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Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  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 Kiva.org, a GSBI alumnus-  please remember, you too can help empower women.

    Contact: Pamela Roussos, Senior Director of the Global Social Benefit Institute, proussos@scu.edu

  •  eBay Foundation and GSBI® Partner to Benefit Entrepreneurs in BRIC Countries & U.S

    Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014

    Since 2013, eBay Foundation and the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) have partnered with a clear purpose-- to help social entrepreneurs build strong organizations and scale their impact. eBay and GSBI share a theory of change that worldwide poverty alleviation is best accomplished through social enterprise, especially through those organizations that integrate financially sustainable practices into operations and aim for massive scale. 

     
    Over the past two years, eBay Foundation has sponsored the participation of six social enterprises in the GSBI Accelerator. The program pairs late stage social entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley mentors to prepare them to scale already successful businesses. The businesses sponsored by eBay Foundation range from the Kenya-based smallholder farmer micro asset financing organization, Juhudi Kilimo to Prospera, a Mexican company which helps women build sustainable businesses by providing training and access to markets.  Each participant came away from the program with a vision for growth as well as connections to potential funders to support their organizations’ development. 
     
    This fall, eBay Foundation and GSBI are launching their largest joint project to date, a program for entrepreneurs at an earlier stage in their organizational life cycle.   October 7th marked the launch of this custom cohort of the GSBI Online program. The program aims to develop livelihoods in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the United States. eBay Foundation is sponsoring this initiative as part of a commitment to job creation, small business support, and economic development in these geographic regions. 
     
    The 6-month program pairs each social entrepreneur with a savvy Silicon Valley executive mentor. They work as a team to clarify the social entrepreneurs’ business models, hone their financials, and plan for scale. This year, for the first time, volunteers from eBay are joining the experienced GSBI mentors to provide technical expertise to many of the companies in the cohort.  
     
    The organizations in this cohort enter the program with a diverse array of mission-driven businesses, such as generating income for sex-trafficking survivors in Russia, helping smallholder farmers gain access to the best equipment in China, and providing data collection jobs for marginalized youth in the slums of Brazil.  The 18 ventures participating in the program employ different strategies to build economies including:
    -------
    Fostering Job Creation 
     
    DDD Peru provides high-quality IT services by employing low-income youth and providing them with opportunities for professional development and substantially higher incomes.
     
    DialJob is building a Blue-Collared Job Exchange Platform using mobile & cloud telephony technologies and is also launching a mobile-friendly website with content in local languages. It will give visibility and branding services to skill-development institutes and offer partnership opportunities to placement consultants, mobile-recharge outlets and grocery stores.
     
    Fabric Plus creates livelihoods in rural Assam and Northeast India by supporting the production of high-quality silk yarn and Assam silk products.
     
    RuralShores Business Services is India’s largest Business Process Outsourcing provider with more than 20 delivery centers in rural areas of India. RuralShores provides employment to youth at their doorstep, leading to sustained employment and curbing urban migration.
     
    Safehouse Foundation provides victims of trafficking with rehabilitation, including an art therapy program where participants create jewelry that is sold to sustain the organization and provide an income to participants.
     
    Ponto Solidário displays disseminates and increases sales of artistic products made by Brazilian craftsman all over the country, including Amazonian locals and other artisans in rural areas.
     
    ReliaTech collects and refurbishes computers and provides them at little or no cost to low-income individuals, disadvantaged entrepreneurs, schools, churches, senior centers, and other nonprofit organizations. Employees and interns are students and graduates of The Stride Center which trains low income individuals for ITC careers.
     
    Mobile Metrix is pioneering market research in low-income communities. Young local adults collect information door-to-door using handheld technology. The data and insights thus gathered empower companies and governments to more effectively distribute their critical products and services.
    Microenterprise Support 
     
    Custom Clouds (Kolabo), helps micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in growing economies get online. They also leverage the Internet to fuel economic growth and create jobs in their communities.
     
    Social Synergy is a management consulting firm catering to social enterprises and impact investors. Social Synergy catalyzes the strategic transformation of the culture and method of decision-making. It works across all levels and functions of a social enterprise to help them realize their stated impact potential---a "last-mile" effort of critical importance in the impact investment value-chain,that remains unaddressed.
    Improving Health, Water and Sanitation 
     
    Healing Fields is developing a health-related sustainable livelihood model for its community workers, which will help to keep them motivated to engage in creating awareness about hygiene and disease prevention.
     
    JSV aims to create jobs and foster entrepreneurship by training economically disadvantaged students from rural backgrounds with limited formal education in various paramedical streams at a low cost. JSV is also piloting a program to improve access to primary care and public health for the rural population by empowering local women trained in innovative low-cost diagnostic technology.
     
    Drinkwell uses a micro franchise model to establish local water businesses in arsenic and fluoride-affected areas. By providing affected villagers with water filtration technology and business tools, Drinkwell taps into the entrepreneurial spirit within these communities to create jobs, generate income, and improve health outcomes.

    Agriculture
     
    Green Agrevolution provides end-to-end agriculture services, ICT advisory, input and output collection) to small farmers through DeHaat kiosks run by micro entrepreneurs. 
     
    Shree Kamdhenu Electronics develops simple information technology tools that help rural base-of-pyramid dairy farmers raise their income through transparency in milk collection operations.
     
    Smart Agriculture Analytics (SAA) is an information service that provides business intelligence on agricultural technology (agritech) needs in China; this will enable world-class suppliers and investors to provide the most sustainable solutions to Chinese farmers.
     
    Increasing Financial Access 
     
    MPOWER Financing removes financial barriers to higher education in the US. It works with investors and universities to lend to students who are not served by traditional banks because of lack of credit history or cosigner. 
     
    NuBnk/Village Ventures is an online lending platform that links impact lenders in advanced economies with rural community financial organizations which in turn support micro entrepreneurs in India and Sri Lanka. 
     
