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Changing the World Through Social Enterprise

You’ve probably heard of Nobili Hall, the unassuming building tucked away in the quaint and scenic Mission Gardens...For many, Nobili is a cozy home equipped with sizeable doubles and personal bathrooms, but the building is also home to one of SCU’s best kept secrets.

Founded in 1997, it is the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. The Miller Center serves as an accelerator to global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. The Center is made up of three distinct departments that enable sustainable and successful social enterprises: the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), which provides social entrepreneurs with in-depth mentoring and instruction in best business practices from Silicon Valley’s top caliber executives; the Impact Capital Team that connects social entrepreneurs with impact investors (people who provide capital without seeking financial returns); and the Education and Action Research Team who provides fellowship opportunities for SCU undergraduates to work on certain projects.

For social entrepreneurs, connecting with and utilizing GSBI’s programs is the crucial first step. GSBI offers three-day workshops to strengthen business models and presentation, a six-month online mentoring program, and a ten-month long accelerator program for established enterprises to develop their group’s investment readiness. Just a few weeks ago, GSBI hosted an In-Residence Accelerator Boot Camp, an intensive, nine day program on SCU’s campus designed to ameliorate every operational facet of an enterprise. The Camp culminates in an Investor Showcase, whose attendees are comprised of potential investors, donors, advisors, board members, and mentors. The six-minute long presentations by the social entrepreneurs in the program are simulcast to a global audience, maximizing the potential for social entrepreneurs’ advancement.

Once the social entrepreneurs establish secure investors and refine their business models, the Education and Action Research Team comes into play. This team, headed by Director Keith Warner, allows undergraduates in their junior year to apply for a 6-8 week long fellowship of mentored, field-based study and action research under GSBI’s vast network of social entrepreneurs. Students are sent in pairs (of complementary skills and interests) to projects like Banapads in Uganda, a manufacturer of affordable, eco-friendly sanitary pads to keep girls in school, or Sankara in India, an enterprise focused on preventing curable blindness in India, and Sistema Biobolsa in Mexico, which hopes to create a regional compost distribution enterprise among small and medium-sized farmers. To learn more about the fellowship and how to apply, be sure to visit http://globalsocialbenefit.institute/education.html#fellowship.

The Miller Center’s low-profile on campus by no means stifles its ability to reach and discover up and coming social entrepreneurs. So far, the Miller Center has worked with 394 social enterprises in 63 countries and has 88 Silicon Valley executives serving as volunteer mentors. Karen Runde, GSBI’s Program Manager, credits the Center’s extensive networking through alumni, staff recommendations, and discovery partners as key sources for the continuing expansion of the Miller Center’s success. Having seen its own growth and potential, the Miller Center has set a lofty goal that Runde believes they can achieve: positively impact the lives of 1 billion poor people by 2020. Regardless of whether or not that goal is achieved, it is clear that the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is leading the way in effectively tackling social problems worldwide.

Contributed by Alec Kwo ‘16, Sustainability Intern for Student Engagement

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