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Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  Students work with GSBI Alums to Solve their Engineering Challenges

    Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2011

    During this year’s GSBI, students from Radha Basu’s Engineering for the Developing World course engaged with the clean energy sector cohort social entrepreneurs to help solve their engineering challenges.

    Students combined their knowledge of design principles for the developing world with the parameters set out by the entrepreneurs during a working group session, and solved problems ranging from designing system architecture and technical implementation of water telemetry tools for e-Health point water points in rural India, to determining the best solar heating system for a chicken hatchery in Haiti.

    Whether the student teams addressed a problem set out by a GSBI entrepreneur, or created new products and distribution models for emerging markets, each team produced professional quality reports that displayed mastery of the factors germane to effective engineering in developing world contexts.

    Team Hatchery designed a solar-powered heating system for a new chicken hatchery for Guirlaine Celius of Haiti Community Development. The new system will allow for simplified operation, minimal maintenance, high efficiency, and precise temperature control, which are all vital features to scaling Haiti Community Development’s impact on Haiti’s agricultural economy.

    Team BGET created an analysis tool for water purification technologies designed for Salinee Tavaranan of Border Green Energy Team (BGET), to allow them to evaluate technologies based on cost, maintenance, simplicity, level of purification, etc. and choose the appropriate solution for the breadth of unique environments in which they works.

    Team Soochak tackled the challenge posed by Al Hammond to provide water telemetry tools to e-Health Points' Water Points in rural India. They created concrete project parameters, conducted technology feasibility research for each functionality, provided three engineering solutions for automating water distribution, and proposed a phased implementation strategy to allow for upgrading as the facilities scale.

    Team Vidya Vikas expanded from Al Hammond's guest lecture about e-Health Points, to create an education model to be co-located with e-Health Point facilities. Their solution utilized affordable mobile technology and existing educational content to provide low cost technical training for the most prevalent jobs in a given region.

    Team Soladapt designed a portfolio of lighting products for off grid communities based on the recommendations and knowledge of Kamworks (GSBI’11) and Angaza Design (GSBI’11). They created product modules focused around a solar adaptor that allows customers to expand their lighting portfolios based on specific needs and income level.

    Team Anna Sanchay created an innovative design for grain silos in rural Indian villages that reduce wasted grain, and thereby increase farmer income throughout the year, and provide greater food reliability for the community. Their design used local materials typically put in landfills, and created options for both small and large village needs.

    Team Garbage to Harvest created a closed loop distribution solution for the bi-products of organic waste disposal. Their solution utilized the vermicompost and bio gas that are produced from organic waste decomposition, through a strategic distribution location they simultaneously improve farmers' crop yield, and encourage households to use bio-gas instead of hazardous kerosene.

  •  Reflections on the 9th Annual GSBI Business Plan Presentations

    Wednesday, Sep. 7, 2011

    The in-residence component of our signature Global Social Benefit Incubator concluded last week, with 18 field-based social entrepreneurs returning to their 9 countries to implement the business plans they developed while at Santa Clara University. The culmination of their two weeks on campus is always the business plan presentations, attracting a diverse and high-level audience of over 350.

    Each of the social entrepreneurs has 15 minutes to present their business plan to a panel of Silicon Valley leaders, after which they receive feedback and have only a moment to respond. The Center videotapes the presentations so that the social entrepreneurs can continue learning from the experience. Our goal is to help more social entrepreneurs help more of the global poor, with a “big hairy audacious goal” of positively impacting the lives of 1B by 2020 – 25% of the current global poor. The UN projects an additional 2 B people on the planet by 2050, with all but 50 M in the developing world. Successful and sustainable social enterprises act as nuclei for economic growth in the communities they serve. By doing so, they essentially create emerging markets.

    The GSBI exemplifies what I call “practical social justice.” The 18 social entrepreneurs we heard from last Thursday did not offer theories about how to change the world: they showed us how it’s done.                       

    Imagine a world where the 1.5 B people 'off the grid' – in Africa, Latin America, Asia, India – have light for children to read and parents to work after night falls; where people can charge their mobile phones without traveling all day; where sustainably generated power can be sustainably stored; where smallholder dairy farmers can keep their cows’ milk cold long enough to sell it; where the very poor in Haiti can cook using 40% less fuel, reducing deforestation at the same time. Imagine a world without energy poverty.                               

    Imagine a world where Filipino women living near garbage dumps; or Roma, also known as Gypsies, in Slovakia; or African slum youth; can all earn a living wage and be proud of their work.

    Imagine a world where West Africans earn a living growing biofuels for their own communities; where solar lanterns light up East African villages through an Avon-style model, employing local women.  

    Imagine a world where the voiceless, poorest of the poor in India can tell their stories to the world, and effect change in their own communities.                     

    Imagine a world where even, or especially, the unbanked can use their mobile phones for secure financial transactions with any merchant; where Filipino microenterprise owners can scale their businesses to a living income while providing essential goods and services.

    Imagine a world where rural Haitians can sustainably grow their own protein-rich food; where poor Mexican children have enough micronutrients for their brains to develop. Imagine a world of healthy people.

    If you can imagine all of the above, thank you for joining us; if you cannot, you missed a unique opportunity to see how these dreams are becoming reality through the vision and very hard work of the 2011 cohort of GSBI social entrepreneurs.

    I was honored, and humbled, to be in their company. Each of them is an amazing human. Collectively, they are the promise of a more just, humane, and sustainable world.

    Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the GSBI. Mark your calendars for the August 23, 2012 business plan presentations, a window into how to change the world for the better. 

