Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  2014 GSBI Alumni, Eco-fuel Africa, Awarded $1 Million from Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award

    Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015

    Sanga Moses of Eco-fuel Africa, a 2014 GSBI® Accelerator graduate, learned last week that he had beaten out more than 1,800 applicants to win $1 million from Verizon's Powerful Answers Award.

    The Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award is a year-long global challenge to discover and help bring to market technology-based solutions with the potential to change our world. The contest drew 1,870 submissions, with 40 finalists invited to pitch to officials in Palo Alto last year. Last week, Verizon announced four $1 million winners in the categories of education, healthcare, transportation and sustainability -- for which Eco-fuel Africa won.

    Eco-fuel Africa, based in Kampala, Uganda, teaches farmers to turn agricultural waste like sugar cane stalks or coffee or rice husks into “bio-char” for the production of green charcoal and fertilizer for their land. Eco-fuel Africa distributes the green charcoal through a network of marginalized women, who re-sell them to end users for 30 percent less than traditional charcoal. The process improves the livelihoods of the farmers, women and customers, and also reduces deforestation in Uganda where nearly 75% of forests are already lost.

    “Sanga Moses came to GSBI with a heartwarming story of lives being changed,” said his mentor during the 10-month program, Steven White. “His time in the program was spent elaborating the impact with clear metrics, refining the business model, and sharpening his pitch to impact investors. The result is a powerful human story combined with a tightly integrated, sustainable impact and business model.”

    “We're so humbled here and very grateful to Verizon for their support,” said Moses, after learning of his award. He noted with thanks the assistance that the GSBI staff provided during the Accelerator, especially the investor pitch which he used in expanded form for Verizon’s competition.

    “Thank you to the GSBI team. I will always be grateful to GSBI for all their support,” he said. “And yes, this will greatly improve our project,” he added.

    “GSBI believes innovation and entrepreneurship can provide a path out of poverty. We help social enterprises, like Eco-fuel Africa, scale their ventures to positively impact many more people,” says Pamela Roussos, senior director of the GSBI.

    “We were honored to work with Sanga as he strengthened his business model and effectively communicated his plan in a compelling way to impact investors such as Verizon. We will continue to support Sanga as Eco-fuel Africa grows in Uganda and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa” In its announcement, Verizon noted that “Eco-fuel Africa is committed to fueling an environmentally and financially sustainable Africa,”

    The company noted that its green charcoal “reduces the rate of deforestation, creates sustainable local jobs, saves money and reduces indoor air pollution.”

    “According to Eco-fuel Africa, 2 billion people across the globe depend on dirty and expensive wood-based fuels. As a result, 2 billion tons of biomass are burned each year, leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation and CO2 emissions,” Verizon noted.


    The Global Social Benefit Insitute

    Based at Santa Clara University, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, the Global Social Benefit Institute® (GSBI) supports social entrepreneurs who are developing innovative solutions to the problems of poverty. We support these entrepreneurs at every stage of their organizations’ lifecycle through in-depth mentoring, instruction in best business practices, and connection to impact investors. We do this at no cost to the entrepreneurs. The GSBI believes innovation and entrepreneurship provide a sustainable path out of poverty. The GSBI is the flagship program of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS).


    The Center for Science, Technology, and Society

    Founded in 1997, the Center for Science, Technology, and Society is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University that embody the University’s mission to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world. The Centers bring together the University’s students and faculty, the Silicon Valley community, and international social entrepreneurs who are employing innovative approaches to tackle the world’s most challenging problems. Through programs such as the GSBI, the Center has worked with over 300 social enterprises affording us unique insights into leading business models and innovations for the developing world and emerging markets. To learn more about the Center or any of our social benefit programs, please visit us at

    Media Contacts Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121

    Jaime Gusching | CSTS Marketing Manager | | 408-551-6048

  •  SCU Alum Ripe for Big Impact

    Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015

    In rural Uganda, young women are often left behind. They are not equipped with the knowledge, resources, or opportunities to earn or save money. Rebecca Kaduru, Santa Clara University class of ‘09, is out to change that.

    With her husband, native Ugandan Eric Kaduru, Rebecca co-founded KadAfrica. The business has a social mission: reinvigorate commercial fruit production in Uganda by building resilient farming communities cultivating passion fruit, founded upon the employment of women and girls.

    Within two years KadAfrica provided more than 900 out-of-school girls with the opportunity to flourish. These girls are learning valuable business skills to support themselves and their families and eventually return to school. The results are remarkable. In one study, conducted in early 2014, it was found that on average girls made only $3 per month. With KadAfrica, girls can average monthly income of $20, thereby increasing income generation per girl by 600 percent.

    “We use an integrative approach that combines hands-on and curriculum based learning and recognizes the relationship between economic security and poor choices or risky behaviors among young women in rural Western Uganda,” says Rebecca. “Out of school girls age 14-20 are provided with the resources—access to land, quality grafted seedling, and inputs—as well as skills necessary to begin their own passion fruit farms.”

    Now, KadAfrica is poised to grow and scale their operations. At this critical juncture, Rebecca is coming back to campus to participate in the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Accelerator, the flagship program of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society.

    Rebecca views the GSBI Accelerator program as the key to unlocking the Silicon Valley’s network of investors and potential partners. “I am really hoping to gain a supportive network in Silicon Valley that I have not had the opportunity to build afar from Uganda. And, as probably every entrepreneur participating would probably agree, I would love for these new relationships to eventually lead to financing opportunities for KadAfrica.”

