Innovation Works GSBI Boost

Innovation Works GSBI Boost

Can a global model be taken local?

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Nearly two years ago, Baltimore community development advocate Frank Knott reached out to Miller Center. He had been asked by Father Robert Hussey, S.J., Provincial Superior of the Maryland Province, to look into whether the work the center does supporting social entrepreneurs globally could be applicable in an urban American setting, serving social entrepreneurs in Baltimore and solving problems in their neighborhoods. Intrigued and compelled by the request, we have been accompanying Frank as he dug deeply into the work we do, surveyed the Baltimore ecosystem to identify gaps, and formed Innovation Works

On March 5, 2019, Innovation Works (IW) and Miller Center announced a strategic partnership to support IW’s goal to launch 250 social enterprises, create 5,000 jobs, and facilitate $100 million of investments into Baltimore by 2029. On June 18-20, 2019, we took the next step together by delivering our first Innovation Works GSBIⓇ Boost program to 28 Baltimore-based social enterprises. The program was a tremendous success; you can read more about it here. A big takeaway for me was the deep commitment by everyone – the social entrepreneurs, mentors, partners, and the IW team – to Baltimore City and making it a thriving place to live and work. The harmony around this commitment was palpable. 

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As you all know, events like this aren’t a success without a lot of planning and leg work. Frank and the Innovation Works team did a lot of the spadework in connecting with all of the social entrepreneurial activities happening across Baltimore, forging the partnerships to fuel the ecosystem, and being mindful of not reinventing the wheel. This is evident in the quality of the social entrepreneurs and the Innovation Works mentors that have been recruited and trained with support from Miller Center. 

When we first started talking with Frank, the question in front of us collectively was how to take our global model and make it local, even hyper-local. The context of Baltimore, with over 280 neighborhoods that are very separate and distinct from one another, had to be embraced. One of the ways that Innovation Works has addressed this challenge is by creating Ignite Hubs. Ignite Hubs are located in neighborhoods through partnerships with organizations already working in these communities. Within Ignite Hubs, community members are encouraged to identify the specific needs and challenges of their neighborhood, and are given support to turn their ideas into solutions. As that happens, these nascent social enterprises can be prepared for a Boost workshop and other Miller Center GSBI accelerator programs that Innovation Works will run. Figure 1 is the framework that IW created, with GSBI programs fitting in the Grow and Scale phases.

Figure 1. Innovation Works Framework

Figure 1. Innovation Works Framework

What’s next? A subset of the social enterprises that participated in the June Boost program will be selected for an Innovation Works GSBIⓇ Online program starting in August. Innovation Works will manage the cohort, with support from us, using our learning management platform. The social entrepreneurs will be accompanied by both a Miller Center and an IW mentor. Joint mentoring will continue to strengthen the IW mentor’s understanding of our curriculum and methodology. Miller Center is committed to a long-term relationship with IW – strengthening and deepening our partnership, and learning together how to refine a local/global model to solve urban problems in communities across the US. 

I’d like to thank Steve White who co-facilitated the workshop with me. Steve’s continued contribution to the center is invaluable, and his commitment to social entrepreneurs is unparalleled. I’d also like to thank Mervat Mina and George Economy, two Miller Center mentors who live in Washington DC. They traveled to Baltimore twice for IW mentor trainings and were mentors, alongside IW mentors, for the IW GSBIⓇ Boost workshop. Their support of the Miller Center / Innovation Works partnership is deeply appreciated.


About the author

Pamela began mentoring social entrepreneurs over 10 years ago and has been dedicated to and inspired by them ever since. She is grateful to be able to use the knowledge, lessons learned and wisdom she gained building and leading venture-backed software companies for over 20 years to support these passionate entrepreneurs solving problems of poverty and protecting the planet. She joined Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship five years ago and can be found serving as ambassador for Miller Center around the world

What a View

What a View

If you know me, you know that I always have something to say. I’m an extrovert, an external processor. I am never shy to share my opinions and again I have a lot of them. Sometimes this gets me into trouble, but it is also the part of myself that I love most. I don’t shy away from any conversation and with every experience I have a strong desire to understand and be understood.

In 2018 I spent six months traveling through Africa and Asia and I turned into an avid blogger. Experiencing so many new cultures and landscapes heightened my thirst for reflection and understanding; I wanted to curate my memories and how I interpreted them in writing, for my own consumption and for my friends and family.

But here I am, over two weeks into my time in Tanzania, and I am at a loss. I don’t know what to write.

So far I feel comfortable. Part of it is certainly because my partner Emma and I have been staying in nice hotels and Airbnbs, eating restaurant food for almost every meal, and we are shuttled around in private cars. Even the weather has been a moderate 75 degrees most days. On our journey from Singida to Dodoma (our current home base) I spent the drive observing the people and infrastructure of the villages en route to our destination, pondering what to blog about. It wasn’t until I tried to summarize my thoughts and extract some greater meaning that I got really frustrated by the whole situation. The window glass felt like much more than a physical barrier. It was like I was just watching a movie of Tanzania, I couldn’t touch it. This approach to travel was different from what I grew used to in the past and seemed to hold me back from everything.

This was the first time that I have felt like I was in a funk here. I forced myself to really probe at this feeling. I questioned every experience that lead me here. At this point I have traveled to more developing countries than developed countries. I thought maybe I am just used to witnessing cultural norms so different from my own or even the poverty that is so visible in Tanzania.

In just this short time Emma and I have found ourselves in situations that most Americans never will. We had an unexpected overnight visit with some Catholic nuns, attended an entrepreneurship summit and interviewed almost 30 of the most successful Solar Sister Entrepreneurs, we have gone into the field with Business Development Associates to observe training and recruitment, and have even been able to visit some of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Currently we are road tripping through the country with our translator Lumba and our driver Vitalis. It feels like a family trip, the four of us do pretty much everything together.

I eventually came to the realization that it’s not that I haven't been connecting with local people or become jaded to the poverty. And I know that I am incredibly appreciative of this opportunity as well as the memories that I have in so many other countries. Rather with each new experience the world gets so much smaller. The differences between Africa, Asia, and the Western world feel less and less significant. Sure, globalization definitely contributes to this, but regardless we are so similar. We love and hurt in the same ways; we crave belonging, adventure, and stability and we fear being belittled, abused, and ignored. We all want to be viewed a complicated and important. We are all afraid of dying. As I have come to understand these truths more, I have also developed a greater confidence working, speaking, and being with people from backgrounds different from my own.

I came to Tanzania expecting so many moments to be met with discomfort and confusion. The ideas that Americans promote about “Africa” have certainly influenced how I imagined my role here. My entire life I have been exposed to images of Africans as being poor, helpless, and unsophisticated. The history of imperialism and development that has lead us to these ideas is not something I can get into in this post, but regardless these ideas are just untrue.

Fatma, the country manager of Solar Sister Tanzania and the mastermind behind the whole operation is one of the most busy, hardworking, and detail oriented people that I have met. The Solar Sister Entrepreneurs have some extremely innovative ideas and a perseverance that I see rarely in the US. Our translator Lumba is incredibly articulate and has the best sense of humor. I have learned time and time again that the single story of the over one billion people living in Africa’s 54 countries is so, so misguided. Learning from these amazing people hasn’t pushed me outside of my comfort zone, because they are so real to me, they make so much sense to me. With each day here I watch the world become more complicated but so simplified all at once. And I have such a view.

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About the author

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Amanda Eason is a current fellow for the Global Social Benefit Fellowship with Miller Center. She is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Sociology with an emphasis in Sustainable Development. She hopes to advance sustainable development and promote gender equity through women’s enterprise. She is currently gaining hands-on experience as a Fellow working with Solar Sister.

Complementary Partnerships Expand Impact for Microgrid Developers

Complementary Partnerships Expand Impact for Microgrid Developers

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Since January, Miller Center has been accompanying 6 microgrid developers across Sub-Saharan Africa to create a new energy infrastructure and close the energy gap. This program is part of our Replication and Scaling Initiative focused on spreading best practices to transfer successful know-how. 

We chose develop specific curriculum for microgrids because of:

  • Microgrids are the least expensive way to deliver power for at least 100 million people in Africa, and microgrids can have enormous impact on local economic development by suddenly providing electricity to a whole community

  • There is a growing interest in microgrids including emerging financing vehicles, support organizations, and innovations and cost reductions in technologies such as smart meters and solar panels

  • Our ability to develop curriculum directly from the success and best practices of the 115 clean energy entrepreneurs we have accompanied. 

In launching this program we also had a key partner to support our efforts: Energy 4 Impact, which manages the Green Mini-Grid Help Desk in partnership with INENSUS. The Green Mini-Grid Help Desk, funded by the African Development Bank, is part of SE4All’s Green Mini-Grid Market Development Programme.

Utilizing E4I’s deep research into the local energy sector in Africa, we were able to create interactive webinars monthly for both mentors and entrepreneurs to share and learn. These insights from local experts were key to help both Miller Center team members and mentors learn how to support the entrepreneurs even better. 

We’ve included our 3 biggest takeaways below:

1) Microgrid Developers are doing a lot

Microgrid business models are some of the most complex that many of our executive mentors have seen. Part of the reason is that the off-grid microgrid sector is nascent and developers must provide many discrete and varied services for which reliable contractors do not yet exist: site selection and assessment of electricity demand, engineering and procurement, operational management, and productive use promotion, including upselling productive load equipment like cold storage, refrigeration and other appliances.

Furthermore, many of the developers are also selling commercial solar or creating new business lines dependent on their microgrid such as purifying water, ice making in fishing communities, agricultural processing, etc.

Mercy Rose, Senior Business Analyst at E4I, shared, “the market is very young so people are still trying to figure out what works– [selling] solar home systems [for example] is more stable so that is their safety net as they explore the microgrid world.” 

As the sector grows more niche, organizations may enter the market to provide the services like productive equipment or project management software that support microgrids. 

2) Investment is essential  

Microgrid enterprises begin serving their customers only after installing a significant amount of equipment. Due to the cost of this equipment and the time spent acquiring customers, we found that most of our teams needed to focus on creating a strong financial model. 

Unlike other social enterprises that can subsist in their early years with relatively small amounts of incremental funding, a microgrid enterprise needs substantial capital to launch their first microgrid. And then to grow beyond their first 1-3 microgrids, such enterprises often require $1,000,000+ of capital. While it makes sense that creating infrastructure requires significantly more capital than other social enterprises, this is a significant hurdle for microgrid entrepreneurs. This is compounded by the fact that it takes quite some time to recover costs, especially for entrepreneurs with 1-2 microgrids.

Given the size of investment needs and the risk to set up dozens of microgrids, it became clear that it’s challenging to find the right type of funding for the stage of this sector and these enterprises. Organizations do not want to dilute themselves by giving away too much equity at this early stage, yet debt funding is hard to find for these entrepreneurs.

These findings are mirrored in two different reports that E4I created and shared with our cohort, including:

  • Financial and Operational Bundling Strategies for Sustainable Micro-Grid Business Models - Published in partnership with NREL, this report looks at the various financial bundling methods that micro-grids could employ to achieve sustainable business models. This is particularly interesting since it highlights possible financing options for various micro-grid business structures as well as various stages of project development. 

  • Strategic Investments in Off-grid Energy Access - The second report, published in partnership with Wood Mackenzie, looks at the various trends in strategic financing for off-grid energy companies, including financing models and types of investors. It’s interesting to see certain investors who have traditionally not engaged in this space taking interest in the off-grid energy markets. 

How can we create staggered investments in this sector that allow organizations to find and deploy grant funding to create infrastructure, then take on equity funding as they scale?

3)   Scaling fast vs scaling slow – old rules don’t apply

These microgrid developers were also focused on scaling up very fast, going from pilot systems to raising funding for dozens of microgrids. Through a webinar with E4I, we were able to discuss and learn some of the reasons why this trend toward scaling as quickly as possible is happening, including:

  • Governments, both locally and development organizations like USAID, launch for tenders that request companies supply multiple villages or electrification need for public services such as health clinics and schools.  

  • Investors want to see positive return on investments which isn’t possible with one project/site. Therefore, developers must take into consideration a portfolio of microgrids to provide sufficient return on investment. 

  • Economies of scale functions is important. How you procure materials, contract out sites, organize staff, etc provide improved margins and return on investment. 

E4I shared tips for de-risking this fast scaling including assessing the sites in-person in advance of commitment, ensuring your organizational structure includes a local team to keep local travel and other logistics costs down, and most importantly, hiring engineering procurement and construction contractors who can do construction and the commissioning and help start operations.

These learnings will be utilized to develop even more aligned content for both Miller Center and E4I to share and help support entrepreneurs and the energy access ecosystem as a whole. Check out more insights from Miller Center’s Replication and Scaling Initiative in our newest report linked here.