    The Global Social Benefit Institute has worked with over 300 social enterprises to build sustainable, scalable business models to benefit the lives of 107 million people worldwide. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley at Santa Clara University, GSBI combines Silicon Valley acumen and a drive to eradicate poverty by supporting social entrepreneurs around the world through their entire lifecycle.
     
    Contacts
     
    Program Inquires: Hallie Noble, hnoble@scu.edu
     
    Media: Jaime Gusching, jgusching@scu.edu

     

  •  SOCAP14: Money and Meaning

    Monday, Sep. 8, 2014

    The GSBI® Team took Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference by storm this past week! The SOCAP conference brings together global innovators, investors, foundations, governments, institutions, and social entrepreneurs to build the world we want to leave to future generations. The attendees of this event are committed to increasing the flow of capital toward social good. During SOCAP, participants discuss the ways to utilize tools practiced in the private sector in order to create a better world. The Center’s presence was prominent throughout the conference.

    We were able to convene with our peer accelerators, other organizations working on behalf of social entrepreneurs, in a day-long Accelerating the Accelerators event. We are pioneering a new industry and therefore engaging in a robust discussion about key terminology, the landscape, metrics, niche markets, and best practices. This was a great opportunity to connect and discuss the future of our sector and the best ways we can move forward in helping social entrepreneurs make their greatest impact.
     
    We joined forces with the Lemelson Foundation, Opportunity Collaboration, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, and Toniic to host a SOCAP kick-off party at the General’s Residence in Fort Mason, San Francisco. Over 800 people RSVP’d to the event and the turn-out was incredible. Entrepreneurs, impact investors, sector leaders and conference attendees mixed and mingled late into the evening to the background of sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. We ended the night with a positive feeling about which direction our industry is heading.
     
    We lead three different panels at SOCAP on the subject of scaling impact, investment ready, and the reinvention of mentoring. Each of the panels presented valuable content to overflowing rooms. Here’s some more information on the following panels:
     
    I. What’s Actually Involved in Scaling Impact?
    Panel members included our own executive director Thane Kreiner, Greg Coussa from the International Centre for Social Franchising, Julie McBride of Population Services International (PSI), and Kevin Starr of the Mulago Foundation. Those who attended were able to learn how we can improve positive social impact. During this discussion, the panelists: defined scaling in practical terms, explain scale-readiness, and discuss specific and practical scale strategies, models, and examples of organizations that have succeeded.
     
    II. What Does It Mean to Be “Investment Ready”?
    Members of this panel included our own Thane Kreiner, Andrew Lieberman, Director of New Programs, GSBI Accelerator participant Tevis Howard from Komaza, Lisa Kleissner of KL Felicitas Foundation, and Vineet Rai of Intellecap/Aavishkar. This panel discussed how investment readiness can be measured and understood by both entrepreneurs and investors. Tevis Howard made an excellent point during the panel, “Social entrepreneurs are always ready for investment, but the important part is figuring out what type of investment is needed.”
     
    III. The Reinvention of Mentoring
    This panel consisted of our own Pamela Roussos, Penelope Douglas of Mission Hub, Ian Fisk of Mentor Capital Network, Peter Gardner of Startgrid, Allison Kelly of Pacific Community Ventures, and Anita Ramachandran of MicroMentor. The room was filled with people seeking advice and industry expertise to help scale their companies. The panelists were able to share their wisdom about fueling the growth of world changing entrepreneurs in order to accelerate impact.
     
    The entire week was filled with important events and we were able to meet various people and companies that are true leaders in our sector. We are excited about potential future partners and participants in our programs.
     

     

     

  •  Need a Boost?

    Wednesday, Sep. 3, 2014

    The GSBI® team recently piloted its newest program, Boost, in Nairobi, Kenya and Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Boost is a three-day workshop that helps early-stage social enterprises sharpen their business model and strategy for growth. The focus of these pilots is on clean cookstove entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in the clean cookstove value chain.   In each country, there were approximately 20 social entrepreneurs representing 16 social enterprises.  One would think that since both groups are in the clean cookstove sector, they would be virtually the same in terms of approach and type of businesses, but there were very noticeable differences.

    At the GSBI we have seen a fair number of clean cookstove entrepreneurs, both those that are designing and manufacturing cookstoves and those that are distributing cookstoves.  In the Nairobi pilot approximately one-third of the enterprises were designing and manufacturing cookstoves, one-third were distributing clean cookstoves, among other things like solar lighting solutions, one-third were a type of clean cookstove entrepreneur we haven’t seen among the 250+ social entrepreneurs who have gone through GSBI.  These entrepreneurs are installing clean cookstove solutions into institutions e.g. schools and into homes.  They work through people they call artisans, in the US we’d call them contractors.   When we dug into the economics of their businesses with them, we saw they are very profitable and they scale affordably.  The social impact they create is substantial, particularly when they are installing the cookstoves into institutions.

    In Bangladesh the story is different.  Unlike in Kenya, where there are many different types of cookstoves, with each enterprise struggling to get breadth in distribution, in Bangladesh there are only three models of clean cookstoves being distributed and installed, however they have NGOs that have the ability to distribute in very large quantities.  Currently there have been 3 million clean cookstoves distributed with a goal to reach 30 million by 2030.  The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) has a goal to reach 100 million by 2020, therefore, Bangladesh will be a large percentage of those.  One of the prime reasons for the limited number of clean cookstove choices is the import tariffs, which are at 65%.  We were told that the government is considering lowering this for clean energy solutions and changing the laws such that companies manufacturing and selling clean energy solutions would be exempt from corporate taxes for 15 years.  Hopefully that will be the case soon. It will certainly go a long way in helping reach the goal of 30 million clean cookstoves.  

    The fact that Bangladesh is such a poor country has led to many NGOs that have reach across the country to the 160 million inhabitants.  Many of the organizations that participated in the Boost pilot were these NGOs.  When we sat down with them to look at the economics of their business, it was clear that they have already mobilized thousands of women micro-entrepreneurs selling clean cookstoves into their communities and have the reach to mobilize tens of thousands more.  In Kenya, this distribution “infrastructure” doesn’t exist.  