    Rebecca reflects on her time at Santa Clara University and how it informed her calling:

    “I think one of the main things my time at SCU did was make me genuinely curious about the world beyond campus, or even the United States. I don't think I would have been given, or chosen to accept, the opportunity to move abroad after graduating if it hadn't been for the amazing teachers and classes I took during my time at Santa Clara. As a political science major I was able to take classes on European politics, international relations, political philosophy--all which really had my curiosity going. I also learned a lot from the classes offered through the school's religion requirement (which, I will be honest I would have never elected to take on my own). I took an amazing class on Islam and gender and early Christianity that I feel truly shaped my current world view, and prepared me with a good foundation to learn from those with different religions/cultures than I was raised with.”  

    "Having been born and raised in Los Gatos, and attending college at SCU, the Silicon Valley is a very important and treasured place for me. I am excited to meet with and share my story with the social enterprise community there!” Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Based at Santa Clara University, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) supports social entrepreneurs who are developing innovative solutions to the problems of poverty. We support these entrepreneurs at every stage of their organizations’ lifecycle through in-depth mentoring, instruction in best business practices, and connection to impact investors. We do this all at no cost to the entrepreneurs. GSBI believes innovation and entrepreneurship provide a sustainable path out of poverty.


    • 341 (over 300) enterprises have completed GSBI programs
    • 90 percent of GSBI alumni are still serving the poor
    • 40 percent of the enterprises are scaling rapidly
    • 107 million lives positively impacted
    • $90 million of impact investment secured by alumni



  •  When Operations = Value Creation

    Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015

    From 2003 to 2010, I worked closely with the World Bank Development Marketplace (WBDM) as a workshop presenter or judge of social enterprises for award recognition. Through these years, however, my primary purpose was to identify finalists who were a good potential fit for the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) at Santa Clara University. One day, while tallying my notes on WBDM finalists, sorting through social entrepreneur grant applications, I had an epiphany.

    Here I was, a guy from Silicon Valley, and I realized less than ten percent of more than a hundred finalists represented organizations with innovations that had anything to do with technology. A few, like Smallholders Farmers Rural Radio in Nigeria, a GSBI 2009 alum, had localized technologies that were not leading edge—in this instance a combination of radio and internet for communicating indigenous and scientific knowledge, but what distinguished finalist candidates was for the most part process innovation. Less than thirty percent had developed what could be considered product or service innovations, while fully sixty percent of finalists represented ventures that were essentially selected on the basis of process innovations. In many instances their efforts involved bricolage or the use of locally available resources and low skill labor.

    One could posit that this involves making due by improvising within enormously constrained environments. In reality what we were witnessing then and in the example of a small number of enterprises like Smallholders Radio was just the beginning of new waves of innovation driven by constraints. Fast-forward to the GSBI Accelerator in 2014 and observe the work of organizations like Esoko, Medical Technology Transfer Services (MTTS), and iKure. What we see today is significantly greater levels of applied technology innovation through networks that combine global and local knowledge.

    For example, Esoko is making use of technology to significantly enhance African farmer incomes. MTTS is designing affordable medical technologies to drastically reduce infant mortality in Southeast Asia. iKure is integrating systems to connect the poor to quality health delivery systems in rural India. In each instance, process innovation in operations is the lynchpin in value creation.

    Business models are important, but in reality they are derived from bundles of value creating processes. Put succinctly, operations = value creation in each of these exemplary ventures. There are numerous and well documented voids that exist in Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) markets and their associated ecosystems—from the lack of established supplier networks or financing, to distribution, and the transaction capacity of one-to-one market exchange mechanisms in the informal economy. These voids require process innovation up and down value chains. They often require BoP ventures to become far more vertically integrated than their counterparts in developed markets.

    For instance, organizations like Grameen Shaktee and Iluméxico that provide solar home systems to individuals who are off the grid must develop processes for gathering primary market intelligence data, product definition, partner selection, component acquisition, assembly, distribution, social marketing, sales, micro-financing customers, and after-market service.

    The list of process innovations required for the delivery of affordable eye care is similarly long for providers like Aravind and Sankara.They must innovate across processes for: community and patient outreach; high volume screening, surgery, and recovery; the recruitment, training, and integration of para-skilled staff in radically re-engineered workflows; and, tiered pricing models that enable the delivery of world class surgery to a majority of patients for free.

    In addition, they must develop medical research partnerships, manufacturing and supplier alliances to reduce the costs of lenses, ophthalmology technology, and medical supplies, and university collaborations to develop information technology applications for increasing the reach of delivery systems through telemedicine. As in off-grid energy, sustainable and scalable business models in healthcare can only be derived from value creation in these and other operations.

    From the examination of numerous cases across other vertical sectors a similar story emerges. The DNA of successful BoP organizations can be found in innovative operating routines and their associated metrics and systems of accountability. These routines combine the efficiency and reliability of repeatable processes with the capacity for continuous improvement. They are executed by individuals who are carefully selected for fit with the organization’s mission—perhaps the most important value creating operating process of all.

    This leaves us with some fundamental questions for examining the degree to which operations contribute to the sustainability and scalability of an organization:

    • Does each operation add value for beneficiaries?

    • Does each operation contribute to declining costs with volume?

    • Do boundary spanning operations that involve partnerships or alliances create value or lower costs?

    • Can operating routines be replicated in different locations or by different personnel with the same or better price/performance results?

    If your organization can answer questions like these in the affirmative, then it’s likely your operations are creating value that can lead to sustainability at scale and perhaps long term competitive advantage as you chart a path that catalyzes markets where none existed before.

  •  Can We Rebuild Trust in Cambodia?

    Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015

    Building a successful social enterprise is a heroic undertaking. Social entrepreneurs face the typical start-up challenges: how to create a desirable service, validate a financially sustainable business model, fundraise, structure the venture and its governance board, manage human capital management, and develop scaling strategies -- but social entrepreneurs must also deeply understand and adapt to the local context. They often need to surmount market failures and lack of infrastructure. Frequently, they market to the very poor, convincing them to invest their scare resources in products or services that take time to generate returns.

    A less evident factor that significantly contributes to the success or failure of social enterprises is trust: trust among community members, trust among families, trust in one’s government. On a recent trip to Cambodia, we visited eight social enterprises, most of them alumni from our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. By spending time with them, it became apparent how lack of trust can influence the form of social enterprise and impair its impact.

    The lack of trust in Cambodia stems from the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, torture, and genocide from 1975-1979, followed by two decades of civil war. About a quarter of the population was killed, most of them educated and upper class. The Khmer Rouge severed families and communities through frequent relocation programs, breaking bonds of trust formed over centuries. No one could trust their neighbors, and “re-education” programs turned children against parents. Since many of the educated were killed, the value of education became invisible; now schools and teachers in Cambodia are scarce.

    Moreover, land rights are blurred. Farmers do not invest in substantive agriculture because the government frequently seizes land for its own purposes, with minimal compensation. Many Cambodians we met live in fear of being displaced, and remarked on government corruption.

    Contrast Cambodia to India or Bangladesh, where the microfinance movement originated. Muhammad Yunus created an institution based on interdependent, self-help groups. Implicit in Yunus’ paradigm was trust among self-help group members. The Bangladeshi communities are rooted in a long history or working and living together. The microfinance movement blossomed in these regions because the members of loan groups could depend on each other to repay their loan. That’s not true in Cambodia, where people have been displaced multiple times.

    How can trust be rebuilt?

    We believe social enterprises can help. Social entrepreneurs such as Apopo Hero Rats are working to clear the millions of mines laid by the Khmer Rouge and other government forces (some financed by the United States), which have led to thousands of deaths and disabilities since the 1980s. Once the land is cleared, farmers can use it again to grow crops for food and cash. Bareebo helps Cambodian communities articulate their own needs for safe drinking water during the dry season, then builds and installs rainwater harvesting systems and biofilters.Our job is to help these and other social enterprises succeed.

    Through our GSBI programs, we help Cambodian entrepreneurs apply business model basics to their ideas, test their theories of change, better understand market opportunities, and discern both the financial and social impact value chains. Our Silicon Valley mentors help each enterprise conduct a rigorous analysis of its business model, the market, and the external environment to present convincing applications for funding. This work reflects the best of Santa Clara’s unique position as the Jesuit university in the world’s most productive entrepreneurial ecosystem. We hope you join us, as mentors, supporters, or partners.

  •  Let There Be Light...Across Mexico

    Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014


    Flipping a light switch is something we probably take for granted. Many don’t realize that electricity is a privilege that so many communities don’t have. For rural families in Mexico without electricity, when the sun sets, their productive day comes to a standstill. Children who work in the fields from sunup to sundown are not able to study at night. Without electricity, their futures are dim.

    Manuel Wiechers, social entrepreneur and 2013 Global Social Benefit (GSBI®) alumnus, used to dream of lighting up Mexico with clean solar energy and giving Mexican families a shot at a better life. After attending the first International Student Energy Summit in Calgary in 2009, Manuel launched Iluméxico. Today, he has assembled a team and installed 2,000 solar panels in rural Mexico that have had a profound impact on over 3,300 families, close to 20,000 people.

    “The main thing that motivates me and my team is providing others with opportunities. Not just helping people in a philanthropic way, but putting the tools in place so people can lift themselves out of poverty. We try to provide basic services that are affordable and high that the user values. These basic services allow them to have better income, opportunities, and education.”

    “I don’t know how to describe the feeling of giving light to families who have never had electricity before. It’s different and new every time. Those are the moments when you realize: I love my job. Everything is worth it. There are only two soccer players that I would change my life with: Chicharito, the most famous Mexican soccer player, and Pique (because he is also dating Shakira).”

    The GSBI team had the pleasure of working with Manuel and Iluméxico in 2013. “We learned so much from our time at GSBI,” Manuel shared. “We built out our first financial models and we frequently use those models with investors. We learned a lot from the other GSBI participants in our class. In fact, we started our whole Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, a mobile data capture platform, based on what we learned from Nat Robinson of Juhudi Kilimo.”

    “When we went through GSBI we hadn’t even opened one center, now we’ve opened four centers and are in the process of opening the fifth. Next year, we plan to open ten more, depending on investment. We have coordinators at each center and local technicians. My role has shifted to supervising and starting new projects. I go to the field now because I want to go, not because I have to go.”

    Since Iluméxico’s time with the GSBI program has ended, they have hit the ground running and haven't stopped for a moment. Their successes have been numerous. “We recently received an ABC Foundation grant and the first investment from Banamex’s new impact investing fund, part of its corporate social responsibility program (Banamex is Mexico’s largest bank). So next year is a huge growth year for us. We hope to close with 14 branches in total. We will be able to set up the structure and operations to expand--hopefully to Latin America. In five years, we want 50 branches to reach 50,000 families.”

    All of this new business and milestones achieved have not impacted Manuel’s sense of humor. At the end of our interview, I asked Manuel a clarifying question, “You are the COO of Ilumexico, correct?”

    Manuel smiled and answered “Yes. Well, I’m COO and janitor at the same time.”