About the Authors

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

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Neal Harrison has seven years experience working on social innovation, entrepreneurship, impact investment and supply chain management in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Ghana. He has experience in researching and report writing, leading entrepreneurial ventures, and managing international projects in the public, non-profit and social enterprise sectors. He is certified in Project Management Professional (PMP) and hold an MSc in Global Economics and Politics from the London School of Economics. Neal has a passion for economic development and finding sustainable solutions to pressing social challenges. He is particularly interested in entrepreneurship, food systems and environmental issues.

Mercy Leta Rose from Energy 4 Impact

Be It Women In Tech Or Women In Social Sector, The Call For Change Is Same

Be It Women In Tech Or Women In Social Sector, The Call For Change Is Same

With my background in tech journalism and recent experience of working with Miller Center, where I lead our women-led affinity group that has 25 women running their social enterprises, I had a chance to reflect on the issues, problems, and opportunities of both sectors.

Last month, I attended The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam and represented Miller Center For Social Entrepreneurship at their The Next Women track. The conference brought together 12,500 attendees and 3,500 companies from all over the world. For me, it was a delightful experience to meet and greet women from the tech sector, women social entrepreneurs who are using tech to solve social issues, and other stakeholders who all share the vision to make this world a better place to live.

The conference also hosted 2019 Chivas Venture – a social startup competition that gives away $1m in no-strings-attached funding to businesses who blend profit with purpose to have a positive impact on the world. From 20 global finalists, Mexico’s Xilinat walked away with the largest amount of funding, receiving $310,000, following a live pitch at the conference.

Xilinat is on a mission to convert agricultural waste into a natural sugar substitute that looks and tastes like normal sugar yet is low in calories; helping tackle obesity while providing a sustainable alternative for diabetics and the health-conscious. 

During multiple discussions with social entrepreneurs who pitched at the conference, investors and general attendees, I curated some high-level conclusions of the problems and issues after that conference. 


Women Representation in Social Sector is Far Better

The serious underrepresentation of women in the tech industry is always in the news. All big companies in Silicon Valley are fighting for it but the stats are much better for the social sector. The social enterprise or non-profit model has women representation in ever-greater numbers: 38 percent of social ventures are now led by women, while there are more than twice as many men than women in conventional business. In other news quoted by Independent, More than 90 percent of companies that are tackling social problems have at least one woman on their leadership team, as opposed to almost half of small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have all-male directors. 

The numbers are not surprising, though. Due to their compassionate and empathetic nature, women tend to start a business that is close to their heart, have more passion involved and/or tackle any global or local issues of their country or community. These traits are certainly not gender-specific but they create a pattern. 

By leveraging women representation in the social sector, we can also fix the gender gap in the tech industry. More technological solutions to solve the world’s problems is just one way to do it.


Access to Capital

As per Kauffman Research, women entrepreneurs face three challenges for their firms: a lack of mentors, their view of success and failure, and a financing gap. Access to capital in both sectors is an issue. It’s not just in the United States— last year, in Europe, 93% of technology investments went to all-male founding teams. On the other hand, despite the fact that women tend to run more social enterprises with a non-profit model as compared to men, a significant issue has been overlooked – namely, investment in women-led social enterprises. According to studies, 45% of women entrepreneurs report access to capital as one of the major barriers to sustaining an enterprise, compared with 36% of men.

Over the years, impact investors and gender-lens investors emerged as strong beneficiaries to help women entrepreneurs raise the capital but the gap is still too big in both sectors.


Access to Mentors and Role Models

While having a candid discussion with representatives of Startup Genome who released their Global Startup Ecosystem Report based on primary and secondary data from over 10,000 founders and more than one million companies across over 150 cities worldwide, we discussed the barriers on why women representation is still a question mark in many countries and sector. 

One of the highlights of the discussion was the inaccessibility of mentors and role models in respective industries. You don’t become what you don’t see. In the United States, only 43 percent of managers are women and less than 19 percent of corporate board members are women. The mentorship comes from someone who has been through the journey and the leadership gap is one of the main barriers for women entrepreneurs to access mentorship and role models.

Having men mentors in your entrepreneurial journey is not wrong but having role models and mentors who have been through the same journey, helps them get acclimated and gives a feeling of being connected on a level where they can bat around strategies and also get some counsel on their personal and professional goals.


Self-Confidence

This issue takes us back to where we all started gaining knowledge about things, i.e, childhood. As a kid, girls have always been pinkified with the gifts that sometimes only include dolls, dollhouses, make-up products, cutlery sets and what not. Whereas, the gifts boys get are toy cars, hoverboards, and gadgets. Psychologically, men are pushed from an early stage to ‘be a man’ and take risks whereas girls are taught to ‘act like a girl’ and be more submissive.

All these psychological conditioning have impacted the way we see entrepreneurship trends these days where self-confidence is a major issue faced by women entrepreneurs. Women founders see themselves less capable of running a company and hold themselves off many times. Whereas, Men tend to grab more risk-oriented business opportunities, are more likely to start a business with profits in mind, and have higher expectations for their business in terms of money, size, and rate of growth. Thinking big and embracing risk is more common among male entrepreneurs.

Social entrepreneurship still has a better rate of women entrepreneurs gaining momentum as compared to the tech industry because women often launch their businesses to gain growth instead of wealth. Women social entrepreneurs prefer lower risk opportunities, smaller returns with better impact, and a more localized customer base.

Conclusion

The more I talk to entrepreneurs (men and women) from both sectors about the issue of gender equality and bias, the more I stand firm on the point that it is an issue regardless of which sector you work in. The call for change in both sectors is the same hence the collaboration between them is necessary. In some countries, women entrepreneurs are only mentored but not funded. In some parts of the world, access to funding and funding itself is nowhere to be found.

If we increase the share of women representation in leadership positions in both sectors, make funding accessible and easy, create a strong pipeline for mentors access and last but not the least, make our girls bold, brave and risk taker from an early age, we will see tangible rewards that will benefit not just women but the entire society.



About the author

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 on Building Social Enterprises in the Philippines

5 Lessons on Building Social Enterprises in the Philippines

Social entrepreneurship is gaining ground in the Philippines. According to one estimate, social enterprises already benefit 4.7 million people per year. I’ve been working to develop programs that support social entrepreneurship in the Philippines for about fifteen months now. It’s been an amazing journey so far learning about the economy, people, and culture. As I continue my work with our partner, the University of San Carlos, and we prepare to launch our second iteration of these programs, it seems like the right time to reflect on what I’ve learned so far. 

Here are my 5 lessons on supporting social entrepreneurship in the Philippines:

1. Island geography matters. The Philippine archipelago is comprised of 7,600 islands. Among those only 2,000 are inhabitable, but that is still a huge number. The island geography reinforces strong local communities and regional identities, with social entrepreneurs targeting familiar local problems. Living in these communities, entrepreneurs are well-equipped to understand and create solutions to address local challenges. On the other hand, entrepreneurs deeply embedded in local communities may face challenges thinking about and preparing for scale, which is necessary to increase their impact. The unique geography also lends itself to agriculture, fishing, tourism, and natural disasters (among other things), that suggest unmistakable opportunities for those looking to make a positive impact.


2. Social entrepreneurs need to think bigger.  There is no shortage of talent, ideas, or passion to improve people’s lives in the Philippines. Everywhere I’ve been, entrepreneurs are there, tackling important and challenging problems. What’s harder to find are those who are willing to think big. There’s no Silicon Valley ethos within the Philippine’s (yet), so big ideas and risk taking aren’t typical features of the culture. Though that is definitely changing. More higher education institutions are instilling entrepreneurial thinking in students, more accelerators are supporting startups, the economy is growing at over 6% per year, and younger socially-minded entrepreneurs are realizing the opportunity to reach beyond their local communities.

3. Most social enterprises are not “investment ready.” This isn’t unique to the Philippines. Practically every entrepreneur I’ve worked with insists they need funding, and many do. Yet most aren’t prepared to receive funding. What’s needed? A realistic growth plan, a financial forecast, an understanding of the types of capital and best uses for each type, an understanding of what returns an investor expects and the ability to articulate what returns your investors will receive, and clarity about how the capital will be used. At Miller Center we refer to this as the “Justifiable Ask,” and developing one is a critical step before raising capital. Even with a compelling justifiable ask, many social enterprises are just too small to effectively absorb the available capital, which currently trends toward larger deal sizes.

4. Impact investors don’t (yet) support early-stage social enterprises. There is so much hype around impact investing that you’d expect investors to be pouring capital into the ecosystem to support fledgling social enterprises. That’s not exactly the reality. While large amounts of investment capital are flowing into the Philippines, the vast majority of it comes from Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and is focused on large-scale microfinance, infrastructure, and energy projects -with average deal sizes over $50 million (see the Landscape for Impact Investing in Southeast Asia report). Private impact investors deployed $107 million over 54 deals between 2010-2017, with a trend toward larger ticket sizes. This has left a gap in funding, often referred to as “the missing middle.” More local angel investors and philanthropic organizations are needed to provide risk-tolerant grants and capital in deal sizes ranging from $50,000 and $500,000.

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5. We need more local champions.  The promise of social enterprises across the Philippines can be seen in the stories of Hapinoy, Rags2Riches, Fishers and Changemakers, Regenesys BPO, Gawad Kalinga, ANTHILL, Coffee for Peace, Bagosphere, Human Nature, and Mad Travel (four of which are GSBI alumni). These pioneering enterprises are visible examples of what is possible, and they are an inspiration for the next generation of entrepreneurs. But we need more of them. We need more local success stories which become the aspirational role models for budding entrepreneurs and build buzz and confidence among investors.

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Social enterprises in the Philippines are growing, and a supportive ecosystem is developing to help fledgling social enterprises thrive. It’s amazing to be part of it.  If you are a part of this community of entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, NGOs, and educators -or would like to join it- please contact me. We can get farther, faster together. 



Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the University of San Carlos in Cebu are launching the next GSBI accelerator programs in September 2019. Find out more about the upcoming USC GSBI accelerator or apply now.


About the Author

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Jeff is Program Manager, Growth and Innovation for Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. He is also Founder and Chief Strategist at iEnso Consulting, a boutique consultancy which helps purpose-driven businesses and entrepreneurs to bring new products and services to market. Prior to joining Miller Center, he was the Managing Director at Inkomoko, a business accelerator supporting the growth of high-potential entrepreneurs in Rwanda. His previous experience includes work as Venture Manager at Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Director of Product Marketing for Shaklee Corporation -a $500 million global consumer products company. He has also held positions with numerous startups including: Burn Manufacturing, Gazoontite.com, Syndero, Wikimedia Foundation, and GameChanger Products. Jeff earned his MBA from the University of Washington, Foster School of Business.



THE POWER OF COMMUNITIES REVEALED THE STRENGTH IN ME

THE POWER OF COMMUNITIES REVEALED THE STRENGTH IN ME

Editor’s note: This post is the final part of a three-part blog series from the author. Read part one here: Learning to Use my Voice for Good, and part two here: Reflection from Time in Rwanda

I can recall looking at the fellowship program and feeling drawn towards the chance to make a social impact. I desperately wanted to go into a cross-cultural context and do meaningful work. Despite this desire, I hesitated when it came time to apply. I told myself it was going to be too rigorous, too challenging, and that social entrepreneurship didn’t align with my future goals. Now I see I was full of doubt not in the program but in myself. My deficiency of self-worth and value was something that I hid very well. I masked my suspicion with a layer of false confidence and a smile. I essentially faked it till I made it and I am so glad I did because being awarded the fellowship was the most significant gift I could have received.

COMMUNITY CROSSING BORDERS

My junior year after I came back from abroad I felt a loss of community. Looking around I struggled to find others who related to me, and there was even a sense of feeling isolated in the Santa Clara bubble. Before going into the field, it became a concern of mine that I would feel alone in a new environment too. Even though I was going with a team, it was hard to picture the dynamic that would take place once we were in Rwanda. My fears disappeared immediately upon arrival in Rwanda. I was taken aback by the amount of hospitality we received from the moment we stepped foot in the country. Fr. Innocent who was one of the people running PICO Rwanda and a Jesuit Priest residing at Center Cristus took us under his wing. Many things were different from what we were used to in the United States such as the warmer climate, beautiful yet soft-spoken people, and roads with moto drivers shouting for passengers to get on the back. Fr. Innocent acted as our guide helping us assimilate to all the sensations around. He was so easy to talk to and I found myself settling in the culture very fast.

PASTOR JOHN R. AND I   Pastor John R. brought PICO to Rwanda. His presence at the workshops lifted peoples spirits.

PASTOR JOHN R. AND I

Pastor John R. brought PICO to Rwanda. His presence at the workshops lifted peoples spirits.

SUNSET AT CENTRE CHRISTUS   The beauty captured here is just a glimpse at the heart and soul of the place I called home for seven weeks.

SUNSET AT CENTRE CHRISTUS

The beauty captured here is just a glimpse at the heart and soul of the place I called home for seven weeks.

FR. INNOCENT   Fr. Innocent worked tirelessly to make all of us feel comfortable and welcomed in Rwanda.

