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Energy for the Poor is a Top Focus of 2011 Global Social Benefit Incubator Program

Monday, Jul. 25, 2011

SANTA CLARA, Calif., July 25, 2011—Katherine Lucey founded Solar Sister in Uganda a year ago, using the Avon model of distribution to empower women as entrepreneurs and to bring energy into poor rural homes in Africa that would otherwise be in the dark or be forced to use unsustainable and unhealthy energy sources such as kerosene for light. 

Lucey is one of 19 socially minded entrepreneurs from around the world who will come to Santa Clara University, August 7–19, as part of the 8-month intensive Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™) program that helps them sustain and scale their businesses to maximize impact on underserved communities. 

The leaders of these startups have been selected to receive full scholarships to participate in Santa Clara’s ninth annual GSBI. Like Solar Sister, most of the GSBI participants provide essential goods and services to the poor, and this year, more than half of the 2011 GSBI class is focused on developing or distributing cleaner, cheaper and more sustainable sources of energy to needy populations. According to The International Energy Association, an estimated 1.5 billion people on the planet live “off the grid” and have no reliable source of electricity for lighting, charging mobile phones, refrigeration, radio, other information access, and other basic human needs.

For nearly a decade, GSBI has helped socially minded enterprises build, sustain, and scale their business models; collectively, these have provided benefit to an estimated 73 million people worldwide, and more than 90% of the enterprises are still extant.

GSBI alumni include: the micro-lending website; African solar-radio maker Lifeline Energy; Indian safe-drinking water distributor Naandi; “cloud phone” service provider Movirtu; Indian rural electrification pioneer Husk Power Systems; physical mobility device producer and advocate MAARDEC; optical health leader VisionSpring; and the earthquake-resistant construction nonprofit Build Change.

A complete list of alumni can be found at:

GSBI is the signature program of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara. It combines online and in-residence exercises with training and mentoring from academic leaders and Silicon Valley executives over an intensive 8-month period. The final phase is the in-residence program on campus next month, which culminates with the participants presenting business plans in an open forum on August 18.

On August 18, media can hear the entrepreneurs present plans for a variety of socially minded businesses, including:

• biogas-powered milk coolers for Ugandan farmers;
• microfranchise training and employment opportunities for slum youth in Kenya;
• probiotics to improve health in Mexico;
• solar-powered chicken and egg production in Haiti; and
• women-created fashion and furniture from recycled garbage in the Philippines.

“We are delighted to welcome this year’s GSBI class of social entrepreneurs to our campus in the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society. “Social entrepreneurs who participate in our unique GSBI program grow and thrive, scaling to help more of the four billion people on our planet living in poverty by delivering basic goods and services. Our mentors often tell me that they learn more from the social entrepreneurs about emerging markets than they teach.”

Veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, marketers, venture capitalists, and industry consultants join with Santa Clara faculty to mentor the entrepreneurs in developing their business plans, capital investment sources, sustainable revenue streams, distribution models, and ways to increase their impact while maintaining positive cash flow.

Other areas of focus for incoming social ventures include information and communication technology, economic development, health, and innovative distribution models. The 20 organizations are headquartered in more than 14 countries, including eight from Africa, as well as others from India, the Philippines, Haiti, Central America, and Southeast Asia.

Among the organizations to be represented in this year’s GSBI class:

* Thermogenn (Uganda) provides small-scale renewable-energy-powered milk coolers to rural and suburban smallholder dairy farmers with no access to grid electricity so they can preserve and sell their evening milk the following day, increasing their income.
* Rags2Riches, Inc. (Philippines) produces high-end fashion and home masterpieces in a co-ownership model with 400 women artisans from urban poor communities. These products are made with recycled scrap materials that would otherwise add to landfills, and are created by world-renowned designers.
* Haiti Community Development, Inc. (Haiti) will implement solar-powered chicken coops in rural Haiti to help meet Haiti’s food security needs. The project aims to revive Haiti’s rural economy and re-engage and empower farmers as suppliers, consumers, employees, and resellers of chicken and eggs. The project helps create jobs, increase farmers’ income, and provide high-quality protein to the communities it serves.

GSBI is currently funded in part by a grant from the Skoll Foundation and individual donors. The Center partners with Social Edge, the Skoll Foundation’s online community for social entrepreneurs ( to administer the online GSBI application process, comprising three mentored exercises all applicants must complete.

For more details about the program and this year’s GSBI class, visit the Center for Science, Technology, and Society’s website at

About the Center for Science, Technology, and Society
The mission of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) is to promote the use of science and technology to benefit underserved communities worldwide, primarily by working with socially minded entrepreneurs. The CSTS implements its mission through its signature program, the Global Social Benefit Incubator™, its partnership with The Tech Museum in The Tech Awards program, Frugal Innovation, social capital services, and its numerous educational and public engagement activities. Through these programs, the Center has worked with nearly 1,000 social enterprises affording the Center unique insights into leading business models and innovations for the developing world and emerging markets. More information can be found at

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121

Tags: CSTS, social entrepreneurs

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