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Why Magis: Integrated Action at Santa Clara

Tuesday, Apr. 1, 2014

 The three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara embody our mission to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world. At the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, we focus on practical, action-oriented ways to eradicate global poverty. Since 2003, our GSBI® (Global Social Benefit Institute) has helped more than 200 social enterprises fashion and implement business plans that have collectively benefited the lives of nearly 100 million of the global poor. But, there are 4 billion people living in poverty, including 43 million in the United States, so in the Jesuit spirit of “magis” we have to do much more to have a meaningful impact. 

The global poor lack basic services such as energy for light and cooking, sanitation, safe drinking water, nutrition, education, and job training. Social entrepreneurs seek to close these market gaps through innovative technology solutions and business models adapted to the local context – culture, politics, geography, and so forth. In our GSBI programs, we match the social entrepreneurs with experienced Silicon Valley executive mentors, many of whom are Santa Clara alumni. The mentors help the social entrepreneurs ask the right questions to build financially sustainable ventures that can scale to help more of the global poor. 

The right technology innovation and business model alone are not enough to drive impact, however; just as in Silicon Valley start-ups, it takes financial capital to scale a business. Investing for social and environmental impact is gaining momentum as a younger generation seeks to deploy capital in ways that fashion a more just and sustainable world. The Center’s impact capital program is piloting new investment vehicles that are more appropriate than equity for social enterprises, including our “demand dividend”, a structured exit that creates higher leverage opportunities for philanthropic and impact capital while enabling the entrepreneurs to retain ownership of their social ventures. 

The Center leverages the obvious synergies between helping social entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses that are investment-ready and helping impact investors deploy capital in ways that satisfy the twin demands of financial and social returns to mutual benefit; what further distinguishes our work, though, are the social justice learning experiences created for Santa Clara students through these programs. Our Global Social Benefit Fellowship, for example, places interdisciplinary teams of students in field locations with GSBI to conduct action research projects that benefit the social enterprise. This summer, we’ll have students in Uganda, India, the Philippines, Mexico, and Indonesia. 

How can we help more social entrepreneurs help more people living in poverty, and expose more students to practical social justice learning experiences? The answer lies in our origins. As a Jesuit university, we have launched a GSBI Network to share best practices in incubating social enterprises – and fashioning future leaders - among our 150 brethren institutions of higher learning around the planet. The GSBI Network will hold its fifth meeting May 19-21 on the Santa Clara campus, preceded on Sunday, May 18 by our inaugural Magis event. We feel this is a sure start to answering Pope Francis’ call for service to the poor. 

 


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