FR. INNOCENT

Fr. Innocent worked tirelessly to make all of us feel comfortable and welcomed in Rwanda.

The staff at Centre Christus ended up bringing a smile to my face every day and night. It became a ritual of mine to go into the kitchen to say hi to the staff. Although I didn’t know much Kirwanda, the little phrases I managed to memorize led to an uproar of laughter from every Rwandan in the room. In return, they gave me hugs before I went to bed. The simple acts of kindness from them were mighty and demonstrated that relationships transcend beyond just verbal language. The mutual ability to emote and show an understanding of love and respect was so strong that it created a sense of community. To be so far away from home yet feel so comfortable with the people around was an incredible realization. Despite the different backgrounds Centre Christus fostered a home-like atmosphere to build impactful relationships and learn. People from all walks of life would gather together to listen, share, discuss, and unwind. It indeed was never a dull day in Rwanda.

When discerning my vocation I can’t ignore the pull I feel to go back to East Africa. Not only is it where I originate from, but it is the place where I feel most like myself. Before I go to grad school for social work, it is a goal of mine to work in Uganda or Rwanda for a year or two to gain professional experience in community development and further explore my love for social justice.

UNLOCKING MY SELF-WORTH

Before the fellowship, I was recovering from a traumatic event. I couldn’t understand why people believed in me because I didn’t see my own value. Being selected as a fellow, I was ecstatic. I thought to myself FINALLY because growing up I had little to no mentors. My teachers in my suburban predominately white town didn’t see a future for a black girl and didn’t care to help me. The Miller Center, in contrast, saw that I was intelligent and had skills to offer in Social Entrepreneurship. For the first time, I wasn’t the only one believing in myself (which at times it got exhausting).

The spring before our departure I felt as if I was about to embark on something great but at the middle marker of our time in the field self-doubt crept in. My teammates were all set on what they needed and were supposed to do. To speed production along, we decided to handover the interviewing role to the translators and the Social Enterprise Interns that accompanied us fellows into the field appeared to have everything under control. As a project manager, I should have been happy about everything running so smoothly, but on the contrary, I experienced some confusion. If I was nonessential for the videography aspect of the project and the training wheels I acted as in preparation for the workshops were ready to come off then what was my role? I tried to remind myself that my team's success was a reflection of my project management but I still couldn’t shake off the feeling of purposelessness.

INTERVIEWING IN THE FIELD   Before I stopped doing the interviews I really enjoyed getting to ask people questions and learn more about their stories. I was sad to not do them anymore but it ended up being best for the team. One of our translators Kiki (pictured above) took over and she was incredible.

INTERVIEWING IN THE FIELD

Before I stopped doing the interviews I really enjoyed getting to ask people questions and learn more about their stories. I was sad to not do them anymore but it ended up being best for the team. One of our translators Kiki (pictured above) took over and she was incredible.

FINDING JOY THROUGH DELEGATION   As a project manager I became more comfortable delegating tasks to my team.I learned to adapt and embrace the different elements being thrown in our way.I enjoyed the pressure that came with my role and as time went on I grew to become a strong leader.

FINDING JOY THROUGH DELEGATION

As a project manager I became more comfortable delegating tasks to my team.I learned to adapt and embrace the different elements being thrown in our way.I enjoyed the pressure that came with my role and as time went on I grew to become a strong leader.

I remember sitting eating dinner feeling still a little sad when a problem arose. There was an issue of communication between PICO Rwanda and the Miller Center which lead me to spring into action, conversing back and forth between the two organizations. PICO Rwanda wanted to show us a coffee factory, and our team needed to focus on our deliverable to make sure everything was in place for the workshops in one week. I was challenged to make sure everyone was comfortable, understood, and walked out with at least something that they wanted.

I remember how exhilarating it was to come up with a solution on the spot and act quickly to keep the conflict from escalating. As a mediator, representative of my team, and spokesperson on behalf of the program I had to balance the complexity of the different parties emotions. For many, that sounds like a situation from hell, but to me, I was in pure bliss. Not only was I managing this communication mishap, but I was confident that my interventions would result in a good outcome for all.

The sense of empowerment I got after the crisis was averted was a feeling I desperately needed. I was overcome with a sense relief knowing that my talent was needed at that moment. When other situations appeared after I leaped at the opportunity to support my team and contribute to the project by effectively communicating with others and solving problems that emerged. Reflecting on this memory, I have now gained a new style of confidence and spirit stemming from self-empowering times in the field. Recounting stories like these from Rwanda additionally leads me to honestly believe in myself and the gifts I have to offer.

When looking at what I want to do in the future, I want to have that feeling of empowerment, confidence, and some pressure to overcome a barrier because that is when I feel the most alive/the most excited. Talking to people and helping everyone feel understood is something that matters a lot to me. I can't think of a better possible way to help others then through communication and empathy.


NO “I” IN TEAM

I use a lot of “I” statements and throughout this essay have been talking mostly about me, but from my time in the fellowship and toward the end of my time in the field I learned the power of “We.” The most important thing I learned that will forever shape my actions is that sustainable growth and community development does not happen alone. To create change their needs to be collectivism. I saw this throughout my time in Rwanda, working with the villages and seeing the fantastic work they accomplished by coming together as a team. This spirit of collectivism I witnessed, in turn, impacted my last interactions with my group comprised of three fellows and three social enterprise interns.

Group dynamics are tricky, and ambiguity makes it even harder. For our team the biggest struggle was communication. I remember the glue keeping us all together was slipping towards the end of the seven weeks. It was the day before our last visit into the field, and everyone was upset sick, and annoyed by each other. During our time in Rwanda, we had all hit breaking points where we felt like we weren’t being listened to and justified our actions without consulting others. By the end, our frustration turned into exhaustion, and we collectively decided to convene for some resolution. We realized that we only work well when we were on the same page. After recognizing that all of our feelings were important, we needed to forgive each other and learn from the situation. Our team was quick to bounce back and we went into the field the next day stronger than ever. We came in with a plan, directly talked to one another, and most importantly validated each other's feelings. The visit to the last village proved to be our most successful. I now perceive the altercations that happened among my team and our ability to solve them as a strength of ours because at the end of the day we were able to set aside our intentions to make a difference in something far more significant than us.

PICO RWANDA FELLOWS   I got close to the other two fellows (Jenny and Neil) who traveled with me. We had many adventure that I will remember for a long time.

PICO RWANDA FELLOWS

I got close to the other two fellows (Jenny and Neil) who traveled with me. We had many adventure that I will remember for a long time.

PICO RWANDA WORKSHOP TEAM   The workshop team and I learned to come together as a team to successfully deliver workshops to urban women in Kigali

PICO RWANDA WORKSHOP TEAM

The workshop team and I learned to come together as a team to successfully deliver workshops to urban women in Kigali

I believe that as humans were naturally inclined to think about our own needs first. From my time in Rwanda to now, I have developed a new perspective. I can step back and question what good is glory when you're alone and have no one to share in the success? I am much more willing now and honestly, would prefer to overcome obstacles with a strong diverse and multidisciplinary group. In the past nine months, I had a lot of powerful transformations, but they would be nothing and mean nothing without my team.

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What’s next?

AFTER WORKING WITH PICO RWANDA, I SEE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HELP PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES AND HOW PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE GROWTH CREATES AGENCY. 

The fundamental values of social entrepreneurship that I have obtained from my fellowship experience are something I have decided I want to continue practicing in my future vocation. I have always dreamed of entering the vast field of social work and my time in Rwanda helped establish a better picture of what that could entail. My passions in social work lie in social change and innovation. I want to help strengthen and organize communities whether that is working for a particular agency or being an advocate for marginalized groups. I think by intersecting social work and social entrepreneurship it can lead to a beautiful thing that not only can improve lives, but save lives.


About the author

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I am half Ugandan and proud of my multicultural background. While I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to travel to Uganda every summer. Spending time with people who have different life experiences than my own instilled me with values of compassion, consciousness, and cultural competence, that have guided my career choices and activities tremendously. While studying psychology, sociology and ethnic studies at Santa Clara University, my mentors and peers have challenged me to think creatively in response to problem-solving.

Programs at my school that are passionate about social justice have helped me discover that I love learning in new cultures and being pushed to grow. Through my fellowship program, I became a project manager for a community organizing nonprofit in Rwanda. It was there that I realized sharing and listening to experiences has the power to change how we see and interact with those around us. Now I strive to empower, strengthen, and engage underserved communities so that our world becomes a just place for all.

Reflection from Time in Rwanda

Reflection from Time in Rwanda

Editor’s note: This post is part two of a three-part blog series from the author. Read part one here: Learning to Use my Voice for Good.

Close your eyes and picture the United States government requiring everyone to do community service once a month. What does your state look like? How connected is your community? It seems too good to be true right? In Rwanda, this is the reality and is one of the reasons the country has grown and developed significantly since the genocide. For Rwandans, the first Saturday of every month is called Umuganda day, and on this day, the government makes it mandatory for everyone to participate in a day of service. 

My experience with Umuganda day began at the crack of dawn as my team, and I journeyed three hours out to Nyange, a village where previously visited the week before.  When we last reached out to Nyange, the community members explained to us that they were going to be expanding a small narrow path that they use to retrieve the clay for their bricks and tiles. Since this clay located at the bottom of a hill posed a difficult challenge for the villagers, they hoped that by expanding the path and building a road it would create more efficiency. When we arrived, the whole community was already out working on expanding the route, but some still came to greet us from the roadside. They were covered in dirt, making the whites of their teeth stand out with their big smiles. I felt instantly comforted by their warm welcome. The women advised me to cover my recently braided hair from the dirt like they had, shielding the dust and grime with a kitenge headwrap. I was amazed I had only been in this community for less then 10 minutes, and they were looking out for me as if I was one of their own. I wasn’t used to this hospitality, and I found it interesting that despite all the cultural barriers between myself and these women, there was still a strong feeling of support.

I can recall staring at the men and women and noticing how frail and light they looked compared to the pickaxes they were holding to dig up the earth. This perception of them being weak though was quickly squashed by a blind man named John. During Umuganda day, he came up to me and grabbed my hand. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but I went off with him, and everyone followed behind. We came to a halt right at the place we were going to dig. I wondered how he had decided that this was the right place to dig. I looked down at the ground and noticed his bare feet wiggling in the burnt auburn looking soil. We were both handed hoes, and as I tried to lift mine, he had already swung ten strikes into the dense clay. He was a machine. They all were, and they all worked in sync. They were far from being weak and nimble. Within less than half the day, they cleared a significant portion of the trail and surpassed their goal. Nyange villagers individually might be small, but collectively, I realized they are extremely determined people who will power through and work in unison to achieve their goals. 

What I learned that day was the importance and emphasis of collectivism. For me, although I love my community, I am constantly battling my society’s individualistic tendencies. In the United States and especially Silicon Valley, everything centers around getting ahead. We are so focused on our success that other things, such as community growth and development, get pushed to the back burner. There is nothing wrong with wanting to reach personal achievements, but it comes at a cost. Individualism creates isolation, a lack of community, and ignorance towards the problems of others. Nyange recognizes that other people's problems affect them too. If it's hard to bring up clay for one person, it affects someone who needs bricks to build a house. With the collectivism, I experienced how nice it was to have other people looking out for you (ex. the women worried about my hair). This support takes some stress and pressure away from the individual, and I genuinely believe it makes for a happier environment. Therefore, working more as a community is so important because we are only as strong as the people around us. 

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In Mumeya, the oldest Pico Community, we saw how strong the community had become. They worked together as a community to help themselves. A woman named Speciosa shared with us a story of how they identified a critical problem in their village. Mumeya desperately needed a clinic because too many pregnant mothers were dying due to a lack of proper health care. One Orhan baby named Pico tragically came into Speciosas life because the baby’s mother died in labor. Something avoidable had the nearest clinic not been miles away. When Speciosa adopted Pico she realized that too many friends of hers have passed away from delivering a child. Speciosa, together with her community, made an action plan to build a running clinic. 

We got to see this clinic when we visited Mumeya and were impressed. It was fully functioning and offered an amenity of services. When Speciosa spoke of the clinic and baby Pico there was some sadness recalling all the people who lost their lives before, but also pride because she and her community accomplished something together. I wasn’t surprised to hear that on top of her being president of her cooperative, she is a veterinarian and is also trying to install a program in her village to educate youth about teenage pregnancy. What did surprise me was to hear that she used to be extremely timid before PICO. Upon hearing this, I realized that transformations are possible and that even when you reach a level of success like becoming a president that shouldn’t be a reason to stop and slow down. 

As amazing as Speciosa is, many people I’ve told about her assume she is an anomaly, and that’s a mistake. Many other women are doing incredibly impactful work transforming their communities. When talking about these people making a change, I have been asked, “Who helped them to do that?” inferring that their work would not be possible without help from outside. When I explain that they did it all on their own, their reaction is as if I told them pigs could fly. I always have had to explain to people since I’ve been back from the field that I didn’t sleep in a tent and people there aren’t all living in huts. Being half Ugandan, it sometimes feels like people are labeling half of who I am with false depictions of Africa.

