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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Implementation in action: one community advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Implementation in action: one community advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

One community made up of 25 social business leaders, 63 executive mentors, and 18 social enterprises is tackling all but four of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals

This community formed in January, where it began its journey together through the GSBI In-Residence accelerator program. This August that journey culminated with 10-days at Santa Clara University where Silicon Valley’s best talents and teachings collaborated with the world’s most innovative social change makers to examine how to scale solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Problems these social entrepreneurs have taken on by answering the questions:

How might we help the 4 billion people living in poverty get into the middle class?

How do we get affordable, clean energy to the 1.6 billion without electricity?

How do we provide clean, safe drinking water to the 750 million without?

At the end of our 10 days together, the entrepreneurs also had answers to the questions of: how do you create and track social impact, how does the business model work, what is the growth strategy, are the financials credible, and, how effectively are you managing the operations of your business?

If you are interested in their answers, I invite you to watch these powerful video presentations, and read these overview profiles.

The enterprises presented above carry the courage, brilliance, grit, and visions of the leaders, teams, and beneficiaries they represent. They also encompass the dedicated mentorship and guidance from professionals who accompanied decades of tacit knowledge into 18 audacious, infinitely important missions.

I invite you to join our network of 900+ social entrepreneur alumni by applying to our programs, 200+ executive mentors, 100+ student fellows, and growing community of supporters.

For those already on the journey with us, I thank you.

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Cassandra Staff
Chief Operating Officer
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

 

Solve Energy Poverty, Solve Climate Change?

Solve Energy Poverty, Solve Climate Change?

By the end of the recent GSBI in-residence program, I was feeling energized, appreciative, and – on one question – flummoxed. It was a fleeting, rhetorical question: Was my focus solving poverty or solving climate change? I’m a new apostle of simplified messaging, but on this point, ‘both’ still seems the right answer.

“The poor cannot afford poor solutions,” says social entrepreneur Runa Khan. In an era of climate change, none of us can afford poor energy solutions. Happily, clean energy is now nearly universally the most cost-effective way to generate electricity. We do not need to choose between cheap, high-quality and clean. They are the same.

I work in Haiti, building electricity systems in towns that have never before had grid power. I’m often surprised when people separate energy poverty from climate change. I get a good laugh out of my US clean energy friends when I gently tease, “It’s easier to build a ‘town-sized, solar-powered smart grid in rural Haiti than it is in [Washington, DC / Santa Clara / Insert any major grid-connected city name here].” They know it’s true. Of course, I face different challenges, but building something from scratch is always easier than disrupting the status quo. There is no incumbent infrastructure or utility business model in the towns where I work, so I get to collaborate with local and international partners to think through what the best system could be. Building self-contained off-grid utility systems, we get to face many of the ‘big grid’ challenges on a micro scale. Is 100% clean energy possible? Yes. Is storage essential? For solar microgrids, yes. Are clean energy microgrids exciting elements of resilient power systems of the future? Definitely.

First and foremost, building energy access is about solving poverty. Electricity is not sufficient for prosperity, but it is essential. In rural Haiti, families without electricity are spending 10% of their income on kerosene and candles for lighting. (In the US we generally spend less than 0.5% of our income on lighting.) Around the world, over a billion people have no electricity, with tragic consequences. Without electricity, there is very little opportunity.

Solving energy poverty can also help solve climate change. The two issues are linked. “Sustainable energy is opportunity – it transforms lives, economies and the planet,” reads Sustainable Development Goal 7. That Goal is summarized as “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

Clean energy microgrids can directly reduce CO2 and black carbon emissions by replacing kerosene lamps and diesel generators. If electric cooking pilots are successful, they can also replace charcoal. Though wick-based kerosene lamps emit only modest CO2, they are significant emitters of atmospheric ‘black carbon’, a strong climate warmer.

