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Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
Even though it has been over three months since I returned from my Global Social Benefit Fellowship placement in Zambia, I still have not processed all that I learned.
When we were told about the roundtable presentations, we chose a theme and were charged with presenting cross cutting themes of social entrepreneurship based on our experiences in the field. We were put in teams of 3-4 fellows with the rule being that none of our roundtable members could have been part of the same fellowship placement.
The Sunday before our presentation, Emily (Solar Sister/Angaza Design in Uganda), Phil (Anudip/Imerit in India), and I gathered sluggishly in a conference room. Our title was “Clean Energy: Unlocking Economic Potential”, but aside from that, we had nothing. The three of us had been in three different countries, with three different enterprises, conducting research in three very different areas. Yet there we were trying to string together our experiences into a coherent presentation with cross cutting themes, all while trying to remain interesting and engaging.
The first few hours of preparation was a cycle of thinking we had gotten somewhere only to realize that we were wrong about something and had to start back from square one. Pacing back and forth, slowly but surely, however, we began to cover all of the whiteboards in a colorful splattering of words, arrows, questions, and comments. Little by little, with the help of many cups of tea and some much needed Thai food, we began to piece together what we thought would be a suitable presentation. We then wrote down a list of open ended questions and tacked them on to the end of the presentation.
When the day of the presentation rolled around, I was apprehensive about what was going to happen. I was worried that we would sound disjointed and fail to get to the level that was expected. As we began rolling however, I became more comfortable and realized that we didn’t in fact sound too bad. At the end of our presentation, we entered into a discussion with the audience, posing the open ended questions that we had written down. This led to an exciting debate about the usefulness of the social entrepreneurship in addressing the needs of off grid communities. I came to realize that we had in fact, learned quite a lot from our many hours locked in the conference room. Not only did each of us have some experience that was relevant to the topic, but we were able to articulate it in such a way as to broaden one another’s understanding of this theme.
After watching the second round table presentation from three other fellows, the fact that we had all learned so much from our placements became even more apparent. Despite our wildly different experiences in the field, through a few hours of serious discussion, we were able to come together and generate some very interesting questions and theories.
Again, even though it has been three months, I am still learning from my experiences, and I can say that I am very grateful to have 13 other fellows whose experiences I can learn from as well.
Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
Arriving in India was a sensory overload. It has hot. The food was spicy. I couldn’t understand the language and it was a twelve and a half hour time difference.
Even with extensive preparations through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, it was hard to process all the experiences we were emerged in daily. Utilizing my film background, I worked with sister enterprises Anudip and iMerit, who focus on rural education and job placement in Eastern India, documenting their methods, processes, and social impact. I regularly took three to four hours trains rides to rural villages to film interviews with both the employees and students of the sister organizations.
The excursions were enlivening, eye-opening, and my favorite part of my trip providing a true insights into life in rural India. My fellow fellows and I sifted through a lot this information through discussion and blogs over the summer, but the Social Entrepreneurship Action Research Roundtables (SEARR) gave us another opportunity to analyze our time abroad in a more discussion-based manner.
Our mentors and teachers, Thane Kreiner and Keith Warner, helped fashion us into groups for the roundtables with each team focusing on a different aspect of Social Entrepreneurship. I teamed up with Emily Albi, who worked in Uganda with Solar Sister and Angaza Design, and Jack Bird, who worked with Lifeline Energy in Zambia. As Jack and Emily are very passionate about energy poverty, we decided to center our roundtable on the idea of clean energy in developing nations. While I personally had not dealt with clean energy while working in India with Anudip and iMerit, Jack and Emily were experts on it. After a brief consultation we came up with our name, “Clean Energy: Unlocking Economic Potential,” and we were off.
The Sunday before our presentation Jack, Emily, and I found our way in to a conference room, opened our laptops and our minds and began to talk, think, discuss, and debate clean energy in the developing world. In setting up the lecture, we decided to play to our strengths. Jack and Emily focused on explaining the idea of energy and the power sustainable energy has as a catalyst for change, while I talked about how energy access in rural areas allowed Anudip and iMerit, the companies I worked for, to enact their business strategy and help rural poor transform their lives.
After Jack, Emily and I spoke, we planned to open it up to discussion with the audience. This was the part I was most nervous for, relying on audience participation to fuel discussion always makes me nervous because there is no way to predict what might be said or if anything will be said at all. We posed two main questions to the audience, “What defines an energy Social Enterprise?” and, “Does holding Social Enterprises to a triple bottom line hinder their growth and impact?”
With the first question we hoped to provoke discussion by debating whether PG&E could be considered a social enterprise as they provide energy to ‘underserved’ populations in rural areas. In the second question, we speculated whether clean energy was unlocking potential, or actually undermining potential by restraining scalability in order to keep the enterprise environmentally sustainable.
The answers for the spectators were phenomenal putting all my fears to rest. The audience was passionate, engaged and voiced defenses of both sides of the issue. The excited discussion and connection of the audience turned our lecture on clean energy into a true roundtable.
The Social Entrepreneurship Action Research Roundtables were a fantastic opportunity for my fellows and I to organize all the knowledge we had gained while abroad in our respective placements, draw some conclusions, and compare perspectives on key issues. It allowed us voice the experiences we had, and apply them to the materiel we learned developing out action research projects.