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Reflecting on the workshops we did, I think about how some people who attended barely had completed primary school. The workshops became a fun and exciting environment for them to learn and explore in. For me, the workshops became a place to realize my privilege. I am very fortunate to have received the education I have today, but I still wake up sometimes and don’t want to go to class. I even indulge in complaining about the workload I have, and I still think about just quitting. I didn’t realize the influence I can have because of my privilege until I was standing in front of a classroom and being perceived as a teacher, even though I was younger than most of the room. Toward the end of the workshop, I remember receiving praise for coming to Rwanda to teach and couldn’t understand why I should be receiving that praise. I questioned if I deserved it. It wasn’t until one of my post-workshop evaluation interviews that I realized that they were praising me because they felt fortunate to have been allowed to learn.  I remember visiting Nymatta, a village where many participants in the workshops resided. We visited them after the workshops to figure out what they thought of them. 

When we arrived, I walked into the church where they hold their cooperatives meeting, and upon my first footstep, my ears flooded with the noises of an electric piano playing an African beat. The people of Nyamata were waiting for us and sprung up to their feet. They clapped their hands, and the drumming began. I knew what I had to do. I put down my bag and started swinging with a woman who was singing a melody. She had a soft yet powerful voice, and it was ever so welcoming. Midway through the dance as beads of sweat started to form on my forehead, I realized how much energy these men and women have. All of whom could have probably danced for three more hours if it wasn’t for the group interview.

As my Co-Researcher was listening to them speak, I noticed her nodding and smiling. She whispered to me, “I think this is one of the best interviews we have done.” Now I know she was right because Nyamattas energy and desire to learn set them apart from the rest. It was one of their first workshops, and it meant more to them than I even realized. For the other older cooperatives who had had other workshops before this was exciting but not wholly new. For Nyamatta, the workshops to them represented so much more than just acquiring more knowledge. It meant finally recieving  a chance. Pastor John always said, think about what Nyamatta could do if they put all their energy into a project of building their community. The workshops allowed them to see what he meant. One man said with glee that he’s going to save money and work with others to help his community. 

“I am thankful to PICO Rwanda and all the people involved in making these workshops possible you help ignite the confidence within us. You gave us a chance to meet up altogether, and you helped us meet with entrepreneurs like from the bank of Africa and people from the Bank of Africa. When they came, they explained to us what they do and how they do it, so I decided right after the workshops that I was going to open a bank account… I think my mind is opened. I am now starting to see that my future is going to get better. I think I am going to work hard and work with entrepreneurs/investors”.

It is with that energy he had along with the boost of confidence the workshops ignited within him that helped him develop the drive to take action. I then realized education has the power to instill confidence into students. The way I viewed education before was just something that you do. You complete grade school, then go to college, and because of these previous notions, I took for granted what school has done for me. Now I see that it has impacted me more than I think. Just like the man from Nymatta, my education has given me confidence and a drive to take action to make impactful change. 

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About the Author

lizzykamya.jpg

I am half Ugandan and proud of my multicultural background. While I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to travel to Uganda every summer. Spending time with people who have different life experiences than my own instilled me with values of compassion, consciousness, and cultural competence, that have guided my career choices and activities tremendously. While studying psychology, sociology and ethnic studies at Santa Clara University, my mentors and peers have challenged me to think creatively in response to problem-solving.

Programs at my school that are passionate about social justice have helped me discover that I love learning in new cultures and being pushed to grow. Through my fellowship program, I became a project manager for a community organizing nonprofit in Rwanda. It was there that I realized sharing and listening to experiences has the power to change how we see and interact with those around us. Now I strive to empower, strengthen, and engage underserved communities so that our world becomes a just place for all.

Engaging Men in the Conversation of Women's Empowerment

Engaging Men in the Conversation of Women's Empowerment

Why it is Important to Engage Men in the conversation of Gender Equality

The argument that describes gender inequality as a human rights issue approves the notion that it is an issue for both genders because ‘humans’ comprise of both men and women who co-exist and are co-dependent most of the time.

According to Wikipedia, Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological sex, sex-based social structures, or gender identity.

The word gender and the role it plays in each society is socially constructed including the responsibilities that society considers appropriate for men and women. If you remove socially constructed roles from the word, it only defines the biological sex and gender the person identifies with, which means the issue of gender inequality is not limited or fixated to remove the inequality of ones gender but to give all humans equal socio-economic opportunities. UNICEF says gender equality "means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities, and protections. It does not require that girls and boys, or women and men, be the same”.

The ladder towards women empowerment

Empowerment is a process. A gradual process of visibility, conversations, dialogues, resources, and recognition. This process is not restricted to marginalized and vulnerable communities or one gender, it is for everyone to become stronger, more confident, and take control of their actions. Involving men in the process of empowering women is necessary to fix the problem from the grassroots level.

Many well-intentioned empowerment efforts in the past have faced backlash from men and increased violence against women since men were included in the awareness. According to UN, in a water project in Africa, efforts of an aid agency to involve women more effectively as pump attendants met stiff resistance from men, particularly when it was proposed that women pump attendants should also be given bicycles to allow them to carry out their work. Men objected first on the grounds the women could not learn to ride bicycles. When that was proven wrong, the real objections emerged, that is, that bicycles – a clear status symbol in a poor community – should not be given to women if men did not already have them. The aid agency learned an important lesson, that efforts for gender equality and the empowerment of women must include awareness raising and engagement of men.

While the vast majority of us agree that involving men in this process is an integral aspect, women-only safe spaces are still an important rung of this ladder. Men and boys can play an important role in reclaiming responsibility in the home, the community, and the workplace but the need for a conversation that is led by women for women still holds unprecedented importance in this narrative.  

For example, when webinars, workshops, and programs about gender equality allow women to share their experiences and concerns, they are hesitant to raise their voice in mixed-gender settings. The same women feel more free, open and have candid heart-to-heart conversations when in women-only settings.

This is why topics like sexual assault and domestic violence are still preferred to be conducted in women-only settings to avoid creating additional trauma for harmed parties enabling a space to address gender-specific issues facing those who identify as women. However, some organizations highly advocate for involving men in these conversations too so that victims of abuse have positive male role models. If, how, and when men should be included, that’s the discretion organizations have to make based on their initiatives, topics, and audiences.

‘If’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ Dichotomy

Women Economic Empowerment is one of our strategic initiatives at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Our 2019 GSBI accelerator cohort has a separate affinity group for women-led enterprises to help them scale their businesses through exclusive business resources and webinars. To find out the answer of if, how and when for our center, we recently conducted an anonymous survey to ask our staff if women-only settings hold more importance in our WEE initiatives or if men should be a part of all discussions. Some of the highlighted opinions are:

“I think involving men in some parts of the broader discussions is important, but that it is also critical to have female-only forums. For so long women have been excluded, and they deserve to move forward a dialogue that reflects their unique perspectives and values in service to other women. That said, the discussion is part of a broader solution that must engage men, but I don't think men should be invited to add their input to everything. Maybe an 80/20 rule can apply, whereby 80% of our sessions are designed for women-only, and 20% are designed for both men and women.”

“In terms of supporting women social entrepreneurs, I am in agreement with creating gender-restricted spaces, because I recognize the value such spaces can create for any under-represented, vulnerable, or marginalized group, and I understand that the presence of men could inhibit conversations. As a man, I prefer to leave it to the discretion of the organizers and participants of the spaces to decide if, when, and how, men should be included in any of the group activities. Regardless of the decision made, it is incumbent upon the organizers of these spaces to share the learnings (respecting confidentiality, of course) with the rest of the Miller Center team as appropriate, so that we can all be better allies. That said, our WEE initiative includes a second dimension, which is supporting SEs working to benefit women and girls, regardless of the gender of the social entrepreneur. I don't see any reason why those spaces should be restricted to women-only.”

Men as an Ally of Women EmpowermenT

Men have the most important role in achieving gender equality and promoting women empowerment initiatives. Men as an ally can be a role model in elevating women’s access to  employment, appropriate working conditions, control of economic resources and full participation in decision-making. UN Women’s campaign HeForShe is an example of a similar solidarity campaign to achieve equality by encouraging all genders to partake as agents of change and take action against negative stereotypes and behaviors. If you are a man reading this, here’s how you can become an ally of women empowerment efforts.

  1. Increase your participation in domestic work and family responsibilities to strive for work/life balance together.

  2. Advocate for women’s access to employment, rights, and opportunities.

  3. In you are an organization, create positive male role models on gender equality by introducing fair employment practices, anti-discrimination measures, and gender-inclusive decision making and by combating sexual harassment in the workplace.  

The Way Forward

To shake the current scenario, the way together is the way forward. Currently, around the world, men hold decision-making positions in all key areas, such as in the executive, economic decision-making, media, academia, and the judiciary. The top to bottom change is necessary to fill the leadership gap and to have our next-generation to be more inclusive and diversified. The involvement of all ‘humans,’ regardless of the gender they identify with, is necessary to have a future which is bright, open and free of any inequality.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

GSBI Alumni Identify Key Trends in Distribution and Energy Access

GSBI Alumni Identify Key Trends in Distribution and Energy Access

 
 

On April 18, two Miller Center alumni - Emma Colenbrander, head of the Global Distributor's Collective (GDC) at Practical Action UK and Lesley Marincola, CEO of Angaza - joined us to share key trends in the last mile distribution (LMD) and energy sectors.

Emma at GDC gave an overview of the challenges and trends at the ecosystem level that they've learned from working with hundreds of distributors. These trends include the surprising data that shows the importance of distributors increasing product diversity in their offerings versus the traditional consensus that specializing in selling one product allows for better efficiency and scale. Lesley at Angaza followed up by presenting more details on the needs of distribution partners and how they use human-centered design to build technology solutions that address them.

This webinar was a part of the focused curriculum Miller Center has developed to support our sector-specific affinity groups that work with entrepreneurs running last mile distribution and energy access businesses.


About the Authors

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


Neal Harrison has seven years experience working on social innovation, entrepreneurship, impact investment and supply chain management in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Ghana. He has experience in researching and report writing, leading entrepreneurial ventures, and managing international projects in the public, non-profit and social enterprise sectors. He is certified in Project Management Professional (PMP) and hold an MSc in Global Economics and Politics from the London School of Economics. Neal has a passion for economic development and finding sustainable solutions to pressing social challenges. He is particularly interested in entrepreneurship, food systems and environmental issues.

Eight Fellows Heading Off to Graduate School!

Eight Fellows Heading Off to Graduate School!

Our Global Social Benefit Fellowship alumni are moving on to greater things! These 8 graduates of our program start challenging and exciting graduate school programs in the fall.

- Keith Warner OFM



Lindsey Allen

GSBF 2015 with Solar Sister

Action Research Portfolio

London School of Economics, Master of Science in Environment and Development 

"Over the course of my research and work in emerging markets, I have come to recognize that many of the development challenges I witnessed are rooted in the vulnerabilities that exist in local food systems. With this in mind, I pursued a postgraduate program that would give me a stronger foundation in food policy, political ecology, and development theory so I can have a greater impact in agricultural development strategies. "


Madeline Nguyen

GSBF 2016 with lluméxico

Action Research Portfolio

Yale University, Yale School of Public Health, Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences with a Global Health Concentration

“I applied to Yale School of Public Health because its interdisciplinary approach fosters innovative and critical thinking and provides several opportunities for students to pursue their ambitions. I am very excited to continue my education and to become more equipped to create a more equitable and just world.”


David Hong

GSBF 2016 with Asdenic

Action Research Portfolio

Rush Medical College, Doctor of Medicine Program, MD

“When applying, Rush stood out as one of the most dedicated and committed medical schools in addressing health inequality and disparity within healthcare in the communities they reside in. My hope, in attending Rush, is to not only become a great clinician, but one who additionally understands the social, economic, and environmental factors that contribute to health--and to actively work towards finding solutions both inside the hospital and outside of it as well.”


Grace Krueger

GSBF 2017 with Nurture Africa

Action Research Portfolio

University of California, Berkeley - School of Public Health, Master of Public Health in Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health Program

 Grace was inspired to apply to the Maternal, Child & Adolescent Health program at UC Berkeley because of her prior experience serving maternal and child populations while working at Nurture Africa and Stanford Children's Health. Grace is excited to further develop her research and statistical analysis skills at UC Berkeley and hopes to apply her new skills to empower global communities to reduce health care disparities.”


Athena Nguyen 

GSBF 2017 with Koe Koe Tech

Action Research Portfolio

University of California, Berkeley, Master of Public Health with an emphasis in Global Health and Environment

“I applied to Berkeley because I have always admired its rigorous program and dedication to diversity. I am elated to join a cohort of brilliant people, and I am especially excited to use my position as a Kaiser Permanente Public Health Scholar to engage with underserved communities. “


Brooke Latham 

GSBF 2015 with Bana 

Action Research Portfolio

ESADE, Master of Business Administration Program

“After 3 years with Alterna working in impact investing and social entrepreneurship in Guatemala, I am pursuing an MBA to further my career in impact investing. I am excited to be in an international and diverse setting in a program that has a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation.”