 EarthSpark takes a ‘  feminist electrification’   approach to energy access, intentionally leveraging the arrival of electricity to benefit women. Here, Rosane Jean-Jacques, a grid ambassador, sells electricity credits from a tablet.

EarthSpark takes a ‘feminist electrification’ approach to energy access, intentionally leveraging the arrival of electricity to benefit women. Here, Rosane Jean-Jacques, a grid ambassador, sells electricity credits from a tablet.

Clean energy microgrids can also chart the course for grid decarbonization. Ironically, important grid innovation may come from remote villages that have not yet seen electricity. Where there is no incumbent infrastructure, there is an opportunity to build energy systems with today's best technologies and business models. These models that leverage clean energy, storage, smart grid, and customer participation can be adapted to inform the evolving utility business models in established markets. For example, both Homer Energy’s microgrid software tool and SparkMeter’s low-cost smart meters were both initially developed for stand-alone microgrids and are now seeing applications in central grids.

Of course, solving energy poverty will not alone solve the climate change crisis. There are many levers we should be pulling simultaneously, only some of which are addressed by solving energy poverty. Indeed, Project Drawdown‘s list of 100 climate solutions rank “microgrids” a lowly #78. But an integrated electrification approach involves not only microgrids but also rooftop solar (#10), clean cookstoves (#21), LED lighting (#33), and empowering women and girls (#6). Economic development enabled by the arrival of electricity can also influence agriculture, forestry, and many other key solutions.

To be sure, if tackling energy poverty did not also address climate change, it would still be worth doing. Regions with high energy poverty, in general, have had almost no role in causing the current climate crisis.  Poor countries should not be saddled with solving global emissions problems, but, because distributed clean energy systems are now cheaper and faster to build than the alternatives, poor countries have the opportunity to leapfrog straight into smart, clean, efficient systems. It just doesn’t make sense to build 20th century power systems in 2018.

Though more and more are getting built, microgrids are not easy yet. From California to Puerto Rico to India, Africa, and Haiti, proponents of microgrids are struggling with technical, participant, and policy challenges. That, to me, is precisely why energy access microgrids are so exciting. Clean energy microgrids are early-stage, but they hold enormous potential. When we solve these challenges and start to mainstream microgrids, we will have made meaningful progress towards solving both energy poverty and climate change.

About Allison Archambault
Allison is president of EarthSpark International, a non-profit organization incubating businesses that solve energy poverty. EarthSpark has built a town-sized, solar-powered smart grid in rural Haiti and has spun off a smart meter company, SparkMeter, which now serves microgrid operators in 22 countries.  She previously worked on large-scale renewable energy siting and grid integration and with an early clean tech company combining distributed energy storage, solar PV, and energy management. She holds a B.A. (hons) from Tufts University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins. She is a member of the 2018 GSBI In-Residence accelerator cohort at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

 


Banner photo (Les Anglais, Haiti): EarthSpark microgrids run on solar power and serve everyone from tiny households to pico-industry in rural towns.

Photo credits: EarthSpark International

The lasting impact of the GSBI® In-Residence accelerator

The lasting impact of the GSBI® In-Residence accelerator

  Photo from 2017 GSBI In-Residence accelerator Investor Showcase

Photo from 2017 GSBI In-Residence accelerator Investor Showcase

Tomorrow, eighteen social entrepreneurs making impact around the world will showcase their work in front of an audience of investors and will highlight the hard work they have been doing over the past 10 months in the GSBI® In-Residence accelerator program.

To me, this event is one of the most inspiring days of my year and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the potential for these enterprises to scale their impact and truly help change the world. But the skeptic inside me also wonders how many of these ambitious social entrepreneurs will deliver on their promises and projections? Have we at Miller Center done our job and equipped these entrepreneurs with the tools they need to scale and to become architects of hope?

Looking back at the 2017 GSBI In-Residence accelerator lends us some insights and I am happy to report that our alumni’s ambitions are matched by their ability to deliver.

