevails in our society (that’s a story for another day), in this piece, I want to call attention to how empowering women can lead to our sustainable future.

On the job, women make about 80 cents for every dollar as compared to what a man earns. This inequality is even more pronounced when it comes to fundraising. When female founders pitch their ideas to investors for early-stage capital, they receive significantly less—a disparity that averages more than $1 million—than men, according to BCG.

In contrast, according to the same research, businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue—more than twice as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men. Also on average, more than 11 million U.S. firms are now owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales, according to 2017 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

What can we do to scale up our work and boost economic gender equality?

Women’s Economic Empowerment as a catalyst for change

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 Women’s economic empowerment is the highest contributing factor to close the gender gap. It is the most impactful way to build a world where women can exercise personal choice and freedom to make their lives better. Given that women are a majority among economically disadvantaged groups, women’s empowerment is essential to opening doors for equal wage and investment.

According to the World Bank, addressing gender inequalities by focusing on women’s empowerment is not only essential to reduce poverty but is also “Smart Economics”.  Better gender equality enhances productivity and improves development and outcomes for future generations. Women represent 40% of the entire global labor force and more than half of the world’s university students. Increasing productivity is directly related to empowering women by making it easy for them to access education, develop competency in a skill set, and pursue opportunities to use their talents

Miller Center’s goal to bring gender parity

Gender parity is a human rights issue and a precondition for, and an indicator of, a sustainable future. As a part of Miller Center’s effort to bring gender-balanced cohorts, a new affinity group of women-led social enterprises has been introduced in our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) online accelerator program. The goal for this affinity group is to bring more women social entrepreneurs onboard, refine and validate their business and financial models, provide a customized resource library with curated content specific to their businesses, match them with industry-relevant mentors, foster peer-to-peer connections with our alumni, and offer opportunities for their businesses to flourish.

 

From one woman to all women

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Out of all the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, Goal 5, gender equality, has been a major part of my life’s work. Coming from a patriarchal society like Pakistan, I have experienced male dominance first-hand in all spheres of my life. Women in rural, as well as sub-urban areas of Pakistan, have a subordinate position within their communities, even within their own households. Starting from the basic right of education through acquiring the skills needed to get a better-paying job, girls need to shackle multiple barriers to access what is given for granted to men.

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Joining Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship as a Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow is close to my heart and closer to what I strive to do in my life: building countless opportunities for women all over the world. The idea is to set an example from one woman to all women so our future generations get to see the world where gender is just a classification of human biology.

Applications for our 2019 GSBI programs are being accepted through November 2, 2018 and women-led social enterprises are encouraged to apply. For more information, click here or email gsbi@scu.edu.

Let’s make it happen together!

 

About the author

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Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.


Photo and image credits: Women empowerment artwork used under Creative Commons CC0; Planet 50-50 from UN Women; Group photo at Aman Foundation courtesy of Hira Saeed; all other images and photos property of Santa Clara University.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS SPIRITUALITY

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS SPIRITUALITY

Over the summer, Miller Center accompanied over 150 social enterprises through our accelerator programs to help them discern pathways to scale their impact as they serve the poor, protect the planet, and economically empower women.

Bay Area Boost (June 2018)

Bay Area Boost (June 2018)

We worked with Jesuits in Cameroon and Benin to accelerate more than 60 community-based enterprises that support women farmers and artisans and provide IT training to women. In partnership with Catholic Charities, we ran a Bay Area Boost for 32 social services organizations and enterprises. For ten days in August, we hosted 26 entrepreneurs from 18 social enterprises on the Santa Clara University campus as part of our 9-month GSBI® In-Residence accelerator program. Over 150 “friends and family” welcomed them at Testarossa Winery, site of the historic Novitiate Winery, an enterprise of Jesuits in formation for almost a century. 240 impact investors, mentors, and guests attended our GSBI Investor Showcase and our social enterprises had on average 3.6 investor meetings each. Our 18 2018 Global Social Benefit Fellows returned from 7 weeks in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, India, and Zambia conducting action research for GSBI alumni social enterprises. Indeed, it’s been an amazing summer of walking with change leaders around the world.

2018 Miller Center annual report

2018 Miller Center annual report

Witnessing social entrepreneurs discern growth plans is a spiritual experience for me. Because their intention is for the greater good – to improve, transform, or save lives of people living in poverty, their work is powered by love and compassion. As we accompany them through this process, we see what more we can do to help others, a manifestation of the notion of magis. They are architects of hope, the theme of Miller Center’s 2018 Annual Report.

After I chaired a panel on mobilizing resources to help refugees at the Third Vatican Impact Investing Conference this summer, people asked me about my faith. Similar questions arose following my welcoming comments at our August GSBI events. I describe myself as spiritual, not religious, as you can witness from the story of my communion experience at St. Peter’s tomb. Because we are multi-dimensional and intersectional in our identities, so too is our spirituality. This I am sure of: social entrepreneurship is a core component of my spirituality.

Wildfire smoke blankets California  Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project

Wildfire smoke blankets California
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project

The view from my home in Sonoma County is obscured by smoke drifting down from Mendocino County, Oregon, British Columbia; a hurricane hurls towards Hawai’i, where I have planned a brief dive vacation next week. Climate change is affecting our lives, but it affects the poor the most.

Refugees flee violence driven by hunger, thirst, political corruption, greed, power; many have nowhere to go, rejected by those who claim moral authority. There is much reason to lose hope.

Despite the smoke, I prepare for Friday afternoon yoga, putting on a soft t-shirt with a Jimi Hendrix quote: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

The opportunity to accompany architects of hope is proximity to the power of love, and that connects us all. We invite you to join Miller Center on this incredible journey.

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