Moreover, the talks helped raise awareness of the fellowship as it ends its second placement and begins to recruit a third class. Hopefully, you attended one, but if you didn't keep an eye out for the talks next year with the next installment of Global Social Benefit Fellows.
Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
On October 30th, a role model for women around the world shared her story with Santa Clara students. Michaela Walsh, a pioneer woman manager for Merrill Lynch in Beirut in the 60’s, the first woman partner of Boettcher in the 70’s, and Founding President of Women’s World Banking, inspired students with her story of tenacity, passion, and determination. As one of the first women on Wall Street to be named partner, Walsh shared her vision for the next generation to be tenacious and willing to bend the rules to create change. Students were encouraged to go beyond seeking set paths and blaze their own.
Michaela Walsh, childhood friend of CSTS Senior Research Fellow of Emile McAnany from Kansas City, is best known for her founding of the Women's World Banking organization in 1980 and leading it as CEO until 1990 where she remains on its board. WWB was the first all-women's global financial organization to serve women in developing countries with access to small and medium loans. Today it has more than forty national affiliates with assets of a billion dollars. But the founding of WWB was only the culmination of a journey that included many turns in her life. She was was an early female employee of Merrill Lynch, and the first woman to serve abroad with that organization in Lebanon form 1960-64, also on her return one of the first women to earn a broker's license on Wall Street. Her work at the Rockerfeler Brothers Fund lead her to attend the UN Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975. There she met women from developing countries with whom she created a working group to help women attain financial independence. The history of that work from 1975 to 1990 is included in her 2012 book Founding a Movement. Michaela's mission today is to encourage young women to become involved in the issues of development and change with a special focus on helping women in developing economies to access the financial means to prosper. She was very interested in the work of the Social Benefit Fellows and their future careers as global change makers.
From the desk of Emile McAnany
Friday, Dec. 7, 2012
Our own GSB Fellow, Kirsten Petersen, has been updating her blog on her experience working with GSBI Alumni, Solar Sister in Uganda. Her latest article "Finding myself in the Solar Revolution of Uganda" touches on her unique perspecitve as an up and coming Masters engineering student looking at distrubuted power in developing countries admidst her passion in solar photovoltaic and how the two can mix together for an amazing future career!
Click here to read the article.
Monday, Apr. 16, 2012
Whirlwind Wheelchair International designs sturdy, low cost wheelchairs that are built and used in developing countries. Whirlwind has trained wheelchair users and community members for 25 years on how to build and repair these wheelchairs in local workshops using locally available materials. Unlike the traditional wheelchairs designed for a hospital, the Roughrider is tough enough to negotiate the bumpy surfaces of rural and slum environments, where typical chairs tip over. They apply technologies from US mountain bikes to help people who are socially excluded in the developing world. Whirlwind extends its innovations through a network of social enterprises and local organizations. Whirlwind Wheelchair International graduated from the GSBI in 2006.
Our GSBI alumni are restless. They are not content with the innovations they brought to GSBI. They continue to improve, invent, and imagine. To match that spirit, the Center has just launched the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. Santa Clara University undergraduates work with GSBI alumni to learn from them and to support them with research. In early April, two Global Social Benefit Fellows visited Whirlwind Wheelchair’s headquarters in San Francisco to discover how they might help this international organization.
Whirlwind is expanding its mission from providing a service to those excluded by society, to providing an entrepreneurial framework for those same people to start their own microbusiness. To do this, they are applying what they have learned about rugged wheelchairs to the creation of adult-sized tricycles that can carry small goods for sale, such as stamps, snacks, drinks, or lottery tickets. Push-cart vending is ubiquitous in the developing world. A trike opens up this economic niche for those unable to walk. This reframes Whirlwind’s strategy: from designing a mobility device --> to creating a microenterprise platform so that the socially excluded can earn an income.
Keoke King, director of marketing at Whirlwind, demonstrates where micro-entrepreneurs will carry their goods for sale on a very early prototype of the tricycle
Aaron Wieler, director of R&D at Whirlwind, explains the research opportunities
This is where our fellows, Nate Funkhouser and Stella Tran, can help. Microfinance institutions usually make smaller loans than the price of a tricycle, but if Whirlwind can make the case for extending credit to potential buyers, then this innovation could really take off. Microcredit is extended to those who want to buy push-carts, so why not for a mobility device plus microenterprise platform? Nate and Stella will investigate the economic landscape of push-carts, trikes, and microfinance, and research the best ways to make a business case for these kinds of loans.
Whirlwind challenges us to recognize that those who cannot walk can still live a life of dignity. They often cannot do this on their own, but technology can help. The physical framework of the trike provides a platform for the disabled to participate in the economic life of their society. Our task now is to reframe the thinking of economic institutions so that they can fulfill the potential of this technology to extend dignity to aspiring entrepreneurs.
For a great video on Whirlwind Wheelchair International watch: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJQJ8pMsEcI
Keith Douglass Warner OFM is a San Francisco native, a Franciscan Friar, and the director of Education in the Center.