Out of the 14 social entrepreneurs that pitched at last year’s showcase, over 50% of them were successful in meeting or exceeding their justifiable ask or the investment request they and their mentors think is “justifiable" based on their financial model and ability to meet their operational growth targets.  As a cohort, they have raised a median of ~$500,000 and a cumulative total of over $12 million.

Raising investment is one thing, but are these enterprises able to utilize this capital they receive to grow their social impact and serve more people? Happily, the answer here is a resounding yes! Last year’s cohort on average doubled their impact in the 12 months since graduation and some have seen growth in the 5x range.

  Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

One of last years’ Social Entrepreneurs who has had transformational success since last year’s showcase is Wawira Njiru, CEO of Food 4 Education. In Kenya, where food for education works, 1 in 5 children are developmentally stunted due to malnourishment. Food 4 Education provides high quality, nutritious meals to students in Kenyan public primary schools to improve their nutrition and education outcomes. They use a social enterprise model that caters healthy and convenient meals to Kenyan corporates and private institutions and uses the profits to provide the nutritious lunches that keep children in school, improve their learning ability and opportunities to use education as a means to break out of the cycle of poverty.

  Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

Photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

When Wawira joined the GSBI program in 2016, Food 4 Education was one of our earliest stage enterprises; they had raised less than $100,000 in investment and had served only 2,500 school children.

Since graduating from the GSBI accelerator, Wawira has attracted some of the most influential partners in the impact investing space.  Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation invested shortly after Wawira completed the program, and Mulago Foundation recently named her as one of the fellows in their newest class.

Food 4 Education has now grown their investment from $100,000 to $550,000 and has utilized this investment to more than double their social impact from 2,500 children served to over 6,000.

Food 4 Education is just one example of the many social enterprises that have grown their impact dramatically since last year’s showcase and we would invite you to review their progress on our GSBI Alumni Database.

This retrospective gets me even more excited to be working with this 2018 class of GSBI In-Residence accelerator social enterprises. When I am watching the pitches tomorrow, I will be inspired by not only the audacious ambition of our social enterprises to create change, but the data that gives me faith that they will be successful in meeting their goals.

Please join us at the showcase or watch through our livestream. I look forward to connecting you with any of the social entrepreneurs you’ll see pitching.

 

Cover photo courtesy of Food 4 Education

How GSBI Online Validates Business Models: Meet the 21 members of the GSBI Online Cohort

How GSBI Online Validates Business Models: Meet the 21 members of the GSBI Online Cohort

Every year, up-and-coming social entrepreneurs from around the world complete the rigorous GSBI Online accelerator curriculum, and the 21 social enterprises of Cohort 13 are some of the most promising alumni yet. In the culmination of six months of transformative mentorship, these organizations have truly risen to the challenge, emerging with tangible growth so that they can better accomplish sustainable social change. For these social enterprises that have already been serving their target beneficiaries for one to five years, the Online accelerator helped strengthen and validate their:

  • Impact and Business Model
  • Growth plan
  • Financial model
  • Funding plan

With their tools of market success refined, these social entrepreneurs can achieve maximum potential and maintain a sustainable business model while keeping their social impact missions the driving force of their enterprises.

The social entrepreneurs in Cohort 13 are achieving impact in a variety of sectors, but whatever their focus and wherever they work, they are tackling deeply rooted problems, asking the hard questions, and breaking unjust equilibriums.

Education is often identified as a root cause of systemic change, which might be why six of the cohort members are focusing on education in their respective regions. Each of them takes a different and unique approach to the identified needs of their beneficiaries. Edupay is making quality, low-cost primary education accessible to the rural poor in Ghana, and accessibility is also a key focus of i-Saksham Education and Learning Foundation, which serves youth in India. Accelerated places emphasis on coaching teachers so that they can lead more effective and engaging classrooms in Ethiopia. Coschool moves beyond traditional educational techniques to foster Colombian students’ social and emotional well-being alongside leadership training and camps to build character. Bodhi Health is also education-based, expanding the accessibility of quality medical training through e-learning.