Christina Egwim

GSBF 2016 with Bana

Action Research Portfolio

University of California, San FranciscoSchool of Medicine - Doctorate in Medicine."

“I applied to UCSF because I wanted the opportunity to learn from faculty and students who care just as much about health equity, community development, and social justice as they do about human biology and pathology. From this program, I hope to develop the skills that will allow me to be a competent and compassionate physician.”


Esther Bartlett

GSBF 2018 with Koe Koe Tech 

Action Research Portfolio

California Northstate University, College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine

“I applied to Northstate because it (1) has incredible clinical rotations serving the Californian prison system and substance abuse populations, (2) is ranked in the Top 20 scores nation-wide for the 2018 Step 1 board exam, (3) had an above-average residency match rate for its first graduating class this year. However, I chose to attend Northstate because I quickly recognized that this community is highly motivated, accomplished, socially competent, innovative, and collaborative!”


About the author

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.

Peter O'Riordan Executive Fellow / Energy Access Blog

Peter O'Riordan Executive Fellow / Energy Access Blog

I’m honored and excited to be Miller Center’s newest Executive Fellow. Executive Fellows strive to contribute to Miller Center’s mission in ways that go beyond typical mentor engagements. I am currently working with Andy Lieberman on the Energy Access Affinity Group, one of a number of experimental affinity groups we are piloting in 2019.

My journey to Miller Center began about 2 years ago. After a 30-year career in technology, I decided to take a break in 2014. I joined Encore.org, an organization that seeks to pair executives with local non-profit organizations for a one-year part time fellowship. I worked at Breakthrough Silicon Valley (BSV) where I partnered with the Executive Director (ED) to help refine strategy. I became interim ED when she moved on; overall I was involved with BSV for about 2 years. Upon leaving, I realized that one of the biggest contributions I had made was in mentoring and coaching the various members of the organization; this had a far more positive and long-lasting impact than most of the specific initiatives I worked on.

I now knew that coaching organizations who were making a positive difference in the world was where I wanted to focus. But in what sector? Several long and hard-hitting conversations with my 2 daughters about climate change and climate justice, coupled with my own interest in that space, made me realize that this was the area where I wanted to engage. Miller Center’s focus on helping those who are most at risk from the effects of climate change, and its mentor-driven model was a perfect fit.

The goal for the Energy Access Affinity Group is to provide a clearing house and forum for both social entrepreneurs and mentors working in this space. “Energy Access” is a very broad term, covering everything from supplying end customer products like solar lamps and cell phone chargers (for example Solar Sister), installing single building solar systems (Village Energy in Uganda), installing micro-grids designed to provide power to entire villages (like Mlinda or Husk Power Systems), providing other forms of energy generation such as biomass, and non-electric products like clean cookstoves (Potential Energy). It also covers technology platforms like Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) systems, offered by companies like Angaza. Given the breadth of this space, it’s important that we structure outputs from the affinity group in ways that allow entrepreneurs and mentors to easily find information that’s relevant to them.

Solar Sister sales agents with a solar-powered lamp and cell phone charger.

Solar Sister sales agents with a solar-powered lamp and cell phone charger.

PAYGO solar panel from Angaza.

PAYGO solar panel from Angaza.

Using the same philosophy that underpins the various Replication Playbooks that Miller Center has generated (such as the Last Mile Distribution playbook), we aim to speed time-to-success by distilling key learnings, insights, and potential gotchas in easily accessible and digestible formals. The first product we’ve come up with is an Energy Access Mentor Background manual which attempts to help mentors understand the general space and to engage more effectively with SE’s by understanding some of the common challenges and pitfalls in each of the sectors. We are currently polling SE’s and mentors to understand the kinds of information that would be helpful to them, and the most effective ways of disseminating such information.

Interested in becoming a mentor with Miler Center?

Learn more about mentorship and apply.


About the Author

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Peter O’Riordan was born and raised in Ireland. He has 30 years experience in the technology sector, most recently at Cisco where he held a variety of VP/GM positions in the Data Center Switching space. Peter is an Encore Foundation Fellow, and has 5 years experience working, volunteering, and coaching in the nonprofit sector. He is married with 2 daughters and is looking forward to being an empty nester.


Can a Traditional Nonprofit Learn to Think Like a Social Enterprise?

Can a Traditional Nonprofit Learn to Think Like a Social Enterprise?

Whether it’s housing the poor, educating children, or feeding the hungry, nonprofits exist first and foremost to serve their beneficiaries and fulfill their stated mission. To achieve this purpose, most nonprofit organizations rely on a variety of funding sources including grants, individual donations, government contracts, and sometimes client fees.

Leaders and managers in organizations that rely heavily on grants and donations often operate with an “all or nothing” mindset, dependent on the success of a given grant proposal or donor fundraising campaign. This funding model can create a “scarcity mindset” limiting potential growth opportunities due to the continuous pursuit of grants and donations needed just to sustain the work they are currently doing.

Last month, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County (CCSCC) gathered together 20 staff members, representing 11 different program areas including housing, education, immigration legal services, health care, and refugee foster care. Gregory Kepferle, CEO at CCSCC wanted to introduce the concept of social entrepreneurship as a model for expanding social impact while improving the organization’s financial sustainability.

...by encouraging program leaders to start thinking like social enterprises, we can fulfill our mission and begin to reduce the need for donor funding.
— Gregory Kepferle, CEO at CCSCC

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, in partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara (CCSCC), created a customized 10-week program for program leaders, specifically designed to challenge their thinking about revenue sources, business models, and financial sustainability for the programs and services they deliver. Through a combination of structured curriculum and executive mentorship, each of the 11 teams will deepen their understanding of business model concepts and financial terms, identify key drivers of financial performance and impact, and develop “what-if” analyses to explore new approaches for programs and funding.

The program and the partnership with CCSCC is part of Miller Center’s ambitious new initiative to advance social entrepreneurship through partnerships with religious orders and institutions. The CASE (Catholic Action for Social Entrepreneurship) Initiative, which launched last year, intends to transform Catholic social ministries into social enterprises, create social entrepreneurship leaders and influencers within religious orders, and engage youth by providing opportunities to pursue social entrepreneurship as a vocation.

Can traditional nonprofits learn to develop an entrepreneurial mindset? Can they learn to think like a social enterprise? The signs are promising. The shift in philanthropy away from continuous annual funding and toward funding initiatives with the potential for long-term financial sustainability may make this an imperative for their future.


About the Author

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Jeff is Program Manager, Growth and Innovation for Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. He is also Founder and Chief Strategist at iEnso Consulting, a boutique consultancy which helps purpose-driven businesses and entrepreneurs to bring new products and services to market. Prior to joining Miller Center, he was the Managing Director at Inkomoko, a business accelerator supporting the growth of high-potential entrepreneurs in Rwanda. His previous experience includes work as Venture Manager at Kaiser Permanente Ventures and Director of Product Marketing for Shaklee Corporation -a $500 million global consumer products company. He has also held positions with numerous startups including: Burn Manufacturing, Gazoontite.com, Syndero, Wikimedia Foundation, and GameChanger Products. Jeff earned his MBA from the University of Washington, Foster School of Business.

2019 GSBI Online Cohort at Bay Area Impact Summit 2019

“Can we Marie Kondo our money and investments? How much is enough?”

Opening panel discussion, photo courtesy of One World Training and Investments

Opening panel discussion, photo courtesy of One World Training and Investments

This thought posed by Kristen Hull, Founder and CEO of Nia Impact Capital, struck me while she and Joel Solomon, Founding Partner of Renewal Funds kicked off the opening session of One World Training and Investment’s 2019 Bay Area Impact Summit last March. This idea to apply the KonMari method to one’s belongings has become ubiquitous because of the Netflix special, but to Kristen’s point, we should really be thinking about applying it to how we invest our money in order to declutter, be more aware and be intentional with our investments. Too often, we are putting our money in to funds and investments in which we are too far removed from how our money is being spent, and often not realizing the impact of those dollars.

Photo courtesy of One World Training and Investments

Photo courtesy of One World Training and Investments

One World Training and Investment’s Bay Area Impact Summit (#BAIS19) was held on March 19, 2019 and was a convening of over 150 representatives from the Bay Area’s impact investing ecosystem, bringing together angel investors, impact investors, family office representatives, foundations, fund managers, ecosystem builders, social entrepreneurs, and as Angie Mertens of One World Training affectionately stated, the “impact curious.” Among the social entrepreneurs present in the room were those in Miller Center’s current 2019 GSBI®️ Online cohort in our Bay Area affinity group. In addition to the thought provoking opening panel mentioned above, the summit’s programming consisted of breakout sessions, pitches from Bay Area-based social entrepreneurs and networking opportunities.

The pitch sessions included feedback given to each pitch, which was not only helpful for the pitching entrepreneur, but for others in the room to learn from their peers. Some of my takeaways that were given to the entrepreneurs from the feedback panel and throughout the day were:

  1. You are making an offering of a solution, not just “asking for money.” Emphasize what the consequence of not investing in your company means and what the world looks like without it.

  2. Make sure your passion shines through in pitches.

  3. Research the people you are pitching to so you understand your audience and can make sure to hit on points that speak to them.

  4. If reaching out to a connection that can help your business, personalized emails go a long way.

  5. Don’t be afraid to highlight your amazing team and why they are best suited to do what you are doing.

  6. (The following two tips are from Ha Nguyen of Spero Ventures) Traction is critical. Investors need proof there is a demand for your offering (ie. the dog will eat the dog food), that early customers love your product, that you can execute with speed. Your passion and connection to your mission are important, but your ability to validate your hypotheses and show early indicators of getting to product-market fit is even more critical.

  7. Understand the "sweet spot" of investment for investors you pitch. As a founder, your most precious resource is your time. Don't waste time chasing down Series A investors if all you have is a beta product and some pilot customers. Do your research and know whether that investor invests at your stage of company.

Kristen’s opening point about being more impact focused in our investments is especially important in the Bay Area, where there are too many living in poverty and without access to basic resources. In an area where startups and innovation are abound, our entrepreneurs in the Bay Area affinity group are unique in they are using an entrepreneurial mindset in order to overcome issues that the SF Bay Area is facing, from closing the talent gap in the workforce, creating more diversity within tech jobs, and engaging underrepresented youth in STEM. If we can all be more mindful in supporting and investing in such entrepreneurs, we can “spark joy” in our financial investments and influence society in positive ways.

See the list below to learn more about the entrepreneurs in our 2019 Bay Area affinity group and how they are changing the Bay Area we live in.

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Anwar McQueen of TEAM Inc., Oakland, CA - TEAM Inc.'s mission is to prepare underrepresented students for opportunities available at the intersection of tech and sport.

Brittany Hodge of Client Safety Services, San Francisco, CA - Client Safety Services fosters safer communities through relationship building, respectful interventions, and by treating all people with dignity.

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Courtenay Carr Heuer of Scientific Adventures for Girls, Oakland, CA - SAFG's mission is to keep kids, especially girls and underserved youth (starting at the age of 5), engaged in STEM for the long term, either as professionals in STEM fields or as contributing members of the global community with a strong background

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Michelle Glauser of Techtonica, San Francisco, CA - Techtonica's mission is to provide tech training and jobs to Bay Area women and non-binary adults with low incomes and build a diverse tech community.

Jin Lee of BabyNoggin, San Francisco, CA - BabyNoggin works to increase early detection and intervention of developmental delays for every child in the world.

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Yscaira Jimenez of LaborX, San Francisco, CA - LaborX's mission is to connect skilled, untapped talent to living wage jobs.

If you want to be a part of a convening in the Bay Area of stakeholders taking action around the challenges and opportunity in funding and accelerating the seed stage of the social impact ecosystem, join me and some of our GSBI entrepreneurs at the SEED Conference taking place May 20-21, 2019 in San Francisco. Sign up for 50% off your ticket by using the code SEEDProgramPartnerVIP or using this registration link. I hope to see you in San Francisco!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Dolly Ngo is a Program Manager at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship where she is responsible for successful execution of GSBI accelerator programs by being a bridge between social entrepreneurs and the resources they need to advance their solutions to global challenges. Prior to joining Miller Center, Dolly was an Operations Manager at GSBI alumni Good World Solutions, where she partnered with brands to utilize mobile technology to survey factory workers in Asia and promote worker voice in supply chains. In addition to her program management and social impact experience, Dolly has a background in medical devices as a quality engineer. She holds a BS in Biomedical Engineering from the University of California, Irvine, and is fluent in Vietnamese.