    The market dynamics weren’t something we had thought about before delivering the pilots.  We look forward to the upcoming Boost pilots in Ghana, Uganda, and China to learn more.  

    We are very grateful to the Global Alliance of Clean Cookstoves (GACC) for funding GSBI Boost.  We also extend our thanks to the Clean Cookstove Alliance of Kenya (CCAK) for their on-the-ground support in Nairobi and the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association (BSREA) for their kind and generous support in Dhaka.   

    We are piloting Boost with clean cookstove entrepreneurs, but the methodology is being designed so that Boost is readily adaptable to early-stage social enterprises in any sector or geography.  
     
    If you would like to bring the Boost workshop to a group of social enterprises that you support, please contact Pamela Roussos at proussos@scu.edu
  •  GSBI Accelerator In-Residence Wrap Up

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

     The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Accelerator program is the flagship program at the Center for Science,
    Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. 
     
    The GSBI Accelerator program magnifies the impact of social enterprises by providing entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley mentors, investor connections, and the GSBI alumni network. In the pursuit to become investment-ready, social entrepreneurs complete preparatory course work to assess the "gaps" or areas of improvement in their businesses. Then they work alongside their committed, smart mentors to fill those gaps.
     
    The program culminates in the In-Residence, which occurs over a nine day period on campus at Santa Clara University. The GSBI Accelerator strengthens the business model of social entrepreneurs, identifies the best type of investment --grant, equity, etc.-- and refines their ask in order to secure appropriate capital for them. GSBI is the bridge between Silicon Valley start-up accumen and the rest of the world.
     
    From August 14th to August 23rd, we welcomed fourteen of the social entrepreneurs on campus for the In-Residence. Throughout these days, the social entrepreneurs met with their mentors and determined what is needed to be done in order to best scale and improve their business plan.
     
    Read on to learn more about three of our social entrepreneurs that participated in GSBI Accelerator this year and how the program was able to help.
     
     
    "We can connect children to their world through hearing."
    World Wide Hearing, Montreal, Canada
     
    When we think of hearing loss, we may think of it as a problem that affects only the aging population. However, over 180 million children worldwide are born with hearing loss and have few resources to better their condition.
     
    Audra Reyni, Executive Director of World Wide Hearing, explains that, “When children are born with hearing loss, they are born into silence. Hearing can be the difference of having a chance at life, or having missed opportunities.”
     
    World Wide Hearing provides access to affordable, high quality hearing aids for low-income children with hearing loss in developing countries. They do this by training local female entrepreneurs to provide the hearing aids and services. They are currently active in Jordan and are optimistic of where the future can take them.
     
    Audra views participating in the GSBI Accelerator program as a huge push at a crucial time. GSBI has provided strategic advice at a time when World Wide Hearing has the capability to scale in a big way.
     
    "The program made us think through business and strategic problems that we need to solve in order to maximize our social impact," Audra explained. “What we really had to think about was marketing in developing countries at the last mile distribution level, really thinking about the strategies we could use, considering the end users. It can be very different from developed countries, which requires a different lens.”
     
    For Audra, the time with her mentors was invaluable. “It’s been intense and required a lot of learning, but it was a wonderful group of people, so it’s been fantastic.”

     

    "We can solve dryland poverty and deforestation at the same time."
    Komaza, Kenya
     
    Tevis Howard, a Bay Area native, took a gap year and went to Kenya to do Malaria research.  During about a year and a half of living there, he saw quite a bit of poverty and transitioned from science to social entrepreneurship. Tevis had the unique idea of planting trees in order to help dryland farmers out of extreme poverty. This sparked the beginnings of Komaza.
     
    Komaza offers a partnership that motivates farmers to plant trees and short-term crops that, in turn, provide decades of life-changing income. Dryland farmers are the poorest people on earth, and they are struggling to grow crops on bad soil with no rain. East Africa is currently facing a multibillion dollar wood market failure, there are tens of millions of families on dry lands living in extreme poverty.
     
    “Deforestation is intrinsically linked with poverty,” Tevis shared. “We’re trying to break that cycle by doing the obvious thing: by planting trees.”
     
    GSBI was able to help Tevis learn how to best communicate his story. His mentors were able to spend time with him and provide a fresh set of eyes to figure out who he is targeting and the best way to reach them.
     
    “It’s really important to tell your story well so that you can get the support needed to make your vision become real. It’s about getting people and money pointed in the right direction,” He said. Tevis was able to share his story recently on NBC Bay Area News, click here to check out the TV spot that featured Komaza.
     
     
    "We can eradicate curable blindness in India."
     
     
    “When someone is in darkness, they aren’t able to move, they aren’t able to do their daily chores, they become dependent.” One-fourth of the world’s blind population is in India and 80% of this blindness is curable. Bharath Balasubramaniam, President of Community Outreach at Sankara Eye Care, explained what Sankara Eye Care is doing to try to end curable blindness.
     
    They have outreach camps and bring eye care services to those in the rural areas. If necessary, they will bring the patients back to their full hospitals and the patients receive everything–surgery, food, room– completely free of charge, and then are taken back into their village. When they are back in their village, Sankara also goes back for post-op care. There is no cutting corners or skimping on quality in order to keep the services free.
     
    Sankara Eye Care’s mission is to eliminate curable blindness across India by scaling to 20 Sankara Community Eye Hospitals, serving over a million rural poor every year. GSBI has been able to aid in this mission by providing Silicon Valley executives as mentors for Bharath. His mentors have helped him understand the variable options that are available for funding and identify which opportunities are plausible. Another way the program helped Bharath was distinguishing the differences between marketing and sales.
     
    “It was a little confusing for us. We were blending and mixing the two, so now I have better clarity of which is which and what I need to look at once I get back,” He said. The program was very educational and now he has a better idea of what needs to be done in order for his vision to become a reality.
     