Many of these social enterprises tackle a combination of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in different ways. Miyonga Fresh Greens addresses environmental issues by reducing food waste through agro-processing, but also empowers local farmers by making certification more accessible to smallholder farmers, reducing poverty, and growing local businesses. Discovered not only addresses the economic growth of artisans’ small businesses in emerging countries, but advances gender equality as many of these artisan entrepreneurs are women.

  Photo courtesy of Extensio

Photo courtesy of Extensio

  Photo courtesy of Elevated Honey Co.

Photo courtesy of Elevated Honey Co.

Cohort 13 realizes the importance of understanding the specific context of unjust systems in place, engaging directly with the people they serve so that culture and way of life of those impacted are considered. A great example is Extensio, a social enterprise which found that Mexican farmers could greatly benefit from a digital field agent. The cell phone application communicates best agricultural practices, among other information that helps these farmers to increase productivity and standard of living. Elevated Honey Co., based in China, has identified a need for working to improve the honey industry, highlighting the need now more than ever for empowering rural beekeepers.

The global reach of a few in Cohort 13 is remarkable. VIA Global Health and GOODdler are both online platforms that do a world of good: VIA works towards universal access to the tools that enable quality healthcare in underserved markets, and GOODdler maximizes the impact of humanitarian assistance.

These are just some of the incredible social enterprises that completed the GSBI Online accelerator in Cohort 13 – every one of the 21 social entrepreneurs are already making lasting change. Check out all of their Investor Profiles, and view their final presentations to find out more about the work they’re doing to change the world.

Perhaps the most uniquely beneficial part of the GSBI Online accelerator is the close mentorship from Silicon Valley professionals, who commit to providing insightful advice to their mentees each week. Chris Bravo had the opportunity to mentor Extensio, and he shared with us a brief look into his experience:

Even though, I have mentored before; since it was my first time with GSBI, it was very helpful to be paired with Michelle… On a few occasions, I had the opportunity to visit the team, get to know them in person, and have very productive chats with them. Diana and all of the Extensio team was very open to learning and to receive feedback. Providing online mentoring brings up the challenge of how much, and how to push the entrepreneur… The GSBI curriculum provided a good guide for the weekly discussions, and we should not be afraid of revisiting items here and there to revise the business model.
  Photo courtesy of Bodhi Health Education

Photo courtesy of Bodhi Health Education

The GSBI Online accelerator provides a challenging yet rewarding experience for participants, and over the past six months of collaboration and mentor accompaniment this year’s cadre of social entrepreneurs have proven that they have truly put in the work to get the most out of the program and have graduated with validated business models that will further serve the poor and protect the planet.

Apply for the next GSBI Online accelerator cohort here.

 

Cover photo courtesy of Accelerated

Closer To Being Free: Rebuilding Lives of Human Trafficking Survivors

Closer To Being Free: Rebuilding Lives of Human Trafficking Survivors

Fifteen of us sat in a circle on the cool marble floor, drawing birds and flowers.  The girls ranged in age from a tiny seven-year-old named Jasminda with uncanny artistic abilities, to twenty-year old Rishi, who just started college and probably should have been studying, but she just couldn’t resist joining in the fun.

Leela stood alone in the corner, silently watching.  She looked about 16.  She wrapped her arms around her body, seeming cold despite the warm temperature. Her eyes were impossible to read.   Angry, afraid, yearning to join the group, depressed or completely detached?  I couldn’t tell.   She is in a safe place now, at the shelter for trafficking survivors built by Her Future Coalition last year near Darjeeling, India.  But until recently Leela was living a nightmare. Her existence is very hard to even imagine – used every night by 15-20 men on a filthy mattress without even a sheet. She was an outcast judged by passers-by on the street, betrayed by her family, controlled with physical violence, or worse, with shame. Shame is a tool her traffickers used with great skill, knowing it can be even more powerful than physical torture.

