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Miller Center’s Top 10 List of 2018

Miller Center’s Top 10 List of 2018

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

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

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

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

10. #MeToo at SOCAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Mastering Scale Out

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

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7. From Fellows to Fulbrights and Beyond

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

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

6. Alumni in the Headlines

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

 

5. Bay Area Boost

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

 

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

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

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

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

 


3. Ending Poverty Takes Energy

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

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

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


2. Impact Investing: Positioned to Accelerate Impact

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

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

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

1. Accelerating Solutions At The Margins

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

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

Banner/thumbnail image photo credit: Instagram/Wawira Njiru

5 Lessons Learned from Creating a Sector-Specific Accelerator Program

5 Lessons Learned from Creating a Sector-Specific Accelerator Program

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

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

Figure 1: Last Mile Distribution (LMD) Playbook Modules

Figure 1: Last Mile Distribution (LMD) Playbook Modules

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

1. Replication works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 3: Cohort Growth Stage Breakdown

Figure 3: Cohort Growth Stage Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

Banner photo courtesy of Empower Generation.

Scale and adaption: the two sides of replication

Scale and adaption: the two sides of replication

Only 10% of Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni achieve significant growth despite being cutting edge enterprises with mentorship from experienced Silicon Valley practitioners. This goes to show that growing and scaling a social enterprise is complicated and difficult.

The good news is that many of these social enterprises are having a tremendous impact in their locales, and some enterprises are starting to find ways to expand into new geographies, or what we term as “scale out”. Moreover, proven business models and technologies have a way of spreading, and entrepreneurs are naturally adopting ideas into new regions.

We launched Miller Center’s Replication Initiative in 2016 because we recognized the need and opportunity to support these efforts to replicate and scale proven social enterprises. In our view, their are two sides of replication: scale out of existing enterprises into new territories, and supporting the uptake and adaptation of business models to increase the likelihood of success.

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Social Enterprise Scale-Out
As social enterprises validate their business and impact models, some entrepreneurs are testing expansion strategies by opening new branches, licensing core business features, exploring partnerships, or setting up franchises. These approaches are tools in a toolbox; often, a social enterprise will employ several strategies depending on market demands and opportunities.

For example, Hippocampus Learning Centers, which provides early childhood education to underserved children, utilizes several strategies to expand their business in different states across India by using a mix of branch and partnership approaches, while also licensing their management software and curriculum to other entrepreneurs like Hipocampus Mexico with the support of a replication venture-builder, Connovo.

Students at Hippocampus Learning Center (India). 

Students at Hippocampus Learning Center (India). 

Team members at Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje (Mexico).

Team members at Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje (Mexico).

There are other social enterprises focusing on franchising, which leverages small local businesses as franchisees of the parent company. Several enterprises pursue this model, such as Jibu providing access to clean drinking water across East Africa, or Nishant Bioenergy biomass pellet franchising in India and Africa. The franchising model is proving to work within very similar territories, but is challenging across different markets and cultural forces that may require organizational and business model variations. The University of New Hampshire’s Social Sector Franchising Initiative is doing some timely research on the social franchise sector, and have shared other success cases.

We want to see more social enterprises design their scale-out strategies to maximize impact. Our Replication Initiative has developed a Scale-Out guide for more experienced enterprises to successfully grow beyond their initial commercialization and into new territories and countries. This guide will be introduced as a master class in the GSBI In-Residence Accelerator, and we are experimenting with deeper support to GSBI Alumni seeking to expand. With an already high demand for these services, Miller Center wants to refine its approach and increase partnerships to reach more entrepreneurs.

Business Model Adoption
While these pioneering social enterprises strengthen their business models and experiment with expansion strategies, innovations naturally spread. Solar technology, clean cookstoves, water filters, and services in education and distribution are proliferating through the efforts of aspiring entrepreneurs eyeing an opportunity then starting their business from scratch. With this natural spread of innovation, many entrepreneurs are “reinventing the wheel”. This means that the hard-earned lessons from previous entrepreneurs are not shared with earlier-stage ventures.

There are, of course, examples of the impromptu uptake of proven business models that works. The growth of microfinance institutions across the globe is a well-known example of how a successful model can advance through a largely uncoordinated chain reaction. Harvey Koh, from FSG, a mission-driven consultancy, described in a Stanford Social Innovation Review article the similar adoption and innovation of low-cost sanitary pad enterprises.

These phenomena are welcomed in the social enterprise space, but we are also seeing slow growth and too many failed ventures. In our Universal Energy Access white paper, we argued that 2.5 billion people worldwide suffering from energy poverty represents a total market of 500 million potential customers for public and private energy supplies. We concluded that this problem can be solved with the growth of 7,000 to 20,000 local energy enterprises.

Without exemplary guidance from existing models, thousands of entrepreneurs are struggling to develop their businesses and gain market penetration. Thus, if the number of potential entrepreneurs increased, time to market was shortened, and new entrepreneurs were given a roadmap to success, then we can better equip startups to solve the energy access challenge.

Spreading Ideas with Playbooks
This hypothesis - that targeted support can decrease the time to market and increase success rates - hinges on new entrepreneurs adapting proven business models or partnering with existing social enterprises.

There is an opportunity to alter business incubation and acceleration to not only foster new ideas, but also assist entrepreneurs in using their creativity in the expansion and adaptation processes. Several organizations, programs, and platforms are emerging with the aim to support this thinking.

For instance, Connovo, a venture-builder in Mexico, replicates proven models in their incubation process. They developed a licensing partnership with a local entrepreneur to launch Hipocampus Mexico based on the original Hippocampus India model for early childhood education. This is just one example of the adaptation process they are pioneering.

There are also the likes of Enviu, another venture-builder dedicated to scaling solutions, and Spring Impact, a non-profit consultancy, supporting entrepreneurs scale-out their enterprises. The SEED Replicator is an initiative supporting the uptake of proven business models in Africa, and there are platforms such as Connect to Grow connecting enterprises from India to South Asia and Africa.

Miller Center is partnering with some of these organizations to coordinate replication efforts that spur a new type of incubation and acceleration of social enterprises. We are developing sector-specific playbooks, which identify, extract, and distill the best practices of exemplary businesses to help up-and-coming social entrepreneurs learn from the achievements and setbacks of those who traveled similar paths. We package these in a comprehensive set of tools, and deliver the playbook with the accompaniment of mentors assigned to each user.

Our vision is to share these playbooks with the ecosystem and work with partners to distribute and support the use of these business models. We believe this will lead to faster growth and impact, reduce the risk of investment, and help move the sector to better assist aspiring entrepreneurs solve common challenges across geographies.

What’s Next
Our first playbook on Last Mile Distribution has been well-received by a first cohort of entrepreneurs, and we will launch our second cohort shortly. We are partnering with expert organizations in last mile distribution like D-Prize, the Global Distributor’s Collective at Practical Action, and manufacturers and technology providers to improve our content and reach more entrepreneurs.

The aim is to continuously improve the Last Mile Distribution Playbook and build other playbooks on micro-grids, safe-drinking water, ag-tech, and other business models.
We will also provide deeper scale-out support to our GSBI Alumni as enterprises seek to expand their geographic reach and impact. It will take time to prove or disprove our hypotheses, yet we are confident that replicating and scaling what works is the way to exponentially multiply the number of successful social enterprises.


Photo credits: Hippocampus Learning Centres, Hipocampus Centros de Aprendizaje