    We are very pleased with the success of the GSBI Accelerator and all the social enterprises that are part of our 2014 class. We would like thank the donors for their generous contributions, so that we are able to continue to help entrepreneurs such as Audra, Tevis, and Bharath.

     

      

  •  It Takes a Village

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

    The Group to Promote Education and Sustainable Development (GRUPEDSAC), GSBI Alumni 2009, is a Mexican social enterprise that operates sustainable rural development training centers addressing food, water, building technologies, and rural livelihoods. GRUPEDSAC operates two locations in Mexico. The Center sponsored Jack Bird, GSBF 2013 – Zambia, Lifeline Energy, to spend 3.5 weeks (23 June to 16 July) with GRUPEDSAC to prepare a training manual based on their food and water education demonstration training events. During his time in Mexico he learned about the hard work and community that is required to build a sustainable world.

    As our truck bumped up the rocky road to GRUPEDSAC’s center at Piedra Grande outside of Mexico City, I remember chuckling to myself at the fact that I had packed shorts and flip-flops for this adventure. Not only was the weather consistently below 50° F and rainy for the entire week I was in Piedra Grande, but within days, all of the pants I had brought were caked in mud and specks of cement, my shoes were falling apart, and several of my shirts were stained with salsa. But if I have learned anything from living and working in the developing world, it is to throw out all expectations and preconceptions about what life will be like.
     
    GRUPEDSAC, a former GSBI participant, is an organization working to promote sustainable development by implementing ecotechnologies in impoverished communities.  These technologies include rainwater catchment systems, earth construction methods, and efficient cook stoves. My job was to spend about month between the two centers that GRUPEDSAC runs researching several of these ecotechnologies for the purpose of creating a manual.
     
    After doing similar work in Zambia last summer I figured it could not be much different. But whereas in Zambia I was with two other students and spoke the language, in Mexico I was alone, and with no Spanish under my belt, I was reduced to using hand gestures in order to procure simple items like a tube of toothpaste. In order to adjust to my new surroundings in Zambia, I had been able to ask question after question about everything that interested me including politics, the geography, and culture. In Mexico, I was reliant almost entirely on my ability to silently observe my surroundings. I had a translator to help me with the more technical aspects of the ecotechnologies that I was documenting. However, in order to understand what was going on, I had to patiently observe everything. What I learned from this observation was not just how to create ecotechnologies, but also something much deeper regarding our common future.
     
    What was abundantly clear was how difficult this work was. For instance, building a wall of rammed earth is an incredibly time consuming and energy intensive task. I found myself drenched in sweat after only a few minutes of working and the sunburn I received on the back of my neck was quite a spectacle. But at least I could retreat to the shade from time to time and had the luxury of being driven 40 minutes through the steep hills to the communities where we were working.
    What was truly impressive was the commitment of the community members to one another. Many had to walk for hours to be at the given worksite and the women often carried several children and all the food for lunch. Nevertheless, each day there were about 30 or 40 community members working together to build these ecotechnologies. They would start long before I arrived and stay long after I had left, committing themselves wholeheartedly to the implementation of a technology that would benefit only one of their members and make the world just slightly more sustainable.
     
    These campesinos and bricklayers understand something that we in the developing world can learn from. Creating a sustainable world is not easy. It takes a lot of work, and not from just from a single individual. These community members rallied together to help one family at a time, knowing that when it was their turn to build a water cistern or eco toilet, the others would be there to help them. This type of cooperation is empowering not only for the beneficiary of the technology, but also for the community as a whole, which realizes that building a sustainable planet is not reserved solely for those with lots of money and technology. Although each project on its own will not solve the environmental crisis, taken all together this type of community-based dissemination can have a big impact.  Observing how these communities were capable of actualizing sustainability certainly gave me hope. The future of our planet depends not on individual effort, but on a widespread commitment to help one another, even if the task at hand is difficult.
     
     

  •  Enterprise as a Tool for Social Justice

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

     Fr. Phil is a Jesuit working with the Center completing a Fellowship. Previously, he has volunteered in many places such as Guatemala, Chicago, LA, and the Pineridge Indian Reservation. During his time in these various situations, Fr. Phil noticed that he was working with the poor that have become trapped in dependency. He recently joined the Center because he wants to learn more in order to utilize social entrepreneurship so that he could aid the poor in getting out of the cycle and become more independent.

    Enterprise as a Tool for Social Justice
    Currently I am an executive fellow at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS). The Center’s mission is to assist social entrepreneurs worldwide, primarily through their Global Social Benefit Institute, which provides intense training, mentorship and ongoing support for social enterprises. My goal at CSTS is to help launch the methodology and principles of social entrepreneurship into some of the hundreds of Jesuit Social Ministries worldwide. The aim is not to convert Jesuits or our colleagues into social entrepreneurs, but to solve social problems in an entrepreneurial, innovative and sustainable way.
     
    Life among the Lakota and Maya
    As a Jesuit priest who has been on mission in various impoverished areas of the world, I have directly witnessed the demeaning effects governments, churches and NGOs can inadvertently have on the poor, by freely giving various types of “handouts” to beneficiaries they were hoping to empower. Too often, such gifts or handouts keep the poor entrapped in poverty.
     
    For instance, while working on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for six years, I often saw the negative and damaging effects that a culture of welfare had upon a people. When resources or money were given freely, people often came to expect more. Not asking people to reciprocate in some form -- so they can bring their own gifts, resources, labor and/or treasure in exchange for needed resources -- denies the dignity and potential of the human person. Such a “free exchange” is really not free because it fails to demand a sense of return of responsibility from the intended beneficiary. It disrespects the exercise of human agency from the intended recipient. I witnessed many Lakota become dependent upon United States welfare or similar types of handouts from churches and non-profits working on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Many Lakota saw no other way to live economically, other than taking what such organizations gave them.
     
