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Global Social Benefit Incubator: Technology in the Service of Social Change
The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI), presented by the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) and the Leavey School of Business, combines the leading resources of Silicon Valley with award-winning social enterprises, all within the unique context of a Jesuit university dedicated to social change. Silicon Valley mentors and GSBI staff (mostly from SCU) work with the leaders of the social enterprises to create sustainable plans to address urgent human needs throughout the world.
Seventeen social entrepreneurs representing 12 countries and five continents participated in GSBI’s 2007 “boot camp,” a two-week summer residence program. This year’s ventures included a project to build earthquake-resistant houses in developing countries, an electricity-free refrigeration system for African villages, and an emergency medical services system for the poor in large cities in India.
No matter what their business ventures might be, the social entrepreneurs work with Silicon Valley mentors to take their creative innovations to the next level in terms of sustaining the social venture financially, and enabling it to serve a substantially greater number of beneficiaries. The business leaders continue to share their expertise with the entrepreneurs after they return home.
Mentors benefit from the GSBI learning community as well. “It’s not a one-way learning by any means,” says Geoffrey Bowker, executive director of the CSTS. From the start-ups, the advisors acquire both an awareness and an appreciation of local context, local culture, and local barriers in the developing world.
The GSBI program embodies the University’s mission of forging connections that merge practice, research theory, and insight to help fashion a more humane world. Mentors, entrepreneurs, and the MBA students who examine the projects as part of a social benefit entrepreneurship course learn that it takes competence, conscience, and compassion to make a truly sustainable difference. “This is the fundamental strength of the program, bridging Silicon Valley expertise to help find sustainable ways of solving the problems of the poor using the values of Santa Clara University,” says Eric Carlson, GSBI associate director.