On February 1st, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship celebrated its 20th anniversary along with the 5th anniversary of its Global Social Benefit Fellowship. The center is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship and student action research. Founded as the Center for Science, Technology, and Society in 1997 by Father Paul Locatelli, Miller Center unites Silicon Valley’s spirit of innovation with Santa Clara University’s Jesuit ethos to help find sustainable business solutions to end global poverty.
Father Engh opened the evening talking about the genesis of the center and the vision of Father Locatelli. He quoted Locatelli from a speech made at the launch of the center, “We are experiencing an avalanche of new technologies at an unprecedented rate of acceleration that could either unite us and provide creative opportunities to improve our sense of community; or, create a divide between the haves and the have-nots.”
“The reason for the existence of Miller Center is more important today than ever,” said Thane Kreiner, PhD, executive director of the center. He went on to describe how the center uses the Silicon Valley principles of innovation and entrepreneurship in its efforts to bridge that gap between the haves and have-nots. Santa Clara University uniquely provides a platform for the center – the students, the professors, the curriculum, the Jesuit network, the location, and the guiding principles – to make a significant contribution to help end poverty around the globe.
Almost 300 people attended the event, including the founding executive director, Jim Koch, and the founders of the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) program, Al Bruno and Pat Guerra. Eric Carlson – the third employee at the center and the force behind operationalizing the program – was also present.
“Miller Center was founded with a vision of uniting the Jesuit tradition of working to create a more just, humane and sustainable world with the Silicon Valley tradition of innovation in science and technology,” said Jim Koch, senior founding fellow of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Don C. Dodson Distinguished Service Professor of Management for Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. “I’ve always seen our role as connecting humanism with technology to serve the common good and especially the needs of the poor. It’s gratifying to witness Miller Center’s progress so far.”
A short video was shown at the celebration that includes more comments from Father Locatelli, Jim Koch and the other founders, Thane Kreiner, and Father Engh.
More About Miller Center
Miller Center is part of a broad ecosystem that uses social entrepreneurship—which blends the goals of social action with the rigor of business know-how—to create social change and address environmental challenges. Aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and the call to action by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’, Miller Center concentrates on advancing social enterprises that help poor communities become resilient to the damaging effects of climate change and that foster economic empowerment of women.
“Climate change will impact the global poor most dramatically, and the majority of the world’s 4 billion poor are women,” said Kreiner. “Social entrepreneurship offers a solution to these inextricably linked global challenges of poverty, climate change and gender inequality.”
Some Miller Center Accomplishments and Milestones
Jeff Miller talked about his involvement in the center over the years. “I’ve seen the center from a variety of angles – as a GSBI mentor essentially since the beginning, as a co-managing director with Rahda Basu, as an advisory board member and chair, as a participant on immersion trips into the field meeting the social entrepreneurs we work with, and as a donor – and I can’t tell you how extremely fortunate I have been to be part of a group of people who were able to turn an idea into such a success. My participation with the center has been educational and humbling, as well as, inspiring. Karen and I could not be more excited or more proud about the center.”
Accomplishments highlighted by Jeff included:
· Serving through its Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs more than 600 social entrepreneurs from 65 countries who have positively impacted more than 230 million lives
· Enlisting a cadre of more than 140 Silicon Valley executives as Miller Center mentors, who accompany GSBI social entrepreneurs for 6 to 10 months through structured curricula that are personalized and tuned to the needs of the entrepreneurs
· Deploying 75 Global Social Benefit Fellows, undergraduate Santa Clara University students who conduct field-based action research that has helped 22 Miller Center GSBI alumni scale their impact
Thane closed the evening by saying, “While Miller Center has accomplished a great deal, the need for social justice is greater now than ever. We continually experiment with new ways to scale the impact of social enterprises, leveraging the acumen of our Silicon Valley mentors, the impact investing community and future change leaders among our students.” He further asked, “Directly and through our global network of mission-aligned accelerators, how can we help thousands of social enterprises successfully scale their impact? How can the next generation of change leaders engage in lifting billions of people out of poverty? These challenges occupy and inspire us.”