    On the other hand, when I lived in the highlands with the Mayan people in Guatemala at the tail end of their 36-year civil war, the government provided practically nothing for the people –no subsidies or welfare. All the people had to work to merely survive, albeit for a paltry $1.00 USD a day, working in the fields of a wealthy landowner. If they did not work, they would not eat. Despite the dehumanizing poverty, the heavy oppression, and the struggle to survive there was an inherent dignity among the Mayan peasants. I will never forget one Mayan peasant I saw walking to work in the fields in the morning. He was tall, sandaled and easily in his late sixties or early seventies. The wrinkles on his face told the story of years of suppression, civil war, poverty, struggle for justice and, yet, overall, pride. This man walked straight up, with his head held high. He was proud to be Indian, to own a hoe, to have work and to be a child of God who found life in the struggle. I witnessed many such Mayan peasants in Guatemala. They had such dignity among such strife. No entity gave it to them, so they found it through their hard work and sense of self. When people exercise their human agency the result is a healthy sense of self, pride and dignity – a deep passion to be exactly who God made us to be.
     
    Poor People Need Practical Means to Create Their Liberation
    When it comes to working with the poor, they need something tangible, something concrete to hang onto so they can get themselves out of the poverty trap. Since the 1970’s, the Church has responded to hungry people by talking about liberation theology. Many Catholics have come to realize that it is not God’s Will that people are starving.
     
    A solution lies neither in the creation of a dependent welfare state nor in leaving those caught in poverty to fend for themselves. A viable solution lies in the healthy struggle to work with the poor so they can meet their needs. To alleviate this problem, I’ve come to discover that social entrepreneurship, its methodology and principles, is a viable and lasting solution to this problem. It not only encapsulates positive aspects of capitalism, but also is committed to people living at the base of the economic pyramid – those who make less than $2 USD a day. Social entrepreneurship can actually be an incredibly effective pastoral tool, as well, a way to bring people closer to God and provide them the proper means to create their own their own path of liberation.
     
    JITA Bangladesh: A Social, Entrepreneurial and Innovative Method of Liberation
    One example of the liberation I envision is Bushabala, age 26, who lives in rural area of Bangladesh. When her husband died, she had no livelihood. In order to survive and feed her family she had no choice but to work in other households to support herself and her son.
     
    The social enterprise, JITA Bangladesh, has begun to change her dire situation. JITA, a social business under CARE (a leading organization in fighting global poverty) established an Avon-like sales business that employs women to sell consumer goods to other women, who are often stuck at home in the patriarchal villages where they operate. Bushabala became a sales person for JITA distributing and selling household goods to the poor in her community. She journeys from her home every day with a bag of household goods and brings quality items such as soaps, sanitary napkins, and nutritional food to hundred of consumers everyday who never before had access to such basic necessities. She also teaches awareness about health, hygiene, nutrition and how to plant a garden within rural households, which has created tremendous social impact among thousands of consumers.
     
    The income from such sales have enabled Bushabala to be one of the 2,500 women who have been able to lift themselves out of poverty – in her case including the purchase of  a goat, a cow, almost an acre of her own land, and the ability to send her son to school.
     
    Growing out of CARE, JITA was created because it saw a human crisis, and found a creative business-oriented solution. JITA supported the women with training, starting capital, and the informed business acumen that has kept the company in the black  – not free handouts or products that will disappear with the grant money or when NGO contract ends. JITA has promoted an avenue for Bushabala and the other women in Bangladesh to claim their agency and to promote a livelihood for themselves.
     
    When properly implemented, the method of social entrepreneurship is an empowering act of social justice. It allows us to step aside and let the poor and marginalized become the active agents of change. The poor will no longer need us, because their human agency -- that drive I saw in Guatemala, that will to survive and make the world a better place -- will be fully actualized. It is time to celebrate and act upon this new opportunity that lies ahead of us. I encourage all of the church to tap into our own agency and that of the poor, those who lack the resources to live a better life. In doing so, through the principles of social entrepreneurship, a sound theology and authentic spirituality we will all be living more fully in the kingdom Jesus promised.
     
  •  Our Students’ Experiences Around the World

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

    The 2014 Global Social Benefit Fellowship and Action Research Programs of Santa Clara University

    The Global Social Benefit Fellowship provides a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and action research for SCU juniors within the GSBI® worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. The fellowship combines two quarters of academically rigorous research with a fully-funded 6-7 week international summer field experience in the developing world. This is a richly rewarding yet demanding experience, one that requires a time-intensive, nine-month commitment. Continue on to read about the experiences of some of our GSB Fellows while they were in their respective placements.

    Team Anudip/iMerit (Kolkata, India)

    Rosella Chapman (Political Science), Monet Gonnerman (Sociology), and Kathryn Hackett (Political Science) spent their fellowship working with Anudip/iMerit and travelled to Kolkata, India to complete their work with the social entrepreneurs. Anudip creates livelihood opportunities for impoverished people by funding and shaping rural training centers that develop skilled professionals and entrepreneurs in information technology. Rosella mainly worked with iMerit, interviewing employees on how their lives changed through the MAST program to then help iMerit to improve internal processes. Monet worked in the DREAM (Developing Rural Entrepreneurs through Adoption and Mentoring) centers looking at ways to integrate technology in the already existing cooperatives. Kathryn was involved in curriculum development and helped to extend their virtual MAST system.
     
    During their time in Kolkata with Anudip/iMerit, the students learned about the women that this program was benefitting. They were able to get to know this group of Indian women who wished to become more independent, and the program that was allowing them to do so. Throughout their trip, the fellows were able to experience various places in Kolkata, and Rosella explained both the good and frustrating parts of being a foreigner, “Overall my goal is to treat each person with respect and do my best to blend in, learning from cultural differences and appreciating Indian culture in every way possible.” Read more about their experiences on their blog.

