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refugees

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS SPIRITUALITY

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS SPIRITUALITY

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

Bay Area Boost (June 2018)

Bay Area Boost (June 2018)

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

2018 Miller Center annual report

2018 Miller Center annual report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mobilizing for Migrants, Refugees, and Slaves

Mobilizing for Migrants, Refugees, and Slaves

Click on image to access the encyclical

Click on image to access the encyclical

The third Vatican impact investing conference will convene in Rome next month. It seeks to mobilize capital to address pressing, interconnected, global problems: migrants and refugees, climate change, youth underemployment, and health. In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis notes the “tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation” (25) and notes “interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan.” (164).  I am honored to be the invited moderator of a panel on Migrants, Refugees, and SMEs.

In January, when Miller Center decided to launch the SEM accelerator program for social enterprises serving or led by refugees, migrants, or human trafficking survivors, we wondered how many and what kinds of these ventures existed.

We were surprised when many of the over 100 applicants told us the SEM cohort is the first they’d encountered focused on helping them scale their impact, as Program Manager Marie Haller notes. Their business models include impact sourcing, entrepreneurial support, and skills training. Technologies including blockchain and AI are part of the solutions they offer to refugees and modern-day slaves.

We had hoped that launching the SEM program might reveal entrepreneurial solutions to serve the most marginalized among our common human family. The quality and quantity of applicant social enterprises and their profound passion in our pioneering program amazed and heartened us. Convening this group of social entrepreneurs has built momentum among a variety of stakeholders interested in finding new solutions for these global crises.  

Vodafone Americas Foundation, The Chao Foundation/Transparent Fish Fund, and Skoll Foundation have stepped forward to provide Miller Center financial support as we accompany the SEM social enterprises; we are grateful.

ImpactAlpha recently ran a story entitled Entrepreneurs and investors mobilize to tackle challenges of refugees, migrants, and modern day slaves, identifying a growing “market” of the forcibly displaced and enslaved and consequent growing pools of capital. We are thrilled that this story names four of the twenty-one social enterprises in our Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM)cohort and humbled by the Reuters headline, California executives mentor businesses helping migrants and slaves.

When journalists and foundations use phrases like “stock the pipeline” of investment-ready social enterprises, and “an emerging ecosystem”, it suggests a bigger movement is afoot to define an impact sector focused on the needs of the displaced and enslaved.  

We need it now more than ever. Tomorrow, June 20, is World Refugee Day. We hope you’ll join us on this journey to discern a common plan that affords refugees dignified livelihoods and eradicates modern-day slavery.  


Photo credits: banner image by geralt on Pixabay.com; screenshot of Pope Francis from laudatosi.com; UNHCR, image from UN Refugee Agency post embedded from Facebook by Markel Redondo)

Seeking innovators supporting the marginalized 

Seeking innovators supporting the marginalized 

a message from Mark Correnti, Director of Impact Investing at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

I am writing to you from Cebu in the Philippines. I was invited to give a talk entitled, Leading the Innovation Challenge to Address the Needs of the Marginalized Through Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing for a business conference sponsored by the University of San Carlos. The trip afforded me air time to finish reading two books by Alexander Betts from the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University entitled Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World and Refugee Economies: Forced Displacement and Development. Last month, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship announced a new accelerator cohort, Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) focusing on migrants, refugees, and survivors of trafficking. In short, from Betts’s writings and our experiences at Miller Center, a solution set emerges to address the challenges and needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable.

This enterprise-level, bottom-up approach includes:

1. incorporating newer development practices to compliment a historically humanitarian-only lens

2. shared space for both refugees and citizens of host (haven) countries

3. the potential for private investment in special economic zones, and

4. the building blocks for all of the above, the social enterprise

Per Betts, “Gradually, UNHCR’s view of the roles of the private sector has become increasingly nuanced. It has started to recognize a range of ways in which business can play a role in humanitarian assistance, including through social enterprise….”

Less than 1% of forcible displaced people (refugees and internally displaced populations) obtain resettlement. While each emergency context is different, the vast majority of refugees don’t remain in camps but migrate to nearby peri-urban slums and forego further international assistance. Of those who do remain in settlements, 50% live there protractedly, as defined as 5 years or more. Most countries either do not allow or heavily restrict refugee employment and freedom of movement. Per UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, “In such [protracted] situations refugees, in particular women and children, become more vulnerable to various forms of exploitation such as trafficking and forced recruitment...which can lead to security and stability problems for the host state....”

Just 10 countries host 60% of the world’s unsettled refugees. Most of these haven countries are in the developing world, lack the necessary resources to support large population influxes, and in many cases, have not signed on to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. $75 billion a year is spent on the 1% that are resettled (or asylum seekers), versus just $15 billion on the unsettled. For every $135 dollars spent on a resettled refugee in Europe, $1 dollar is spent per refugee in the developing world. Resettled refugees also receive the vast majority of media coverage. Therefore, it is imperative that we support social enterprises and restore autonomy and dignity to those so marginalized.

Let’s take a brief look at the Syrian situation. A total of 11 million people are displaced, of which 4 million are refugees. Of these 4 million, less than 3% have been resettled and only 9% live in camps receiving international assistance. The remaining have moved to peri-urban slums seeking informal employment in informal markets to start enterprises. Found within the resettled 3% are half of all Syrians (in-country or refugee) with university degrees and about a quarter of those with secondary education. According to UNHCR, refugee education is a host country’s responsibility. At Miller Center, we have worked with a number of social enterprises whose impact models (energy access, last mile distribution, healthcare, artisanal and education) target individuals living within some of the world’s largest slums.

The benefits of our new accelerator cohort, Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM), include

All of the above is at no cost to the social entrepreneur. Applications are due by March 16th.

SEM has two primary goals. First and foremost, acceleration of individual enterprises and their respective impacts. This acceleration can be attributed to Miller Center’s theory of change and framework that includes improving an enterprise’s impact model, business model, operations, scalability, and, finally, “justifiable ask” to help acquire the appropriate capital to fuel impact. Second, assisting in the building of an ecosphere at the base of the pyramid for support of social enterprises by bringing together key stakeholders, funders and investors.

Most refugees face displacement due to conflict. But climate change is becoming an ever-increasing factor. It is important that we improve climate resilience within vulnerable populations. In 2017 alone, 1 million Somalians were displaced due to severe draught.

When taking into account restrictions on employment and movement, the quality of living conditions within camps and peri-urban slums, actual money and resources spent on unsettled refugees, and most importantly, security for women and children, a bottom-up enterprise-level approach is required. For those who have considered funding investments within these highly marginalized settings but have yet to identify specific opportunities, we hope this cohort of deserving social enterprises is the beginning of your support.

You can join us in this collaborative effort by sharing this information with social enterprises serving the marginalized and encourage them to take a look at our program. We will keep you updated on our progress.