Leela had been rescued very recently.  She still showed physical and emotional signs of trauma and was not going to trust easily again.  The risk of hoping and being disappointed is too high.  But we have been in this situation before, many times with wounded girls like Leela who seemed impossible to reach.  At first, I despaired of them ever recovering.  But they did.  With love and time, their spirits came back into their bodies and they began building a new life.

I inched backwards until I was sitting near Leela’s feet.  Not looking her directly in the eye (too threatening), I gave her a sideways glance, inviting her to sit and draw with me.  She shook her head.  A younger girl came over and we drew together for a few minutes.  Eventually, Leela got tired of standing, or maybe it felt culturally inappropriate to remain looming over me, an adult.  She sat beside me, still unsmiling and remote.  We made the briefest eye contact.  I pushed across a piece of paper, and then my pencil. I gently pointed to an image in a book that I wanted to copy for the mural we planned to paint on the shelter wall.  She shook her head no.  I shrugged, that’s okay, no pressure.

But a few minutes later, Leela bit her lips, pushed the hair out her eyes, and began to draw.  She did so brilliantly - an exquisitely detailed peacock, a garden of flowers.  The others were called for lunch and the project came to an end.  Leela stayed on the floor, drawing for hours until we lost the light.

The next morning she was waiting at the shelter door when we arrived, eager to begin painting the mural.  On our last day, she cried the hardest of anyone.  But I know she will be okay.  She is a survivor.  She found the courage to come out of her isolation to sit on the floor with a stranger and draw a peacock.  Next she will learn a trade.  Perhaps she will choose to learn how to make jewelry and go through our two-year goldsmith training.  She could join the jewelry team at our sister organization, Relevée, and earn a good salary as a professional jeweler and designer. For now, it is enough for her to begin believing that not everyone is out to hurt or use her, that life can be sweet again.

-Sarah Symons, Executive Director of Her Future Coalition and Co-Founder of Relevée

“As we work to dismantle trafficking networks and help survivors rebuild their lives, we must also address the underlying forces that push so many into bondage. We must develop economies that create legitimate jobs, build a global sense of justice that says no child should ever be exploited, and empower our daughters and sons with the same chances to pursue their dreams. This month, I call on every nation, every community, and every individual to fight human trafficking wherever it exists. Let us declare as one that slavery has no place in our world, and let us finally restore to all people the most basic rights of freedom, dignity, and justice.”

-Barack Obama, 2013

 

Sarah Symons is the Founder and Executive Director of Her Future Coalition, an international nonprofit helping survivors of gender violence to rebuild their lives, and Co-Founder/CIO of Relevée, a social impact fine jewelry business participating in Miller Center's GSBI® Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins cohort..

Over the past ten years, Sarah and her team have helped over 2500 women and children in India, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand to build safe, independent futures through innovative shelter, education and employment programs.

Previously, Sarah worked as a composer of TV music and as a recording artist. 

Her book, This is No Ordinary Joy, is available on Amazon.com

 

The Justifiable Ask: Realities of Raising Impact Capital

The Justifiable Ask: Realities of Raising Impact Capital

Entrepreneurs often say that capital, or lack of it, is the biggest obstacle to business growth and cause of enterprise failure. In reality, there is much more to it.

The new cohort of 18 social enterprises (SEs), from 11 countries around the globe, is arriving to Silicon Valley next week for the 16th annual Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) In-Residence accelerator program. The goal for the SEs is to refine their capitalization and scaling strategy, connect with investors, and present them with exciting opportunities.  

  Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

The SEs in this year’s cohort are working on a variety of solutions–from last-mile distribution of essential goods in Sierra Leone, to preventing newborn deaths in India, to improving earnings potential and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Zambia.