    Team Banapads (Uganda/Tanzania)

    “There are so many lessons that can never be taught in the classroom, and fortunately for us, we have had the opportunity to make Nyarushanje, Uganda our classroom. “ – Team Banapads
     
    Kaci McCartan (Mechanical Engineering), Caroline de Bie (Public Health), and Ty Van Herweg (Economics) worked with the GSBI alumni Banapads. Banapads manufactures affordable, eco-friendly sanitary pads to keep girls in school and create local jobs. The team spent their time all over Uganda to work with Banapads and help them with their mission. Their time in Uganda consisted of a fair amount of travelling, adventures (including live chickens!), and some dancing! Their fellowship was a rewarding experience where they were able to to travel and meet many different people throughout all of the communities that Banapads benefits. They were very well received by every single person they met throughout their journey, and they were able to experience how generous people who have so little can truly be. Read their blog to learn more about their daily adventures and all the wonderful communities they got to meet.  

    Team Iluméxico (Various States, Mexico)

    Alex Cabral  (Economics) and Kiara Machuca (Marketing, Spanish) make up Team Iluméxico. Iluméxico is a social enterprise that provides solar energy to communities in Mexico that do not have electricity.  During their time in Mexico, they conducted a customer service study and communication analysis in several rural communities where Iluméxico works, in order to give the company a clearer idea of what they can do in order to improve their product line and customer satisfaction levels. While they traveled throughout Mexico, they were able to meet so many different people from various villages outside of Mexico City. The girls wrote about how every place they went to was beautiful and they people were welcoming and very grateful. In one of their blog posts, Alex explains that in most of the homes, families would have just one light bulb and they could not be more pleased about their light. This really put things into perspective and made Alex question what exactly defines ‘happiness’ and ‘success.’ Read more about their experiences and questions on their blog.


    Team Nazava (Various Islands, Indonesia)

    “Culture shock is necessary to learning and is a humbling experience, and I welcome the opportunities in which I am forced to see through a different perspective.” - Ilhan Ahmed, referring to her trip to Bali
     
    Ilhan Ahmed (Economics) and Lisa McMonagle (Political Science, Environmental Studies) spent their fellowship aiding Nazava Water Filters and island hopping throughout Indonesia. Nazava Water Filters provides the most affordable and safest household water filters in Indonesia, enabling lower-income households to filter well or tap water, eliminating the need to boil water or use electricity, and reducing human diseases, household costs, and greenhouse gas emissions. The students were never in one place for very long, so they were able to see so much of Indonesia, including Java and Bali. Ilhan and Lisa kept personal blogs, where they share very personal thoughts and experiences about their trip as well as how they ended up applying for the fellowship. Read Ilhan’s blog here and Lisa’s here.
     

     

  •  A New Solidarity

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

    James L. Koch

    Senior Founding Fellow, Center for Science, Technology, and Society

    Don C. Dodon Distinguished Service Professor of Management
     
    Twelve years ago I joined small group of approximately 40 mayors, international NGO leaders, and senior World Bank officials for a meeting with Pope John Paul II.  It was five years after the founding of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University and six months after the launching of the Tech Awards—Technology Benefiting Humanity.  It was also just eight months after September 11, 2001. For me, the takeaways from this Rome meeting mirrored the sense of humility and hope embodied in the network of inventors, corporate leaders, venture capitalists, pioneering practitioners, and World Bank Development Marketplace officials that had been drawn to the mission of the STS Center back home in Silicon Valley.
     
    In this meeting Pope John Paul called for a new solidarity as an essential condition for human progress in the context of mass global migrations to cities. Today, after more than a decade of work vetting thousands of technology innovations for their potential social benefit impact, hands on mentoring with hundreds of social entrepreneurs, and continuous engagement with a global network of practitioners, the broad outlines of a new solidarity are beginning to emerge.  But first, Pope John Paul II, in his own words from May of 2002:
     
    “A city is much more than a territory, and economic productive zone, a political reality. It is above all a community of people, and especially of families with their children.  It is a living, historically rooted, culturally distinct, human experience. Those who exercise administrative and political control over it have weight responsibilities for the common good of the people, human beings graced with inalienable dignity and rights; just as citizens have important duties toward the community.
     
    The ethos of a city should be marked by one characteristic above others, solidarity. Every one of you faces serious social and economic problems which will not be solved unless a new style of human solidarity is created.  Institutions and social organizations at different levels, as well as the state, must share in promoting a general movement of solidarity between all sectors of the population, with special attention to the weak and marginalized.  This is not just a matter of convenience.  It is a necessity of the moral order, to which all people need to be educated, and to which those with influence of one kind or another must be committed as a matter of conscience.
     
    The goal of solidarity must be the advancement of a more human world for all, a world in which every individual will be able to participate in a positive and fruitful way, and in which the wealth of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, but a help.”
     
    A new style of human solidarity and a general movement of solidarity between multiple sectors for the advancement of a more human world for all are now visible across the 2014 landscape. The messy process of entrepreneurial activity focused on the development of sustainable market-based solutions to the most daunting and urgent issues of our time is a transformative change in business mindsets—one that values human progress and social impact over short-term profits. 
     
    This bottom up process is part of a powerful convergence of three trends:  triple bottom line business mindsets; friendlier government policies like B-corporation statutes; and, a growing consensus in development economics that aide and welfare without human agency and market mechanism are insufficient to alleviate global poverty. While not to diminish the shrill headlines of regional crises and human suffering, several factors provide encouraging evidence of a general movement of solidarity between all sectors for the advancement of a more human world for all.  
     
    The BoP movement framed by the pioneering work of C.K. Prahalad and subsequently documented as a market opportunity by Al Hammond and his colleagues has evolved since 2002 from small number of case studies to literally thousands of bottom up experiments around the world.  There are over 3,000 Ahsoka fellows alone. 
     
    Through formalization of the tacit knowledge from this bottom-up experimentation radically new approaches to technology and business model innovation are being diffused to practitioners, universities, and businesses around the world.  The network effects of this diffusion is spreading viable solutions, creating the economies of scale to stimulate new and complimentary capabilities up and down previously nonexistent value chains.  For example, in the off-grid energy space, Beyond the Grid, a joint US-Africa initiative is leveraging the falling cost of renewable energy generation, advances in storage, smart meter and mobile payment technology, innovative business models, and new distributed energy companies.
     