  •  It's Gone Viral

    Monday, Nov. 3, 2014
    At the celebration dinner for the 2014 GSBI Accelerator, Al Hammond came by my table and whispered, “It’s gone viral!”  The ”it” was the force of bottom-up social innovators rooted in communities around the world. They are more connected than ever to the collective intelligence of peers, to an expanding network of increasingly informed  impact investors, and to the tacit knowledge of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who are experienced in creating and scaling enterprises to serve new markets.  In this celebratory moment, all of us seemed bound together in common cause—in the words of John Gardner, “awake to possibilities brilliantly described as unsolvable problems.”
    What does it mean for the social progress hopes of a small network of people to “go viral”. . . for human agency to discover kindred spirits and engage in a process of co-creation with the collective capacity to imagine and spread solutions that can overcome seemingly intractable problems?  C. K. Prahalad, one of the foremost business thinkers of our time, had posited that leadership in addressing the unmet needs of the four billion people at the base of the economic pyramid would be driven by the enlightened self-interest of major companies that could leverage vast resources to create more inclusive markets.  Cost structures, mental models, and short-termism intervened. 
    In contrast, the view of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) stemmed from early experience with the Tech Awards and the World Bank Development Marketplace, where large company engagement was notably absent. It was reflected in CSTS Advisory Board member Bill Davidow’s 2003 rejoinder to Prahalad . . . to paraphrase, “I have a lot of confidence in that messy process of entrepreneurship. What is needed to address these heterogeneous markets is thousands of entrepreneurs.”  Viral processes are inherently chaotic and often laced with failure.  Yet, with failure comes learning, and in case after case entrepreneurial adaptation in social entrepreneurship is happening close to the ground and spreading across geographic boundaries.
    In 2007 Grameen Shakti was recognized as a Tech Laureate for its pioneering efforts to bring solar home systems to the rural poor in Bangladesh.  By 2012 Shakti had reached a million homes and was growing at 200,000 homes and businesses per year.  By then it had catalyzed an entire sector with dozens of new players in local value chains.  A similar bottom-up process was happening through the work of SELCO and Orb Energy in India. Shakti drew attention to renewable energy as an excellent area for a social business with a systems integration solution that combined technology and business model innovation with financing.
    This model has spread around the world.  It includes organizations like Grid Alternatives, based in Oakland, California. Diffusion happened because of learning curve effects along three continua: the declining unit costs of solar technology; the discovery of organizational mechanisms and business models for deploying technology to the poor in a sustainable and scalable manner; and the dissemination of knowledge through social innovator networks.
    In 2006, the year that Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel Prize, Matt Flannery, participant in that year’s GSBI, was faced with an “inventory crisis.”  Overnight, news of the Yunus Noble Prize and a Nightline feature on Kiva had overwhelmed the Kiva website with individuals seeking to make no interest “loans” of as little as $20 to enterprising poor people with viable ideas for improving their incomes.  His supply of vetted micro-entrepreneurs could not keep up with the demand of individuals seeking to “invest.”  Kiva’s peer-to-peer lending took a page from micro-finance, which aggregated savings of the poor to create a bank for the poor. Kiva was also an aggregator of funds to serve the poor, but its model depended on co-development with on-the-ground micro-finance partners.
    Being part of 2006 GSBI gave Flannery a timely opportunity to refine his partnering strategies and operating assumptions for a network that was going viral!  As this blog is written, in its most recent week Kiva has loaned $2,990,525 to fund 6,433 borrowers, with about 7 seconds between loans.  With current repayment rates of 98.8% it has added 3,167 new lenders this week alone.   Its peer-to-peer model has spread around the world and stimulated hundreds of related innovations like KickStarter, which took a page from Kiva and launched in 2009.  In its first five year years it raised it helped more than 50,000 projects raise $850 million.
    Grameen Bank, founded in 1976, took 17 years to reach cash-flow break even. Its micro lending model has been widely replicated.  Thanks to the learning curve effects, the time to cash-flow break-even for more recent adopters of the Grameen model can be as little as two years or even less.  Similarly, GSBI Accelerator participant Sankara replicated the Aravind high-volume eye care delivery model and adopted a charitable contributions revenue model to eclipse the growth rate of Aravind.  Sticking with its organic growth model, Aravind has now worked with more than 300 hospitals to diffuse its self-funded approach.
    This search for market based solutions to poverty that are based on bottom up innovation is partly in response to the subdued impact of top-down approaches involving governments, aid, and charity in addressing the poverty traps endemic in base of the pyramid communities (Easterly, 2006).  My multi-year study of Naandi Foundation and Drishtee with Geoff Desa identified locally-focused innovation, micro-provisioning for the consumption of minuscule quantities of goods and services, and socially-anchored distribution systems as key elements to developing markets in poor communities (Desa & Koch, 2014).  Both Naandi and Drishtee collaborated with locally-based non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) to tap into an alternative source of capital, social capital, as a means of gaining acceptance for new products and services. 
    BoP communities and the people who populate them are suspended in webs of values, norms, rules and meanings – local institutions that form the basis for social action as well as for market creation (Jain & Koch, 2014).  Without direct engagement the opaqueness of these markets makes them difficult to comprehend.  Heterogeneous communities require initiatives that can develop and operate within these contexts. These markets must be viewed on their terms and to the beat of their own logic, involving rhythms that are quite different from those that characterize markets in advanced economies. GSBI entrepreneurs who are successfully leading efforts in these contexts have migrated from a vision of “serving markets” to one of “developing markets,” a vision that entails a process of co-creation.  
    The GSBI Network holds great promise as an ecosystem that is both close to the ground and globally connected.  It is fostering the diffusion of new approaches to accessing capital and spreading knowledge about innovative business models for deploying technologies with declining unit costs to serve the poor.  It is also stimulating cross-learning in vertical sectors, as we have witnessed in the examples of micro-finance, peer-to-peer lending, affordable eye care, and distributed clean energy.
    In addition, the Network’s “Impact Capital” initiative is fostering the availability of capital across organizational life cycles.  It builds on the pioneering vision of bottom-up innovators like Charly and Lisa Kleissner (CSTS Advisory Board Member), who were modeling the way for “impact investing” more than a decade ago. They have also advocated for greater transparency in the sharing of impact performance as early adopters of the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards. In honor of their work Charly and Lisa were recently honored with the BNP Paribas Grand Prix award for Individual Philanthropy and will be honored with our own Global Changemakers award at the 2015 Magis dinner on April 30. 
    There are sure to be bumps in the road, but the premise of market-based solutions as a more empowering and economically viable alternative to the eradication of poverty than charity or welfare is creating a movement that is growing in its reach and potential for large-scale systemic change.  It is revolutionizing development.  Through that messy process of entrepreneurship and global networks, this movement has gone viral.
    Desa, G. & Koch, J. 2014. Scaling social impact: Building sustainable social ventures at the base of the pyramid. Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 5(2): 146-174.
    Jain, S. & Koch, J. 2014. Conceptualizing markets for under-served communities: trajectories taken and the road ahead, forthcoming in, Guerber, A. & Markman, G. (eds.), Sustainability Society, Business Ethics, and Entrepreneurship, World Scientific Publishers. 
  •  Testarossa's Generosity