Since February, these entrepreneurs have been working with experts and mentors to hone in their business models, growth plans, and capital needs, in order to scale their businesses and impact. As many entrepreneurs observe, much of their efforts come down to raising capital – identifying the different types of capital available to their business, the best way to deploy it within the company to position it for success, and the kind of expectations they can set for investors in getting a return on their capital (an impact and/or financial return).

In turn, an enterprise that has a clear and attractive business model, impact, and a Justifiable Ask is more likely to obtain the needed capital quickly and have investors knocking on their door. It is most often not about connections, but rather about attractiveness of the business to an investor, a reasonable capital ask given the enterprise needs and what it can deliver in return, and a thoughtful approach to the right partners.  

The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) In-Residence Accelerator program has a comprehensive approach to investment preparedness that aims to help entrepreneurs put their best foot forward in attracting the right type of capital for their businesses.

When we talk about a Justifiable Ask, we think about the interrelation between these key items:

  Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

  • Growth strategy and strategic initiatives,
  • What resources are needed to achieve these,
  • How much capital do those resources translate to and over what time horizon that capital would be deployed,
  • The return the company may be able to provide an investor given their financial performance to date, the potential of the business (forecast) and the inherent risks,
  • The type of capital that is available and appropriate given the aforementioned factors.

By helping develop, then reviewing financial models, we help identify gaps and challenges that an investor may see–often pushing back on how realistic assumptions are, what key drivers of growth, profitability and cash flow may be, and help entrepreneurs paint a clearer picture of their growth opportunity, effect of capital infusion and return potential for that capital to investors.

During the ten-day In-Residence at Santa Clara University, the entrepreneurs are grilled on various topics related to their business with specific feedback on operations, impact metrics, internal finances, and growth strategy, among other topics. Although that feedback is sometimes difficult to receive as the panelists may shoot down exciting ideas, question reasoning or a new strategy, this exercise helps the entrepreneurs develop much stronger cases for their conversations with potential investors and partners. The SEs, with support of their mentors, then have to build the adjustments resulting from the feedback into their forecast and translate it to their capital need.

The result of the process, is an inspiring group of enterprises with diverse business models, working across the world towards solving important social and environmental challenges in their communities and globally.  Their capital needs are as versatile–from debt and equity to convertible notes and blended capital needs, including grants, debt and equity, to innovative structures such as a Security Token Offering (STO) and revenue sharing mechanisms.

You can see these entrepreneurs present their vision to scale and create a lasting impact on the world on Wednesday, August 15 at the 2018 GSBI Investor Showcase or via live stream, hosted by Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. If you are an investor and would like to schedule a private meeting after the Investor Showcase or connect online with any of the SEs, don’t hesitate to contact us!


 

Anastasiya’s expertise is in providing catalytic capital and advice on financial strategy to businesses ranging from early stage start-ups to multinational corporations. While Anastasiya serves as Miller Center’s GSBI Funding Facilitation Lead, she also actively manages a consulting practice supporting scaling social enterprises in raising capital, and investors in evaluating and structuring deals.

Prior to starting her consulting practice, she was the Director of Investor Relations & Financial Innovation at Agora Partnerships–facilitating over $50M in capital flow to social enterprises in Latin America and designing new funding programs. She is also a former Portfolio Manager of RSF Social Finance, a US-based impact investor with $100M AUM. Anastasiya began her career in Corporate & Investment Banking at Wells Fargo in San Francisco and New York City, providing capital markets advisory and other financial services to a portfolio of Fortune 500 corporates.

Anastasiya holds a Master’s in International Finance and Economic Development from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, and a B.S. in Finance from Santa Clara University. She is originally from Ukraine and enjoys visiting friends around the world, dancing, yoga, and rock-climbing.