Learning to Use my Voice for Good

Learning to Use my Voice for Good

I was born into the loving home of compassionate, patient, and resilient parents. Growing up in Uganda during the time of Idi Amin, my father could never have predicted that he would end up falling for my mother, who grew on the outskirts of New York City. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, my mother yearned for someone with a greater perspective for the world. Raised in a wealthy white American neighborhood, ignorant residents alienated my mother for viewing everyone as equal, and she in return despised the judgmental environment she grew up in. The two eventually would meet in Boston College’s School of Social Work and would go on to raise two girls, my sister Sarah and me. My parents raised us to speak up and use our voices for good, and as result, it has shaped who I have become.

I was raised in Arlington, Massachusetts, just six miles outside of Boston. The town of Arlington was predominately white and it impacted my experience as a young biracial girl. I developed many insecurities, the biggest being the texture of my hair. Since my mom wasn't familiar with styling black hair, my dad took charge--and he was great. He would decorate my hair with beads and braid in patterns that when I looked into the mirror made me feel beautiful. But when I went to school, that beautiful feeling quickly disappeared when people would touch my textured soft hair and pull out my beads. Not only did I feel like a zoo animal, but it was distracting and bothered me. One day I came home and told my dad that I didn't want him to do my hair anymore. He looked upset and asked me why. It was hard to tell who liked my hair more, my dad or me, but he knew that something had happened. He asked if what bothered me was kids playing with my hair, and I nodded as tears rolled down my checks. Then he said something I will never forget. He told me, "If you don't like something, you can tell someone to stop.” Later, with my mom, the two explained to me that I had to speak up when something was happening that I didn't like or feel comfortable with--so I did. The next day I went to school and a classmate tried to touch my hair.  I said, "Please don't do that. I don't like when you touch my hair.” She stopped and looked surprised, but I didn’t dwell on it because, finally, I felt comfortable.

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Being able to use my voice and speak up became a way for me to realize what I wanted, and what I wanted more than anything was to see more of the world. I was eager to look outside the one perspective my town offered, which led me to spend every summer in Uganda where my dad’s side of the family lives. I developed a cultural competence early on and began to see things through multiple lenses. The culture, music, and people being so different from what I was used to in Boston was refreshing. I embraced and cherished all the unique values--some of which I like more than America--and as I got older, each summer became an opportunity to do more meaningful work, like helping my grandma with her nonprofit, the Makula Fund.  


When I came back from summer vacations, I was frequently met with judgment about Africa. My friends would ask me if there were any lions by my house and assume that it was a dangerous place to be. I was puzzled. Why would they think Africans would be okay with having lions running around a city? Didn't they know Africa has cities and not all countries in Africa have lions? If it wasn't safe, why would I be there? It took me a while to realize that they asked me questions because they were curious. They had pre-existing views of entirely false depictions of Africans. 

I felt that, as a friend, I should speak up and use my voice to break down their views. I wanted to start an open and honest dialogue about it, but I was nervous. I didn't want my friends to feel attacked or shamed for asking these questions. In addition, it was hard to speak to my friends because I wasn't sure how they would react. I went to my mom to seek advice because as a therapist, she knows a lot about the best way to communicate to people about things they don't understand. After all, she had to do a lot of that growing up. She told me that if they were true friends they will want to listen and learn. If they didn't want to change their opinions, then it was their loss. Ultimately, with the help of my mom, I found that I If I spoke to them instead of at them then they could not only understand my experiences better but gain an interest in something I loved.

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When picking colleges, Santa Clara University stood out to me for its commitment to service and education. I am a major in Psychology and Sociology and am fascinated by people and groups. I am passionate about learning why people do things and how people and communities can create meaningful change. It was my desire to learn and drive to make a positive impact on the world in a sustainable way that led me to apply for the fellowship. During my first year at Santa Clara, I was faced with many challenges, all of which led me to where I am today. The biggest challenges gave me a new outlook on life and were the result of a traumatic event. After it happened, everything was altered in the blink of an eye. I was lost, confused, down, and broken. With time I started telling others what I had gone through and continue to face as a trauma survivor. What happened to me was awful and shouldn't happen to anyone, but as I struggled to overcome my trauma, I learned that I was not alone in my pain. As I healed and shared my story, peers, friends, and even family entrusted me with their similar narratives. I realized that my voice was powerful and evoked a common thread among many who otherwise felt alone. It was a challenge trying figure out how I could use my voice to inspire, motivate, and comfort others, but I found and am still finding that empathy is the best way.  Empathy, through listening, validating, and understanding people, can encourage others to pursue their voice and passions in return.

Over time, I have come to realize the power that my words have. Being a woman, it is easy to be complacent in the face of numerous barriers. It took numerous challenges for me to realize my inner strength, but with amazing opportunities that have come my way like the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, I have learned to use my voice for good. More importantly, I have learned that empathy is something that I not only want to continue to practice in my relationships, but also in the projects I undertake while discerning my vocation.

Learn more about empathy and how to apply it to a wide variety of real-world situations on Ashoka’s Empathy 101 resource page.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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I am half Ugandan and proud of my multicultural background. While I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to travel to Uganda every summer. Spending time with people who have different life experiences than my own instilled me with values of compassion, consciousness, and cultural competence, that have guided my career choices and activities tremendously. While studying psychology, sociology and ethnic studies at Santa Clara University, my mentors and peers have challenged me to think creatively in response to problem-solving.

Programs at my school that are passionate about social justice have helped me discover that I love learning in new cultures and being pushed to grow. Through my fellowship program, I became a project manager for a community organizing nonprofit in Rwanda. It was there that I realized sharing and listening to experiences has the power to change how we see and interact with those around us. Now I strive to empower, strengthen, and engage underserved communities so that our world becomes a just place for all.

Executive Director Thane Kreiner, Ph.D. Speaks at the Annual Membership Meeting of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA)

Executive Director Thane Kreiner, Ph.D. Speaks at the Annual Membership Meeting of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA)

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Editors Note: Thane was invited to speak during the annual membership meeting of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA), in Santa Monica, CA in February, on the subject of social entrepreneurship. Following are his remarks.

Pope Francis published his influential encyclical Laudato Si’ in 2015, the same year the United Nations Sustainable Development goals set an ambitious agenda for the next 15 years of global human development. Both frameworks recognize the interconnection between poverty and climate change. In the words of Pope Francis, there is “an intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet.”

Global human development is a term that generally brings to mind government-to-government aid, formally known as Official Development Assistance (ODA). ODA totaled $146.6B in 2017, which may sound like a lot of money. There are some fundamental problems with the paradigm of ODA, not least of which is that top-down decisions on what to fund deprive developing countries and their communities of agency. Perhaps more problematic is that many of these decisions seek to recapitulate practices that have fueled economic growth in more developed nations, sometimes referred to as the Global North. Much of that economic growth has relied on burning fossil fuels, the Global North accruing what Pope Francis refers to as an “ecological debt” to the Global South. Strikingly, according to the International Monetary Fund, global fossil fuel subsidies in 2015 totaled $5.3T. The Global North is investing thirty-five times more in creating the problem than advancing solutions.

Charity is a deeply rooted model for addressing poverty in almost every religious tradition – alms for the poor a cry heard across millennia. Make no mistake: charity is essential after calamity, natural or human-made, though the distinction is increasingly difficult to discern. To meet basic needs such as food, water, and energy, charity is not a sustainable solution, however; further, it also deprives people of agency in solving their problems.

Social entrepreneurship is a fundamentally different paradigm that enables individuals and communities to be architects of their own futures. We’ve all heard the maxim, “Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.” The corollary for social entrepreneurship is this: “Teach a woman to run a sustainable fishing enterprise, it feeds her community forever.”

What exactly is social entrepreneurship? There are many definitions including one I love from Sally Osberg and Roger Martin: disrupting unjust social equilibria and creating more just ones. Most of us have a sense of entrepreneurial behaviors: innovation, adaptation, resilience, acting boldly even in the face of resource constraints. All of these are true for social entrepreneurship. In addition, as Greg Dees noted in 1998, there are two additional elements: a clearly articulated social value mission; and heightened accountability to constituents, including assessment of the outcomes they experience as a result of the social enterprise’s products and solutions.

A social enterprise with a mission to provide refugees dignified livelihoods can assess how many refugees are engaged in meaningful work, how much income they generate; one that nourishes children so they can learn can measure nutrients and learning outcomes; a safe drinking water enterprise might report liters consumed and reduction in diarrheal diseases. A mission to eliminate needless blindness shows us the amazing grace of social entrepreneurship: the blind can see.

Social enterprises might be structured as for-profit, non-profit, or hybrid organizations; the form should be informed by the impact sector and underlying business model. Social enterprises are often community-based.

As an example, Solar Sister, formed in 2011, supports local women as they create clean energy businesses in Africa. The business model is Avon-style: women entrepreneurs go door-to-door selling solar-powered lanterns and clean cookstoves. The unit economics through the value chain are compelling: the solar lantern manufacturer makes a margin on the sale to Solar Sister; Solar Sister captures margin; and the women entrepreneur makes money on each lantern she sells.

Importantly, the woman who buys the solar lantern is better off economically. She can stop purchasing subsidized kerosene at approximately $2 per week, and using pay-as-you-go technology embedded in the lantern, immediately have higher quality light without fumes equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day or lanterns falling over and burning her home and children, which happens over 2 million times annually.

Once she’s paid off the lantern, in as few as 5 weeks, she has $2 more per week to invest in her family and her community. She sends her girls to school as well as her boys. She starts a small business selling goods to passersby with light after dark. She engages in economically productive activities such as weaving or sewing. She gains a sense of agency.

Everyone wins except the fossil fuel companies as these women becoming economically empowered and make their communities more resilient to climate change. We believe that this intersection is one of powerful levers for ending poverty.

Miller Center accelerates social enterprises to end poverty and protect the planet. Silicon Valley executives accompany the social entrepreneurs through a structured curriculum for about six months, building trust by sharing the journey. The social entrepreneurs discern a path to scaling impact. For those familiar with the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, our accelerator program is akin to the Spiritual Exercises of Silicon Valley. Our goal is to help them achieve operational excellence and become ready for investment of an appropriate form of capital for their impact sector, which may be equity, debt, grants, or blended sources. Since our first program in 2003, we have accelerated over 1,000 social enterprises delivering impact in more than 100 countries; they have raised nearly $1B, half since participating in our accelerator programs. Collectively, these social enterprises have improved, transformed, or saved the lives of over 380 million people living in poverty.

Last year, we pioneered an accelerator for social enterprises serving or led by refugees, migrants, and human trafficking survivors, the first in the world to our knowledge. As a university-based social enterprise accelerator, we published a white paper on this cohort to share lessons we learned on how entrepreneurship can bring dignity to the most vulnerable among our common human family.

We launched a Catholic Action for Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) initiative in Africa and the U.S. to transform social ministries to more sustainable social enterprise models; catalyze formation of new social enterprises; and leverage underutilized assets, such as land. My colleague Keith Warner OFM recently returned from leading visits for Sisters from congregations in east and central Africa to over a dozen social enterprises, and next month, we plan host workshops for the Sisters and for Jesuits in Nairobi. The host social enterprises expressed strong interest in partnering with the congregations to expand their impact; the trust and respect of the Sisters in the communities they serve presents a unique opportunity.

We engage Santa Clara University students in accelerating social enterprises through action research that is rooted in the principle of value-exchange. Host social enterprises receive high-quality research deliverables such as impact assessment reports, documentation of operating procedures, and marketing materials. The students experience transformational learning. This program was possible because of a generous, expendable gift from Ann Bowers, widow of Robert Noyce, first CEO of Intel. So far, Keith and I have had the privilege to share the journey with 111 young leaders, 8 of whom have won Fulbrights and three of whom have been named valedictorian. Today you’ll hear from two of them about their experiences and their host social enterprises.

In a short period of time, I’ve shared a lot of metrics, statistics, and stories with you. I don’t expect you’ll remember them all, so here are my two take-home messages. First, social entrepreneurship is deeply resonant with Catholic social teaching. Second, Catholic social ministries and higher education institutions are uniquely positioned to leverage social entrepreneurship to fashion a more just, humane, and sustainable world.

About the Author

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Thane Kreiner, PhD, is Executive Director of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Howard & Alida Charney University Professor at Santa Clara University.

Before joining Miller Center in 2010, Thane was Founder, President, and CEO of Second Genome and Presage Biosciences, Inc. and President and CEO of iPierian. Thane spent 14 years at Affymetrix, Inc., the DNA chip industry pioneer. Thane earned his PhD in Neurosciences and his MBA from Stanford University.

His memoir on science and spirituality Composition of Life was recently published. Thane is an avid SCUBA diver, swimmer, yoga practitioner, and gardener.

Wawira Ngiru and her Vision to Feed the Future with Food4Education

Wawira Ngiru and her Vision to Feed the Future with Food4Education

With only 1 kitchen in 2012 that used to feed 25 kids, Wawira has come a long way with her passion to feed 1 million kids in the next 10 years.