    Monday, Nov. 3, 2014

    The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) was named by Testarossa Winery as its charity beneficiary for their first annual Testarossa Wine & Food epicurean event, sponsored by Tesla Motors.

    On September 28th, over 1400 guests enjoyed the delicacies of five  Michelin-starred chefs, paired with Testarossa’s world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A silent auction raised over $16,000 to fund the Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, home of the GSBI. Moreover, Testarossa produced a specialty labeled GSBI Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with 100% of the proceeds sponsoring the social entrepreneurs of the GSBI.
    Rob and Diana Jensen, proprietors of Testarossa Winery, met while studying electrical engineering as undergraduates at Santa Clara University. Testarossa (Italian for “red head”) was the nickname given Rob Jensen when he studied abroad in Italy.
    After decades of working in high-tech, Rob and Diana founded Testarossa Winery in 1993 as a small weekend project. But as new grape sources were secured and the wines gained reputation, a daily presence was needed to develop the winery into a business. In 1994, Diana left the high tech world and started running Testarossa full time. Their technical background, love of the arts, and business experience made them a natural fit in the wine business, an industry that is equal parts science and art. Today the winery works closely with top winegrowers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Russian River Valley, Chalone and Santa Cruz Mountains appellations.
    Owners Rob and Diana Jensen bring the same entrepreneurial, risk-taking approach to winemaking that they learned in the high-tech world, and the results are terrific.” -Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate
    Rob and Diana discovered the Center for Science, Technology, and Society and its flagship platform the Global Social Benefit Institute, while serving on the University's Board of Fellows.
    After listening to the Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Thane Kreiner, speak of the Center’s ambitious vision to positively impact the lives of 1 billion people by 2020, they were floored.
    “It was compelling. With our engineering background, we thought the Center’s approach to creating lasting change by investing time and mentorship in social entrepreneurs was worthwhile,” remarked Diana Jensen.
    “When you watch the news, you see that there are so many problems. But the Center is working with a group of entrepreneurs who are solving those problems in sustainable ways. It’s making a difference in the world, and that was something we wanted to be a part of.”
    They generously offered to help in anyway possible and have become loyal supporters. In addition to making GSBI the beneficiary of the inaugural Testarossa Wine and Food event, Rob and Diana have hosted the welcome reception that kicks off the In-Residence portion of the GSBI Accelerator for the past 2 years. The gorgeous setting and delicious Testarossa wines make this a highlight of the social entrepreneurs’ visit to the Bay Area.
    If you are interested in paying a visit to the beautiful Testarossa Winery, click here or call (408) 354-6150 ext. 21 for more information about events and reservations. Click here if you would like to try some of their wines, including the special wine produced just for GSBI.


  •  Action Research Abroad and Beyond

    Monday, Nov. 3, 2014

    2014 Fellows
    Over the last twelve years, we have worked with over 300 social entrepreneurs through our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. GSBI programs enable social entrepreneurs to benefit from the expertise and experience of Silicon Valley executive mentors as they refine their business models and identify opportunities for scaling impact.
    Through our Global Social Benefit Fellowship, we provide undergraduates the opportunity of a lifetime: to work in interdisciplinary teams with GSBI Alumni social enterprises around the world. This past summer, 15 students worked for 7 weeks with 6 social enterprises in Mexico, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Uganda.
    The Fellowship offers a unique experience abroad that cannot be compared to any other study abroad program that the University offers to students. In the GSB Fellows program , students work with social enterprises that are making a real impact today. As a Jesuit university, SCU educates students with the intent that they will utilize their education to improve the lives of others. As a Fellow for GSBI, students are able to begin this mission before they start their senior year.
    The Fellowship is a year-long program in which the students are able to utilize the skills they have acquired through their first three years at SCU to figure out how to help a social enterprise better their business. The program is not just traveling abroad, and the impact doesn’t begin and end with the trip itself. There is a significant amount of work that is done before and after the time spent abroad with the entrepreneurs, and the pre- and post-work is some of the most beneficial work that is done for the entrepreneurs and the Fellows. These classes that precede and follow the time abroad are research-heavy and time-consuming. However, they enable the students to deliver meaningful results that truly help the social entrepreneurs with their missions.
    Our current class of Fellows returned this past August with new outlooks on how closely the world is connected. Through each of their individual experiences, these Fellows were able to meet and learn from people who are overcoming real problems everyday. The time abroad really brings home the fact that the work that they are doing during the program is going to help real people. The issues are very prominent to many, but there are solutions. The Fellows are able to help figure out these solutions and actually meet some the people whose lives they have impacted.
    Caroline De Bie, who has been working with the social enterprise BanaPads, reflects on her time abroad:

     “Everyone who has ever traveled to the developing world comes back all starry-eyed, saying that the people they encountered on their journey were some of the most inspiring, innovative, hard-working and happy people they have ever met. And while it’s easy to silently be annoyed by their optimistic view of poverty, I know exactly what they’re talking about.

    One of the most memorable personal stories that we heard during our time getting to know our community in Uganda was the story of a woman named Grace. Grace was one of the first Champions hired by BanaPads in 2010. She was a young mother trying to care for her children and looking for ways to pay their school fees. Once she was hired by BanaPads, she started selling the pads to her neighbors and to local fisherman who would walk by her house. But then she started to save her earnings, eventually saving enough money to open her own store. Although she has no formal education in business, she has her own system of keeping track of inventory and is always thinking of new ways to take her business to the next level.

    When we asked her what her favorite part about being a Champion was, she replied, “I love waking up in the morning and knowing that I have my own business. It keeps me working and moving, and I live a better life because of it.” Simply feeling that she is in control of what happens to her and what path she will take in life is enough to keep her going.

    After this encounter with Grace, I started to notice this desire for personal autonomy in the other people we talked to. Almost every Champion we talked to said that they felt so much happier now that they could pay for their kids’ school fees. Several high school students we talked to had dreams of going to University to make a life for themselves. I saw signs at almost every school encouraging young people to stand up for themselves and not to fall prey to people who might take advantage of them. Everywhere, I saw small business owners and community efforts run by people who wanted to make a change in their own life and in others’ lives.
    To learn more about her experiences, read her blog.
    Alex Cabral spent her fellowship working in Mexico with Illumexico, which provides solar electric systems to rural communities. After her return to her “normal” life, she reflected on the differences between her own community and the communities that she was able to meet during her time abroad.
    Although the communities had similar characteristics (rural, low-income, houses made of wooden planks with woven palm-leaf or tin-planks roofs), each place was unique. Some communities were fairly spread out, with houses sprinkled throughout an open field. Some were buried in the hills, so that it took a 25-minute walk just to get to the front porch. People had talking parrots, motor scooters, hammocks, stereos, a random combination of everything. As I walked through each village, I tried to picture what my life would have been like if I had grown up in those areas. It was difficult. I had never been in that environment before, nor did I know many people who had.

    The lifestyles of those reading this blog cannot compare to those of the rural residents of Campeche or Oaxaca. Imagine your grandmother trekking up a rocky mountain for an hour, with bags full of groceries, only to arrive home and begin cooking dinner for a family of six. Imagine chopping reeds with a machete in the backyard for 5 hours in 100-degree weather and stifling humidity so that your family can keep warm when the temperature drops at night. Imagine life without the convenience of running water, electricity, large-scale grocery stores, food diversity, a cold beer on a hot day, ice cubes.

    Even with all of these differences, we are one and the same. When interviewing a mother of three children, she described to us how thankful she was that her children could now do their homework after the sun goes down. Now, they have the ability to learn more, have access to better jobs, and create a more comfortable life for themselves compared to previous generations. The success she wishes for her children is the same kind of hope that parents in the Bay Area have for their future toddler CEOs and entrepreneurs.

    I saw these connections in each community. In Balancax, Campeche, we approached a blue house with a tin roof and tarps on the windows to keep in the “cool” air. We were welcomed by 5 people, one of who reluctantly looked us over. Before we could explain ourselves, he knew us. He knew we were there to question, to “investigate.” He was the equivalent of the mayor of the community, and asked us at least 10 minutes worth of questions before we gained his trust, were given permission to survey his community, and later received a parting gift of frozen milk and coconut, the coldest food available in the village. Don’t we all wish public officials showed so much care for communities? That they would serve as protectors, then resources, and finally friends?
    To read more of her reflection, click here.
    If you are interested in learning more about these life-changing experiences, please join us at the Social Entrepreneurship Action Research Roundtables. Teams of Global Social Benefit Fellows will present on cross-cutting themes in social entrepreneurship, drawing from their unique experiences in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Uganda, and the Philippines.
    Those interested in applying for the fellowship, especially juniors, are encouraged to attend.
    November 3 - APPtitude: Harness Human Potential through Mobile Technology
    November 10 - Global Women Entrepreneurs #flawless
    November  12 - What Went Wrong With The Millennium Development Goals?
    November 17 - Cultural Understanding as a Path to Development
    All presentations will be held 4:15-5:15 pm in the Schott Admission Room next to the Enrollment Center.
    Click here to listen to the podcast from last year’s roundtables.
  •  5 Tips for Any Social Entrepreneur

    Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

    “Cut my veins and cookstoves will flow out”, Proscovia (Prossy) Sebunya, a Ugandan clean cookstove social entrepreneur told us recently during a GSBI Boost workshop in Kampala, Uganda.
    Prossy went to college and studied industrial ceramics.  After graduating she got a job but then received a YMCA scholarship, which took her to Crete to learn about the science and art of using ceramics for cooking, the technology used for many clean cookstoves today. She has been working with cookstoves ever since.  Prossy’s passion for clean cookstoves as a solution to helping marginalized communities save money by using less fuel (charcoal and wood), save the environment by reducing deforestation and receive health benefits from smokeless cooking is shared by many social entrepreneurs around the world.
    The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) recently funded the GSBI to create Boost, a training program for clean cookstove entrepreneurs that can be easily adapted to target any social entrepreneur (SE), no matter what sector they are focused on.  We have piloted it in Nairobi Kenya, Dhaka Bangladesh, Accra Ghana and Kampala Uganda and soon Beijing China.  The GACC has funds available to support clean cookstove entrepreneurs around the world and they see Boost as a way to strengthen the business models of these entrepreneurs so GACC can invest in them to meet their goal of having 100 million households adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.
    While the 3-day Boost workshop is targeted to earlier stage social enterprises what we have seen by training over 70 organizations in the last few months, all participants get value whether they are still in the planning stage or have been in business for many years.  GSBI has always taken a very practical, hands on approach in working with SEs.  In our world, the SEs are at the center, everything we do is to support them.  Therefore in our programs we focus on their businesses with them.  It isn’t about reading case studies of other businesses; it is about their business.  The GSBI mentors roll up their sleeves and dive deep into the businesses with the SEs.  Boost delivers that same experience and benefit in a workshop setting through short presentations and simple templates with ample work time during which the entrepreneurs apply what was just presented to their business with the facilitators providing one-on-one mentoring.   
    During the last 12 years of working with over 280 social entrepreneurs we have learned there are certain elements that every social entrepreneur needs to keep in mind in order to build a scalable and sustainable business.  Those learnings are reflected in the design of Boost, and can be expressed as 5 best practices for any social enterprise:
    Top 5 Lessons Learned:

    1.   Lead with your mission and impact model.  What differentiates a social entrepreneur from an entrepreneur is that the social entrepreneur leads with their impact model and supports it with a business model.  Entrepreneurs lead with a business model; social impact is an afterthought at best.  No matter what the impact that a social entrepreneur is passionate about--clean water, clean energy, education, access to health care, livelihoods, financial inclusion--that impact is the center of the SE’s focus. The business model is designed to achieve impact in the most cost-efficient and scalable manner possible.

    2.   Know your customers.  Most SEs target marginalized communities, and the most successful ones spend significant time truly understanding who their customers are, what they want, how they think, and their realities.  They know and live the on-the-ground realities of the poor and marginalized.  On our recent trip to Nairobi, we visited GSBI Online alum Keneth Ndua of STAMP Investments at his factory where he is producing the ECOS cookstove that has a built-in chamber to boil water (thereby killing bacteria) while it cooks. He showed us a series of prototypes refined over several years and explained his ongoing process of taking the stove to women’s groups in different regions of Kenya to see how it responds to their traditional ways of cooking.

    3.   Partner effectively to maximize your reach.  As entrepreneurs we want to do everything ourselves to keep control of our vision, but this is often to our detriment because it weakens our focus on the core activity that our enterprise does best. Developing and manufacturing a product, say a clean cookstove, is a totally different business than distributing and selling them.  As the field is evolving, we are now seeing social enterprises focusing on developing products and others focused on distributing them. Specialization is occurring within the distribution space too. For example, urban areas and rural area have different economics and require different marketing and sales strategies.  Livelyhoods, based in Nairobi, is working with slum youth training them to sell socially responsible products such as solar lighting, clean cookstoves and water filters back into their slum communities.  Solar Sister began working with women in rural Uganda teaching them to sell solar lights to their community.  Now it has included clean cookstoves into their product mix and have expanded to northern Nigeria and Tanzania.  UpEnergy is focused on providing access to clean energy solutions to Ugandans by selling direct and through micro-entrepreneurs. Having a specialized target market allows each organization to define the best product mix and develop the best salesforce for that market.
    4.   Understand the economics of your enterprise, and make sure they work for everyone in your value chain: customers, distributors, suppliers, and your enterprise.  This is an extremely important point and one many SEs don’t consider. Of course the economics have to work for your business. But the distributors, suppliers, and customers also have to be motivated too.  For example, if a product is too difficult to sell or the margin is too low, distributors will not actively promote it, meaning that it won’t reach the intended beneficiaries. Here is a comment from a survey of a recent Boost workshop, “What I found helpful was using the financial model, I was able to play around with figures to achieve my desired production/profits for my shareholders.  So I know how much I need to produce.” These are important considerations for SEs that can unlock their potential for scale by turning the entire value chain into promoters for the SE’s success.