Recasting Church ministries to mobilize financing

Recasting Church ministries to mobilize financing

Embracing social entrepreneurship at the Vatican’s third annual impact investing conference

“To create a more just, humane, and sustainable world” – a mission that underpins our work at Miller Center supporting social entrepreneurship. For over 700 years, the Catholic church has created income solutions for the poor through ministries that provide jobs. These activities continue today and are largely donor-supported enterprises. A call by Pope Francis in 2014 introduced secular work on social enterprise to the Church practitioners of Catholic ministries. Following the publication of Evangelii Gaudium in late 2013, the Vatican hosted the first Vatican Impact Investing Conference (VIIC) in June 2014. Pope Francis recognized the common values shared by both the Church ministries and social entrepreneurs who were building companies from within underserved communities globally. In a statement issued during the conference, the Pope declared,

  PHOTO BY REMO CASILLI FOR CRS

PHOTO BY REMO CASILLI FOR CRS

“A sense of solidarity with the poor and the marginalized has led you to reflect on impact investing as one emerging form of responsible investment. 

 

...Impact investors are those who are conscious of the existence of serious unjust situations, instances of profound social inequality and unacceptable conditions of poverty affecting communities and entire peoples. These investors turn to financial institutes which will use their resources to promote the economic and social development of these groups through investment funds aimed at satisfying basic needs associated with agriculture, access to water, adequate housing and reasonable prices, as well as with primary health care and educational services”

John Kohler presents Sources of Capital and the Enterprises in Which They Invest at VIIC 2014

With VIIC 2014 as the introduction to the theory of change held by social enterprise and impact investing, VIIC 2016 was the start of a “cross-walk” from Catholic ministries to social enterprise. Miller Center was asked to lead a 2 ½ day pre-conference workshop for Catholic leaders to examine social enterprise, profit and loss operations, impact measurement, and the commonalities between secular work with social enterprise and the Catholic mission.

This month, the third Vatican Impact Investing Conference was held in Rome and was attended by more than 160 people. The content was dense and the conversation lively. A marked change was evident: instead of practitioners explaining impact investing and social enterprise, the voice in the room was from Church practitioners who were already embracing the thesis that some of their ministries could be recast as eligible social enterprises to impact investors.

 Areas of focus identified at VIIC 2018 include Sustainable Development Goals  3, 8, 10, 13, 16,  and  17.

Areas of focus identified at VIIC 2018 include Sustainable Development Goals 3, 8, 10, 13, 16, and 17.

Areas of focus identified for the conference were: Youth - increasing access to jobs; Health – scaling healthcare access for the poor; Migrants and Refugees – financing SMEs owned by or serving the displaced; and, Integral Ecology – climate change and development

More directly aligned commentary was also heard from some of the impact investor community. An example was a social impact bond created by KIOS Invest (Belgium) aimed at economic support to migrant communities.  Other BoP–tailored investment solutions were highlighted by MacArthur Foundation, Investisseurs & Partenaires (France), Social Finance US, Sahel Capital (Nigeria), and Aavishkaar-Intellicap Group. They described specific investment initiatives that are aimed at communities and geographies consistent with priority areas the Vatican had identified.

 Miller Center Executive Director Thane Kreiner lead a panel on using impact investing to help solve global problems of human trafficking, migrants, and refugees.

Miller Center Executive Director Thane Kreiner lead a panel on using impact investing to help solve global problems of human trafficking, migrants, and refugees.

There was also a strong emergence from Sister organizations within the Church. Orders of Sisters run many of the Catholic ministries in service to the poor and the Sisters have been looking for help to create more sustainable enterprises. In describing their commitment, Sister Eneless Chimbali, Director General of the Association of Consecrated Women of Eastern and Central Africa, declared “the Sisters are always there!” with the poor and the enterprises that support them.

On the second full day, parallel sessions were held to create a “deep dive” exploration of the four focus areas and then folded the conversations into how conference participants can take action to support what is immediately needed or in the development of further solutions. Unlike many other conferences, the engagement and participation by attendees was nearly 100% even at the final sessions of the VIIC.

Positive comments and commitment were roundly evident as the VIIC came to a close. Now for action!