Wawira Ngiru is one of GSBI alumni who participated in GSBI online accelerator in 2017. She is the founder of Food4Education, an enterprise that sources fresh food directly from farmers and uses a central kitchen model to deliver nutritious, heavily subsidized meals to students in urban public primary schools in Kenya. Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship had a chance to catch up with Wawira for a lunch this past month.

Wawira Ngiru and Miller Center staff

Wawira Ngiru and Miller Center staff

Shortly after completing her education, Wawira struggled to find an answer to one question that lingers in many budding entrepreneurs’ minds; Is entrepreneurship a right path for me? She received her higher education from the University of South Australia where she nurtured a passion to become a nutritionist. After graduation in 2014, Wawira returned to her home country Kenya and started Food4Education with just one kitchen that fed 25 kids. In 2016, Wawira received her first grant, started managing Food4Education full-time and hasn’t looked back since. In 2018, she managed to serve 250,000 meals in total.

Wawira’s Vision for a Better Kenya

While growing up in Ruiru, Wawira witnessed the rampant education and health problems firsthand and saw many kids who did not have access to healthy meals, let alone regular meals. As a result, many kids stopped going to school and begged on the street as an alternative means to access food. Even those who did have access to meals scored low in exams and later had very fewer opportunities in life. She started Food4Education to feed those very kids healthy and nutritious meals so they could concentrate in class and excel in life overall. Her initial target was to feed 25 kids at Ruiru Primary School and then expand to other schools.

The Process to provide a meal at a subsidized cost

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Wawira first consulted with pastors, chefs, and school principals to identify the roots cause of this systemic problem in order to identify how to keep kids in school. Her team found a simple process to make it easier for kids to get healthy and nutritious meals. Her team sources fresh, raw, ingredients including vegetables and fruits directly from farmers and uses their own central kitchen to make meals for kids that are healthy and are served at a subsidized cost. All ingredients used in the meals are locally grown which makes it cost-effective for her team and the farmers.

The impact of Food4Education

Food4Education was initiated in 2012 and ran a successful pilot program to feed 100 children. With little or no support from government institutions, the organization still managed to achieve their goal in 2014. The schools showed an improvement in attendance ratio by 96% as compared to the national average of 87%. During that time, 100% of the students who purchased meals from Food4Education also scored 250/500 marks in KCPE compared to 49.1% nationally.

Food4Education interface

Food4Education interface

Payment and Adaption of Technology

A recent development in Food4Education was the adaption of an NFC payment system, #Tap2Eat, to log the payments of purchased meals. A small smartwatch gadget was given to the kids to use as payment for meals without the involvement of cash. Parents pay for subsidized lunches through MPESA and the amount is automatically credited to a digital wallet linked to an NFC smartwatch and students just TAP TO EAT in less than 5 seconds.  

According to Wawira, the adaptation of technology and convincing the parents to use the bands instead of cash has been a challenge. Her team is still testing the method by providing training to parents and kids in order to make them comfortable with the new payment technology. The payment system will be another milestone for Food4Education in making meals accessible and easy for all kids in Kenya.

The Role GSBI played in Wawira’s Journey

“After coming to GSBI, I learned the methods and language of Silicon Valley which I wouldn’t have learned otherwise”, said Wawira Ngiru. The GSBI Accelerator program helps the organizations with their business potential and equips them with the necessary resources and tools that they can use to run their business successfully. According to Wawira, it was GSBI that taught her not to underestimate her business potential and made her reconsider her justifiable ask. “Before GSBI, I was underestimating our justifiable ask. The mentors helped us look at the bigger picture and made us reconsider our pre-conceived notions about the investment world” Said, Wawira.

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Students with lunch from Food4Education

Barriers, Bias, and Doubts

Like every other entrepreneur, it wasn’t just all success for Wawira. During her entrepreneurial journey, she faced countless “No’s” before that one “Yes.” According to her, she had a hard time convincing people with her idea and passion. Due to her age and young look, she faced countless rejections and was labeled as someone who is just doing it as a passion project and not involved in it seriously.

In the end… Persistence is the key

When asked about her secret sauce of success, Wawira mentioned “persistence”. According to her, the path of entrepreneurship is easy to walk on but it is really difficult to stay there. The one who stays persistent wins the race. “I still doubt my decision every day. I still think I should leave everything and do a corporate job that pays well. The feeling doesn’t go but I promise myself each day to stay persistent and stick to the mission I started”.

Wawira hopes to see a world where children don’t miss school because they are hungry or because they cannot afford healthy meals. With Food4Education, she wants a future which is open and inclusive to the needs of all vulnerable communities in Kenya and beyond.



About the author

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 Food4Education

“Converting” Catholic Social Ministries

“Converting” Catholic Social Ministries

Social enterprise workshop participants

Social enterprise workshop participants

Over the past nine months, Miller Center has conducted experiments to test the feasibility of adapting and applying our GSBI® methodology to these ministries, and results are quite promising. This month, in Nairobi, Kenya, Pamela Roussos, Thane Kreiner, and I presented two workshops to Jesuits and Catholic Sisters. Both of these African networks have asked us to accompany them as they transform their social ministries into social enterprises.

Catholic social ministries worldwide are aware that the funding landscape has shifted dramatically over the past generation. Traditional Catholic funding sources are fading, and being replaced by impact philanthropy, which expects innovative approaches to service delivery and enhanced accountability for their impact. Social ministries face threats from declining income, but are pursuing opportunities to develop more robust business and impact models. For Catholic social ministries seeking transformation into social enterprises, the GSBI methodology provides a structured curriculum and customized mentoring draw on 15 years of practical experience with a thousand social enterprises. Our acceleration services are practical, draw lessons from hundreds of successful social enterprises, and share with Catholic social ministries the vision for sustainable development as articulated by Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. We call this initiative the Catholic Action for Social Entrepreneurship.

Sisters in social entrepreneurship

Miller Center has prioritized women’s economic empowerment as a strategic focus for five years, accelerating women-led and women-serving social enterprises. Still, we have rarely been able to recruit groups of entrepreneurs that are majority women. So imagine our response when we are approached by a network representing only women: Catholic Sisters. As Thane explained in a prior blog, ACWECA (Association of Consecrated Women in East and Central Africa) is network of some 30,000 Sisters organized into some 300 congregations, and this association requested a partnership with Miller Center.

Keith Warner OFM and Sisters

Keith Warner OFM and Sisters

The missions of these congregations are compelling. Many of them were founded to educate girls. Others organize their ministries to serve some of Africa’s poorest women. A number of Sisters engage in farming themselves, and work with local subsistence farmers to increase their income and resilience in the face of climate disruption. ACWECA recruited 11 congregations from 6 African countries to participate in the Sisters Blended Value project, and the workshop in Nairobi March 3-7. I had met a majority of these Sisters when I took them on the road to visit our social enterprises in January. This project would help the Sisters design their own social enterprise initiatives, consistent with their congregational missions, creating opportunities for their poor neighbors and earned income for the Sisters.

Each congregation was represented by three Sisters, and in the workshop, these Sisters developed a business plan for a social enterprise initiative to be sponsored by their respective congregation. The Sisters Blended Value project kickoff workshop drew extensively from our GSBI Boost curriculum for early stage enterprises, and so the Sisters developed skills used by early stage entrepreneurs. They designed value chains, segmented their target markets, wrote value propositions, and engaged in backcasting (imagining a multi-year organizational vision, and then working backwards to build toward that vision). In some cases, Sisters re-examined their expectations of merely writing up 1-page concept notes to ask for large grants.  

The lean startup methodology – designed to launch ventures in low-resource settings – will over-write historic dependence on external funders. The workshop concluded with each congregation’s team pitching to the whole group. Several congregations designed initiatives in agriculture, using chickens in partnership with GSBI alum Eggpreneur, pigs, or coffee with NUCAFE, another GSBI alum. Global Social Benefit Fellows will work with Eggpreneur and NUCAFE in 2019, and will foster collaboration between Sisters and social entrepreneurs.

Each congregational team is now charged with refining their business plan, and then presenting it to the leadership of their congregations. One great advantage of partnering with ACWECA is that its leadership understands the internal dynamics of these congregations better than we do. ACWECA’s vision for this multi-year project is to transform Sisters’ social ministries, step by step. The social enterprise initiatives are to be learning activities. ACWECA and Miller Center will accompany the Sisters as they launch them, and provide ongoing curriculum and mentoring over the rest of this year. ACWECA envisions this as a multi-year project, to position Catholic Sisters as the agents of a new form of pro-woman sustainable development.

Activating Jesuit networks

Pamela Roussos workshop

Pamela Roussos workshop

Co-sponsored with the Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network of Africa, Miller Center provided a social enterprise workshop for 18 African Jesuit social ministry centers February 26-28 in Nairobi, Kenya. This network of Jesuit social ministry centers is a project of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar. Miller Center’s team (Pamela Roussos and your humble servant) led the participants through the process of writing a business plan for their centers to enhance their ministerial outreach and increase the financial sustainability of their organizations. 

Last year, the new director of the network, Fr. Charles Chilufya SJ, reached out to Miller Center to request a structured program of accompaniment to transform these social ministry centers into social enterprises. These 18 social ministries are spread across 13 Sub-Saharan African countries. Ten of them operate in French-speaking Africa. Four of the center directors are graduates of SCU’s Jesuit School of Theology (JST): Claude Domfang SJ of Center for Research, Education and Creativity in Benin, Jean Nyembo SJ of Center Arrupe for Research and Formation in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ismael Matambura SJ of Center Maisha also in DRC, and Innocent Rugaragu SJ of Centre Christus/People in Community Organizing - Rwanda.


These ministries were founded independently by various provinces in response to local needs, and have been generally funded by Catholic philanthropy from Europe. This funding model is coming to an end, and these centers recognize the need to network more effectively and to develop new business and social impact models to fulfill their common Jesuit mission. At this workshop, the 24 participants developed a social enterprise initiative for their centers, supported by a business plan. 

The predominant programmatic theme was the fostering of livelihoods, especially for rural and urban youth. The lack of jobs is a tremendous challenge across the continent. In addition, several of the centers foster climate resilient agriculture, such as the Jesuit Centre for Ecological Development in Malawi.


One of the social ministry centers is in fact a network of 8 programs, the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAM), distributed across several ministry sites in multiple countries to serve people with AIDS/HIV. AJAM was initially founded to provide medical support, but with improved medication, many of these people are living much longer, albeit with bouts of poor health. AJAM now recognizes the need to provide supportive livelihood services to respond to the socio-economic needs of people with AIDS. Another network, Jesuit Refugee Services, is also part of JENA.  

Agnieszka Winkler at Jesuit workshop in Nairobi

Agnieszka Winkler at Jesuit workshop in Nairobi

On February 27, Miller Center brought a delegation of executive mentors and friends to visit this workshop, and the executives provided feedback on the development of these business plans. In the first picture,

Winnie Wan, Pascalia Sergon, and Vedaste Nkeshimana SJ

Winnie Wan, Pascalia Sergon, and Vedaste Nkeshimana SJ

Winnie Wan (one of Miller Center’s executive mentors) is asking questions about the proposed business plans of Pascalia Sergon of AJAM and Vedaste Nkeshimana SJ (who directs Service Yezu Mwiza, an AIDS ministry in Burundi). In the second picture,

Lisa Fullam and Elphege Quenum SJ

Lisa Fullam and Elphege Quenum SJ

Elphege Quenum SJ – the director of AJAM – listens in next to Lisa Fullam, who teaches social ethics at JST. Lisa has taught classes on the ethics of responding to AIDS/HIV, and has proposed greater collaboration between Miller Center and JST to develop innovative curriculum in theology and social entrepreneurship. 

These JENA centers are in the process of reviewing their social enterprise initiatives with their local teams, and will be sharing them next month. Miller Center will continue to accompany them, while working with JENA to raise funds for further support.



About the Author

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.

Nairobi Immersion Trip : GSBI® Workshop and Site Visits

Nairobi Immersion Trip : GSBI® Workshop and Site Visits

Miller Center’s first ever in-country GSBI® alumni workshop in Nairobi.

Miller Center’s first ever in-country GSBI® alumni workshop in Nairobi.

One of the highlights of Miller Center’s year is the time we are able to spend in the field with our alumni social entrepreneurs on the Executive Immersion Trip. This year, we visited Kenya and our timing aligned with the Sankalp Forum in Nairobi. Sankalp is a conference which convenes the social enterprise ecosystem and, conveniently, brought a lot of our alumni from across Africa to Nairobi. We were able to pilot Miller Center’s first ever in-country GSBI® alumni workshop with over 25 social enterprises and visit 7 enterprises in the field.

The workshop focused on four main topics: Fundraising, Strategic Planning, Sales and Marketing, and Management and Leadership. The executive immersion trip participants were GSBI mentors and Silicon Valley executives who all had tremendous experience in those areas.