    5.   Have a plan for getting to the next stage of growth, how much funding you need, the type of funding, how you will use the funding and the social impact it will create.  There are two things every SE is looking for, financial and human capital.  Unfortunately many SEs take whatever money they can get.  Not being strategic about the size and type of capital can be problematic for long-term growth.  We have seen SEs give too much of their company away in the first rounds of funding which means later stages can decimate them in terms of an ownership position.  This is a big problem for investors too because later they have less buy-in from the SEs: they have lost most of their ownership position so why should they “play”?  Investors aren’t going to run the company, so what happens?  This is a topic for another article.  The other issue we’ve seen with SEs is early on they end up taking small amounts of money from many different investors and their capitalization (cap) table becomes messy.  This is problematic for Series A investors, some walk away.  For non-profit social enterprises, well-intentioned grants can lead to mission drift by pushing the SE to projects that are within their mission, but not necessarily the most strategic for the SE.  A common pitfall is taking grants to expand to new geographies before the model is truly proven and the enterprise is prepared to scale in its current geography.  In all of our GSBI programs we work with SEs to develop a funding ask that is based on the enterprise’s strategic plan. The funding ask includes not only the amount of money required, but also the form of capital (grant, loan, equity, etc.), details of how the funding will be used, and the impact that will result.
    We don’t plan on cutting Prossy’s veins to verify that clean cookstoves will flow, but having experienced her passion and hearing her stories of dedication we believe her.  She represents all the clean cookstove and fuels social entrepreneurs we have worked with during the GSBI Boost pilots.  What a gift to us to see their eyes light up as they work through these 5 elements and see their businesses in a new light.  How through a small investment they can easily double production and by adding a few more distribution partners they can triple sales, providing access to 3 times the number of poor and marginalized people to clean energy.  Three billion women cook on three stone fires, exposing them and their children to horrible respiratory and eye issues.  The problem is huge.  We have experienced first hand that with a little support these passionate social entrepreneurs can make an even larger dent in the problems that face our world.  
  •  Women and Social Entrepreneurship

    Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

    About 80% of the population lives on less than $10 a day. There are billions of people in developing countries living without basic necessities such as clean water, electricity, and a reliable supply of affordable food. The problems are complex and can seem insoluble. Fortunately there is a growing cadre of social entrepreneurs who are bringing innovative businesses models and technology to help alleviate some of the world’s most pressing issues. And many of these social entrepreneurs are women. 

    Why is that important? The World Food Program has found that when girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families. They buy books medicine, bed nets. For men, that figure is typically 30% to 40%. An investment in women becomes a direct investment in the improvement of places in need. In the words of Larry Summers when he was Chief Economist at the World Bank:

    "Investment in girls' education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world. As more cash and assets get into the hands of women, more of these earnings get into the mouths, medicine, and schoolbooks of their children, while at the same time increasing women’s bargaining position and power in the family and community; and their ability to act against violence in the home and in the world. There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole - women and men alike - than the one which involves women as central players.”

    On October 10th, during SCU’s Alumni Grand Reunion, the Center for Science, Technology, and Society hosted a panel discussing women and social entrepreneurship. The members of the panel included: 

    • Cassandra Staff (Moderator), Director, Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI ®) Programs
    • Pamela Roussos, Senior Director of the Global Social Benefit Institute
    • Taia Ergueta, Business Consultant, Anti-Poverty Advocate and Executive Mentor for GSBI 
    • Lisa McMonagle, Student at SCU and 2014 Global Social Benefit Fellow

    During the discussion the panelists shared their personal experiences working with women social entrepreneurs from around the world. Taia noted that social enterprises start from an impact model. From the beginning, there is a true passion and clear goal for the company - whether it be affordable health care, clean water, or solar energy. They start with an end goal and create a business model around that. As Taia stated, “there is no question about purpose for social entrepreneurs.” 

    To illustrate the kind of problem that social entrepreneurs are trying to solve, Pamela shared a story about a personal experience in Myanmar a few years ago, “I was invited into this woman’s home. It was very small, made of steel. And I walked in and had to walk right back out because I couldn’t breathe. She was cooking in her home and all the fumes and smoke were trapped in there. I couldn’t breathe. She was living and breathing in that space with her children.” Social entrepreneurs are creating clean cookstoves to solve this problem.

    Taia recalled one of the social entrepreneurs that she worked with through GSBI. It was an eLearning company based in Jordan. “A self-taught young woman decided that she was going to address this opportunity of bringing online courses to the Middle East. There wasn’t any content in Arabic. There weren’t any people who knew how to design eLearning classes in Arabic. People were not used to the idea of online learning many  did not have access to the internet to take these classes. There were a myriad of problems. She had to create her own path and build it on her own. Most people would be flabbergasted at taking on an challenge like that. That’s the wonderful thing about the GSBI -  each year you see a whole new class of people that are not daunted by problems like these. They just do it, they figure it out and they are a tremendous inspiration for us that have the privilege to work with them.” 

    Women have become important catalysts for the social enterprises they have worked with. An issue that affects many social entrepreneurs working to improve the lives of those in developing countries is distribution. Pamela, Taia, and Lisa all shared examples of how women have helped social enterprises continue their mission.

    Lisa mentioned Nazava, which makes and sells affordable water filters in Indonesia. During her fellowship working with Nazava this past summer, Lisa spent time in different villages in Indonesia looking at how the water filters were being sold, and she found that in one village the wife of the head of the village was one of the company’s best salespeople because she had deep connections with the other villagers. In this particular village, almost every family had one of Nazava’s water filters. 

    The women are key collaborators for these social entrepreneurs. The social enterprises also help the women of these countries become more independent. The women become salespeople and representatives, which not only provides them with their own income but also sets an example for their daughters. Young women in these villages have become more motivated to provide for themselves. This model is creating a new social norm, which women are becoming more influential. 

    If you are interested in hearing more, click here to watch the video or click here to listen to the panel.

    If you are interested in supporting women entrepreneurs – as a mentor, as a donor to the Center, or by making microloans to women entrepreneurs at sites like, a GSBI alumnus-  please remember, you too can help empower women.

    Contact: Pamela Roussos, Senior Director of the Global Social Benefit Institute,


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