    The current Fourth Sector Mapping Initiative of the Urban Institute is documenting the emergence of new models of shared value enterprise—from pay for performance public-private partnerships, to hybrid social businesses, community based co-ops, and B-Corporations.  In May of 2002, there were no B-Corporations; today there are more than 1,000.
     
    Sector wide collaborations are focusing resources on the need to catalyze ecosystems and develop holistic solutions.  The previously mentioned Beyond the Grid initiative has brought together 27 private sector partners to expand access to clean, affordable energy to 240 million people in the rural and peri-urban communities of Africa.  This collaboration spans investors like Capricorn, Gray Ghost, and Khosla Impact, as well as companies like Schneider Electric, and distribution businesses like Solar Sister which is expanding its last mile network of women entrepreneurs to provide energy access to more than 400,000 homes.
     
    There is an increased readiness on the part of financially strapped local governments to embrace public-private partnership and pay-for-performance social business solutions as more cost effective alternatives to the provision of essential government services.
     
    Innovations in social sector finance are facilitating the aggregation of capital to support the growth financing needs of promising social mission enterprises and leveraging network effects to expand geographic reach or deepen penetration in regional markets.  Of particular note here is the work of John Kohler in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.
     
    The Social Progress Index, developed under the leadership of Michael Porter, was launched in 2013 as a common way of measuring multi-dimensional progress in human well-being across nation states and over time.  It is a robust and empirical measure of the degree to which our institutions are adapting to address the complex and urgent needs of humanity.  In some respects it is a proxy for our collective intelligence about how to live more sustainably, justly and peacefully on this earth.  In a number of instances these and other measures, like the World Bank’s poverty line threshold of $1.25 a day, suggest that our trajectory of learning and progress is increasing.  By the latter measure the United Nations 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report concludes that the portion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty halved between 1990 and 2010. 
     
    However, when medical research on minimum nutrition requirements, to say nothing of education, clothing, shelter, and transportation, are taken into consideration this penury baseline guarantees at best a wretched existence. 
    “In his 2013 book “The Great Escape,” the Princeton economist Angus Deaton argues that poverty measurement is ultimately a question of democratic consensus, not scientific calibration—a continuing exercise based on what is acceptable to policy makers and the public, including the poor themselves” .
     
    Answering the question of how to advance “a more human world for all, a world in which every individual will be able to participate in a positive and fruitful way, and in which the wealth of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, but a help” (Pope John Paul, II, May 2002) is a moral imperative of the highest order. 
     
    While the hope of a new solidarity may appear to be within our grasp, progress will depend on our ability to muster the financial, human and social capital needed to address complex challenges both on the ground, in the pioneering work of social entrepreneurs, and at institutional levels. While much has been learned, so much more remains to be learned.  Ultimately, we may find that humility and the subtle processes of consensus building, collaboration, and humble inquiry will be our greatest assets.

     

  •  How can we Strengthen the Contributions of Incubators and Accelerators?

    Friday, Jul. 18, 2014

    James L. Koch is the Don C. Dodson Distinguished Service Professor of Management. He was founding director of Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society, and a co-founder of the Tech Museum Awards, as well as the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®).

    Among the chief takeaways from the Incubation to Acceleration track I chaired at Michigan’s 2013 BoP Summit was a singular notion: conventional business wisdom has limited applicability at the BoP. That insight stood in stark contrast to the assumptions that underscored the 2003 Networked World Conference at Santa Clara University. The purpose behind the latter conference had been twofold: to engage technologists, inventors and entrepreneurs in alternative future scenarios, and to spark Silicon Valley potential to develop solutions to urgent global problems, including poverty alleviation.  

    What can we learn from what did – and what notably did not – transpire in the decade between the two gatherings? 

    In answering that question, it’s important to consider how we might strengthen some of the lessons learned, to frame, as Peter Buffet wrote in a "New York Times" op-ed, “… a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. (A) new code” that “truly creates greater prosperity for all.”

    The 2003 Networked World Conference at Santa Clara University

    The late C.K. Prahalad delivered the April 2003 keynote at the Networked World Conference – a conference coordinated with Santa Clara’s launch of the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®). Prahalad reiterated the assertion of his 2002 Harvard Business Review article, “Serving the World’s Poor Profitably,” co-authored with Al Hammond, that, “Serving the lives of the billions of people at the bottom of the economic pyramid is a noble endeavor. It can also be a lucrative one.” Moreover, he argued, “Multinational companies should lead this market driven paradigm.”  

    Why Didn’t MNCs Lead the Way?

    Since those early days, Hammond has worked to catalyze the BoP movement at a variety of levels. While my efforts have focused on teaching and mentoring social entrepreneurs, including nearly 200 GSBI ventures, we’ve collaborated in a number of areas such as the development of a sector approach to scaling innovation. Independently, we’ve observed that the BoP market development efforts of major corporations have been greatly eclipsed by grassroots innovators. 

    Bill Davidow, co-founder of Mohr Davidow Ventures, offered discussant comments following Prahalad’s keynote. In retrospect, they proved prescient. Among them he suggested: 

    Corporate infrastructure is not equipped to do the job.

    BoP markets are risky and fragmented, and the needs are very different. Social customs are different, politics are different.

    Unique markets require special attention and understanding. Large organizations like to do things that are homogeneous.

    Davidow concluded, “I believe the opportunity is to create lots of entrepreneurship and inventiveness. I have lots of faith in that messy process.” 

    What Can We Learn from Social Entrepreneurs at the BoP?

    The Michigan summit was an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the GSBI ventures, but also to learn from other conference attendees, especially the individuals who joined my New Venture Development panel: entrepreneurs Donn Tice of d.light and Radha Basu of Anudip; Nancy Wimmer and her meticulously documented study of Grameen Shakti’s transformative rural business model; and Saurabh Lall, director of Research at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and recent coauthor of a major study of BoP incubators and accelerators.