The participants broke into topic-specific groups and all the workshop attendees were able to rotate through each topic and provide the trip participants with unique insights into their business models. Miller Center looks forward to providing similar workshops in the future in different regions as we continue to accompany our alumni enterprises on their journey.

Sundar Ramamurthy with Livelyhood sales agents and their products.

Sundar Ramamurthy with Livelyhood sales agents and their products.

In the days following the workshop, the trip participants had the opportunity to engage the realities of our alumni social entrepreneurs though visiting them in the field. One such visit was to Livelyhoods in Nairobi. After attending the morning sales meeting, we had the opportunity to team up with Livelyhoods’ sales agents as they went into an urban slum and see how they approach selling products such as fuel-efficient cook stoves and solar lanterns.

Many of the mentors who joined the trip have sales experience and experience managing sales teams and they were amazed at how effective the Livelyhoods’ sales agents were at their job.

One mentor remarked, “I can’t believe how hard the agents work just for one sale. They are trying to make the case for money to be invested into a product that will improve the lives of the customers, but oftentimes, the money is just not there. The agents are not really competing against other products, they are competing against the availability of money to purchase the products.”

After returning to the Livelyhoods office, one of the guests purchased some solar lights that he and his sales agent had been trying to sell. When he came back to the group he said, “after spending the morning trying to sell these lights, I realized how good of a product they are.”

Children that get subsidized, nutritious meals from Food 4 Education.

Children that get subsidized, nutritious meals from Food 4 Education.

Our time spent with Livelyhoods, and other social enterprises such at Alternative Waste Technologies and Food 4 Education, have given the team a unique opportunity to see and experience the need in these communities. We have seen different business and impact models, but like many organizations, the primary challenge is access to capital. One mentor who has a career in investing said, “it is incredible to think about the kind of impact a small amount of funding can have on these kinds of organizations which are directly serving the communities who need it the most.”

In addition to Alternative Waste Technologies and Food4Education, we had the opportunity to spend time with four other alumni social enterprises including Hewe Tele, Ojay Greene, Jacaranda Health, Vava Coffee, each providing us with a new perspective on the challenges and opportunities our alumni face in scaling their impact and their organizations. These visits helped to drive home some of the themes teased out in the earlier GSBI Alumni workshop, and by spending time with our entrepreneurs in their communities our mentors gained valuable experience and insight into the unique challenges of scaling a social enterprise.

 
Field visit to Ojay Greene.

Field visit to Ojay Greene.

 

Miller Center is starting to plan our next Executive Immersion Trip in 2020. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to Dave Harrison at dmharrison@scu.edu.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

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David is Miller Center’s Director of Advancement and is focused on developing resources and relationships for Miller Center. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda and as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in the Republic of Georgia. In addition to his international development and fundraising experience, David has a background in HR and serves on the advisory board for New Creation Home in East Palo Alto. David holds an MS in Organization Development from University of San Francisco.

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Alex Pan is a Senior Program Manager, GSBI at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Supporting our network of over 1,000 social entrepreneurs, he is responsible for monitoring and evaluation of programs and delivering alumni accompaniment programs. Alex is an experienced program manager with a background in building the ecosystem that supports social enterprises in emerging markets. Before joining Miller Center, Pan worked for the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) where he coordinated ANDE’s global network of regional chapters, facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing among ANDE’s 240+ members and led ANDE’s efforts around talent and invention-based businesses. Before joining ANDE, Alex worked for several international development NGOs in China, India, and Uganda. Pan has also worked for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy where he assisted in the development of their impact investing policy. He holds an M.A. in International Science and Technology Policy from George Washington University and earned his B.A. from Colby College where he studied International Development and East Asian Studies.

Looking Forward to SOCAP 2019: GSBI Boost alumni Claudia Tello reflects on the Beyond #MeToo workshop

Looking Forward to SOCAP 2019: GSBI Boost alumni Claudia Tello reflects on the Beyond #MeToo workshop

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Last May, I had the opportunity to attend a social entrepreneurship symposium at ITESO University, in Jalisco, Mexico, where I live and work. Among the international speakers were Professor Marco Tavanti, Director of Social Entrepreneurship at University of San Francisco, California. Professor Tavanti is known for his passion and serious commitment to social causes.

One of the issues he raised about the environment of social entrepreneurship was that some employers assume that giving jobs fulfills their social responsibility, when in truth, their economic activity makes social problems worse. Professor Tavanti mentioned that the discourse of social entrepreneurship should include "the security issue." In the question and answer session I raised my hand and said, "You have touched one of the points that most hurts us at this moment in Mexico--Data Cívica has reported 36,000 missing people so far this year ... the truth is that the relationship between the people and our government is dysfunctional ... do you have any suggestions for us to improve as a society in this situation?" Openly he confessed, "I do not know, I do not know what you could do."

At that same symposium I took an intensive acceleration workshop for social entrepreneurs with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, an initiative of high standards and with a serious commitment to promote social entrepreneurship worldwide. That led me to apply for a scholarship to the SOCAP conference in San Francisco. This global event gathered together more than 3,000 people including entrepreneurs, private and government investors, academics, social marketing initiatives, and so many others for 4 days united under a slogan I love: "At the intersection of money + meaning". Being selected from among 800 worldwide social entrepreneurs to be one of 120 scholars was an honor. This event is gigantic; it is impossible to attend all the conferences and workshops, so I had to plan my schedule to attend the topics that I found most interesting and take advantage of breaks to engage in mini-conversations with as many people as I could. At SOCAP you have to communicate with everyone you can.

One workshop I attended was Beyond #MeToo, which seemed would point to the future regarding this movement born in California. The workshop started with a brief introduction and a shared promise by the 80 people in the room to not disclose the identity of the people whose stories were being told. And just like that, three participants stood up and shared their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse. My tablemates and I were frozen. Suddenly everything took on a greater meaning. The genesis of this workshop was because a student at Miller Center suffered sexual harassment by someone who had participated as a speaker in one of the previous editions of SOCAP, and the organizers, instead of covering it up, decided to face the problem and to do this workshop right in the middle of the SOCAP. I clarify that this is in the public domain because it is published in the program. The intention of the organizers is to take a firm stance to stop these acts, exposing them instead of hiding them. Among the workshop exercises we had to share a situation in which we have felt powerful and another in which we felt powerless. When it was my turn, I spoke about femicides and disappearances as examples of situations of feeling powerless that I have experienced in Mexico. My tablemates, two American girls and one Canadian, were shocked when they heard the figures I gave them about my country: 36,000 missing people this year and 7 women murdered daily.

I wonder why in Jalisco, with so much talent in social entrepreneurship, so much excitement, so much technology, and so many pitch events, why haven't we generated a serious space for reflection and entrepreneurship to help solve the problem of insecurity? Or at least, an initiative to create empathy with those who have suffered or felt this national tragedy up close. These tragedies, not to mention sexual exploitation of children and horror stories such as the recently discovered two trailers full of dead bodies, have not been enough to spark us to focus all our efforts to survive as a society. How do we hope to thrive without security or empathy for those who have been hit by violence in any of its forms?

Artificial intelligence has predictive analysis among its multiple functions. While corporations invest in the use of this technology to avoid errors and generate higher revenues, I wonder if these tools could also predict where and when the next disappearance, femicide or theft will occur and do something about it! It is useless to grant the title of distinguished guest to the robot SOPHIA if it does not help us to solve human problems, our human problems. The guts I saw at SOCAP are needed to address the issue of harassment: head on and in the same place where it happened. It is necessary to be sensitive to victims and their families to understand that not talking about serious problems does not help to solve them, instead it makes the problems worse. It is necessary to understand that social entrepreneurship is not only seeking the economic benefit of entrepreneurs and investors. Nor is it only to set up forums to launch pitch events that magnify the political discourse or ego in favor of the governments or institutions that organize them. Social entrepreneurship is not only creating a place for innovation or providing markets for domestic and community enterprises. Social entrepreneurship is also a mechanism to take a problem that is a real threat to the survival of a society and find solutions to solve it, based on models of research, business support and government collaboration. Hopefully it will be in Jalisco where we rise to the challenge and make the first step to respond in the face of the threats that we live. At last year's Talent Land in Jalisco, a USAID representative said, "Creativity without security is nothing." This rings true, just as Marco Tavanti was right.

In Jalisco and everywhere, we should have discussion and reflection workshops such as Beyond #MeTooand include a survey of sexual harassment to find out if all the young people who have attended other editions of these events are still here or have disappeared. We need to channel technology, innovation and entrepreneurship to our human survival. I hope this can happen soon because the generation of young people who can solve these problems are being murdered, raped, and disappeared as we wait.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claudia Tello is a creative graphic designer with developed administrative and marketing skills and knowledge. She's interested in product design, social poster, design that contributes significantly to the improvement of society and projects that involve the artistic worldwide community.

In Conversation with Stella Sigana, Founder of Alternative Waste on her Impactful Journey

In Conversation with Stella Sigana, Founder of Alternative Waste on her Impactful Journey

Every day in the US, women start almost 849 new businesses. In the past 20 years, the number of women-owned businesses in the US has increased by 114% and the social entrepreneurship business model continues to attract women in even-greater numbers. According to the Independent, 38% of social enterprises are led by women, while there are more than twice as many men than women in conventional business. Furthermore, more than 90% of enterprises that focus on solving social problems have at least one woman on their leadership team, in contrast to almost half of small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that have all-male directors.

While women entrepreneurs continue to thrive in social entrepreneurship, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is helping them scale their enterprises and reach their business potential with our strategic initiative of women’s economic empowerment. Our current Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Online accelerator cohort has 26 inspiring women entrepreneurs solving a wide array of problems to eliminate poverty from the world. Stella Sigana is one of those 26 inspiring entrepreneurs.

Stella is the founder of Alternative Waste Technologies, an organization that solves a really unique problem by improving indoor air quality through the manufacture and supply of charcoal briquettes across sub-Saharan Africa. Stell was recently featured in Forbes Africa as one of the 20 New Wealth Creators on the African Continent.

Stella’s journey is full of wise choices and unforgettable mistakes. Her persistence and determination to overcome all challenges are the two most important traits that made her a successful entrepreneur.

“Learn to stay with the passion that drove you to start the enterprise.” - Stella Sigana

About her business and how it is impacting the lives of people

“Our business ensures that households have access to affordable and safe cooking fuels. Our impact to date is 170T of charcoal briquettes sold in Kibera community and its immediate environs; households saved US$14,790 by choosing our briquettes over traditional charcoal; we have created employment for 9 staff at the production facility and 15 sales agents.”

Stella’s strategy to acquiring customers

“The most effective way for our social enterprise in raising awareness has been through product demonstrations and word of mouth through referral systems.”

On having the right mentors

“Mentorship is very critical for a business that is starting out, and getting the right mentors is also very critical. Mentors with vested interests in running businesses similar to mine may not be the best due to conflicts of interest. A mentee must be willing to guide the process as well as be humble enough to learn from the experts. We currently have 5 mentors.”

3 Questions every entrepreneur should be able to answer

I think the most important questions for a founder are:

  1. What problem are you solving?

  2. What is your target market?

  3. Are you able to generate sustainable revenue from your enterprise without external financing?

About learning from mistakes

  • Never be in a hurry to produce your products, and start selling with the hope that customers will love the product. Carry out very thorough market research as to who your client is that you are targeting.

  • Being overly ambitious is good, but be willing to start very small, and learn to grow organically for sustainability.

  • Learn to build an asset base that one can use as security in order to access financing. Know the very language of financiers and speak their language.

About leadership challenges from inside the organization

“A leadership challenge from inside the organization was when I hired a team of advisors. They started dictating the direction of the business in total disregard of the spirit of the business, which was to support communities while creating a sustainable income. This resulted in a conflict of interest and I therefore had to let go of the team.”

Advice from Stella

“Learn to stay with the passion that drove you to start the enterprise.”

Conclusion

Women like Stella and her story shows how important it is for entrepreneurs to have a support system to create an enabling environment. The more supportive the environment is for women-led businesses, the more their businesses will grow. The end result is to create a profitable women-led business that improves the economic empowerment of women which leads to greater world economic growth as a whole.

Whenever I feel like giving up, I…

I go on my knees and talk to God in prayer. He will handle the problem for me.

If I wasn’t an entrepreneur, I would be...

I would be a CEO of a non-profit organization championing for economic opportunities for marginalized communities

Being a woman is…

Being a woman is learning to create your own standards and finding your own space where you can excel by your own terms

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done professionally is…

Resigning honorably from a well paying job to venture into entrepreneurship

If I could add one skill to my personality, I will add...

Time management in balancing the different demands as a woman (mother, employer, student, wife, sister etc.)

3 people who inspire me every day are…

My Father for his integrity, honesty and justice for all those he works with

My Mother for believing that Education is the only door that you can use to unlock your future especially for women

My children for their curiosity by asking a lot of life - related questions which have no answers but must be answered intelligently

One quote I live by is…

Matthew 7:12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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.