    Four recurring themes emerged. First, the BoP customer has been poorly understood. Second, customer needs may exist, but market demand for products that meet the need may not. Third, vertical integration is often a necessity. Fourth, depth and breadth approaches offer alternative paths to scaling impact.

    The BoP Customer Has Been Poorly Understood

    Only recently has the “one-size fits all” myth been rejected. For example, the renewable energy success story of Grameen Shakti grew because it embedded its customized products and after-sales services in rural villages. Even at the BoP, consumers want choices, and may prefer to invest in aspirational goods that give them a perceived higher quality of life rather than goods that directly benefit their health (e.g., cell phone applications like mobile banking versus clean cooking stoves). 

    Customer Demand Must be Created

    While a consumer need may exist, market demand for products that meet the need may not. For example, before d.light could sell solar lanterns, they needed to educate consumers about the product to generate market demand. Similarly, Anudip needed to overcome self-limiting, culturally-based concepts of women’s roles in Muslim society to stimulate demand for its market-based skills training; and Grameen Shakti leveraged the trusted “brand” of Grameen Bank and pragmatic agency of village engineers to create customized use-case solar solutions fitted to the needs of rural households and future cash flows of micro-enterprises.

    New Businesses are Often Forced to Become Vertically Integrated.

    The actors in the supply chain are commonly in formative stages or simply do not exist. Distribution channels must be created, often to penetrate low-density markets that characterize the rural poor.  This was the case for both d.light and Grameen Shakti. Becoming vertically integrated from product design, to manufacturing, marketing, distribution and after-sales service strains the integrative capacity of new ventures and requires increased attention to organizational culture, systems and talent. Because of this, the flat portion of S-curve market cycles stays flatter longer. A great deal can be learned from the practices of organizational development in severely resource-constrained environments.

    Depth Scaling

    Influential players including investors and funders are often guided by incorrect assumptions.  Conventional business wisdom holds that ventures are most likely to scale through a narrowly focused product or service strategy, or by doing a few things well. While the economic rationality of this approach is frequently compelling in large established markets, many BoP ventures find that becoming embedded in local ecosystems requires that they seek a more significant level of social and economic impact through a depth-scaling approach within a community or narrower geographic context. Key in Grameen Shakti’s becoming the world’s largest solar home system provider to the poor was the ethos of its founders – if the village does well Shakti does well.  

    How can we strengthen the contributions of incubators and accelerators? Below are four suggestions. 

    1. Reduce Pressure to Scale

    Investors equate scale with success. Despite the uncertainties under which BoP ventures operate, new ventures are often pressured to scale before they know their customers, develop cost efficient distribution channels, understand unit economics and price structure, create demand, and attract and train the correct talent. The incubation phase for new BoP ventures should be a time to gather this information and “get the unit right” before scaling.  This entails understanding the “unit of social benefit” or impact as well as the “unit economics” or financial viability of a replicable unit of the business.

    2. Coordinate Funding Sources

    Capital is often aimed at specific stages of venture development, resulting in fragmented funding sources and “lean periods” as ventures graduate from one funding source but do not yet qualify for the next. John Kohler, Director of Impact Capital in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University advocates that incubators and accelerators should facilitate hand-offs across venture financing stages by conscious attention to milestones that are relevant to investor criteria for early-to-growth stages of organizational life cycles.  This is a work in progress that will involve re-imaging how capital markets might work if they were truly intended to serve the greater good.

    3. Set Appropriate Expectations

    There is a greater need to emphasize the challenges of execution.   Investments are needed to build the organizational capacity and support sustainable growth. Research by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) on incubators and accelerators suggests that by fostering a disciplined approach to growth, providing access to technical services, and increasing selectivity these intermediary organizations can become more central actors in facilitating access to a continuum of capital that is aligned with organizational life cycle needs.

    (Above: Eco-fuel Africa, a member of the GSBI class, aims to empower communities in Africa by converting locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizers. Image credit: GSBI)

    4. Codify Informal Knowledge

    Over the past decade, hundreds of ventures have been launched, but few have achieved significant scale in relation to the size of the market opportunity. The success of ventures depends on understanding the unique characteristics of doing business with those at the BoP. While the domain is just starting to understand these particularities, this process can be accelerated by learning from the exemplary practices of successful entrepreneurs. Codifying informal knowledge can enable the participants in incubators and accelerators to ground abstract concepts and convert uncertainty into clearly defined risk factors with field-tested mitigation strategies. Incubators and accelerators would benefit from a greater attention to learning from success and failure. ANDE research finds that systematic assessment of social benefit or impact is seldom used by incubators and accelerators as a feedback mechanism to measure and improve their effectiveness. 

    A Concluding Note

    The “fortune at the base of the pyramid” thesis may not have been correct. That’s especially true if our ultimate measure of value is the functioning of the global economy in facilitating growth through the flows of material goods, money, and people. It may not have been correct if we apply the rationality of large company decision making that measures success in quarterly returns or ad revenue growth curves. Neither is this thesis of a fortune in serving the unmet needs of humanity likely to hold in the future if we measure our fortune in the prospects of a sequel to “Angry Birds,” the unprecedented stock option wealth of CEOs, or the ability of social media to lure brilliant mathematicians and physicists to apply their genius to the development of “big data” algorithms for high frequency trading or monetizing the private data of unsuspecting users to benefit a small number of people.

    The real fortune at the base of the pyramid is a different kind of treasure — one that is measured in life options as opposed to stock options. It is measured in children who will not die of diarrheal disease before the age of five. It is measured in access to economically sustainable technology solutions that can provide all members of a family with safe water for just eighteen dollars a year. It is measured in the recognition of our collective humanity.

    The challenges discussed at the 2013 Michigan BoP summit are complex, and reflect a different mindset and reality than the 2003 Networked World Conference a decade earlier. These challenges call for whole systems thinking. At the same time, we’ve made real progress in identifying the critical factors for market-based solutions to play a meaningful role in providing every child the freedom to hope. In the next ten years, converting those dreams into reality is the scale by which we should measure our progress. 

 


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