    List of this year's GSBI social entrepreneurs

  •  GSBI in the News

    Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011

    The 2011 Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) cohort features 18 social enterprises from 14 countries around the world, includes 8 women entrepreneurs, and 8 enterprises from Africa, our highest representation in both categories. In addition, 2011 marks the second year of our focus on renewable energy for the underserved; more than half of the 2011 cohort comes from this sector.

    The press has been as impressed with our entrepreneurs as we are.  Check out these great stories featuring 3 social entrepreneurs from this year's GSBI class.

    The GSBI empowers socially-minded entrepreneurs to build sustainable, scalable organizations that solve problems for people living in poverty around the world. Since its inception in 2003, the GSBI has mentored nearly 140 entrepreneurs from more than 20 countries. More than 90% of these ventures are still extant, more than 50% are scaling, and collectively they’ve positively impacted the lives of over 70 million people in base-of-pyramid communities.

    Social entrepreneurs who apply and win GSBI scholarships participate in an experiential capacity development program that combines online and in-residence exercises with training and mentoring from academic leaders and Silicon Valley visionaries over an intensive 8 month period. Our mentors help social entrepreneurs sustain and scale their ventures, sell their products and services, and solve problems.

    We collaborate with a diverse group of partners including successful Silicon Valley executives, foundations, government agencies, corporations, and a global network of Jesuit universities.

  •  From the Archives: C.K. Prahalad speaks at the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (2003)

    Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011

    In 2003 we were pleased to host CK Prahalad, from the University of Michigan's School of Business. A year before his groundbreaking book, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Eradicating Poverty through Profits was published, Dr. Prahalad shared his thoughts to a packed house at our IT and Globalization Conference in 2003.

    We hope you enjoy this 20 minute video.

    C.K. Prahalad speaks at the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (2003) from CSTS-SCU on Vimeo.

  •  Africa ignores the sun: Local context drives biofuel companies in Africa

    Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2011

    Each year at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, we review hundreds of applications from social entrepreneurs who wish to participate in our fully subsidized capacity development program, the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™).The GSBI is designed for entrepreneurs in the field - including many from Africa, India, South America, and the Philippines – to access an actionable business model curriculum in just eight months. 

    During this year’s discovery process, we found the large number of biofuels ventures out of Africa striking. There isn’t enough arable land to feed the growing population there, distribution and other challenges aside. So why are so many field-based social entrepreneurs growing fuel in Africa instead of using the sun?

    Could economics be the reason? It is well known that corn-based ethanol production in the United States has resulted in increased food costs for the developing world. In fact, the IMF reported that in 2007, almost half of the increase in production of major food crops was related to biofuels. And, European energy companies may pay for source materials, as evidenced by the Agroils model, a social enterprise that produces sustainable biofuels from non-edible forestry species.

    But we do not believe that economic reasons alone are driving African biofuel social enterprises. Our experience with more than 40 ventures in the sector reveals that a large majority of social entrepreneurs are delivering power directly to the communities they serve, not supplying power to the developed world.

    An advantage of our practice orientation is that we can ask the social entrepreneurs naïve questions, and they give us great latitude, as well as deep insights. Why grow biofuels in an environment that is much better suited to technologies such as solar power generation? The answer is in the context: many African governments impose enormous tariffs on the importation of solar panels. Solar thus becomes an untenable technology solution for local energy production.

    In an informal discussion, one of our professors at Santa Clara, Alexander J. Field, Ph.D., the Michael and Mary Orradre professor of economics and author of the book A Great Leap Forward, proposed two alternative drivers for the governmental tariffs: 

    1.       Corruption: a known factor in African politics. Just this week,Omidyar Network announced $5 million to fund organizations that foster government accountability and transparency in Africa. But is corruption the entire rationale behind the development of biofuels?

    2.        Innovation stimulation: could the local governments be driving innovation by making solar panels cost prohibitive? Again, this contextual factor may contribute to the implementation of tariffs in Africa, and may work well for some needs of the underserved (such as agriculture) but have unintended negative consequences for technology diffusion in cases of extreme economies of scale, e.g., solar panel manufacturing.

    The answers are not black and white. In a recent New York Times article, Anand Giridharadas poses a hypothesis that ‘Real Change Requires Politics.’ We’ve experienced this first hand at the GSBI. The bottom line is that in order to effectively help social entrepreneurs solve issues for those living at the base of the pyramid, we need to better understand the contextual factors, including politics, which influence the successful adoption of optimal technology solutions and business models.

     

  •  Kicking the Tires of Frugal's mHealth Lab

    Monday, Jul. 25, 2011
    Photo: UN Foundation

    On Thursday, over 20 representatives from academic institutions and international NGOs tuned into a NetHope sponsored webinar that presented a new mobile health tool developed by our very own Frugal Innovation Mobile Health (mHealth) Lab. The featured tool: a cell phone application that can collect, store, and upload customizable forms for use by rural health workers all over the world.

    Webinar participants were encouraged to test the software themselves as a way of advancing the troubleshooting process and prepare the application for use in the field. This webinar was the first in series intended to showcase and test the products developed for CHP as they roll off the virtual assembly line. 

    Stay tuned to the Frugal Innovation Initiative’s Mobile Health Lab to see what they come up with next.

  •  Can VC-Style Investment Support a More Just and Humane World?

    Wednesday, Jul. 20, 2011

    In this Xconomy piece, our Executive Director, Thane Kreiner argues “yes”.  Based on the work featured in our recently released report Coordinating Impact Capital, A New Approach to Investing in Small and Growing Businesses he argues that a more “venture capital” type approach to funding social entrepreneurs would increase efficiency for both the entrepreneur (whose time is best spent building their enterprise rather than fundraising) and the investors (who struggle with issues like investing in companies located half a world away). 

    The study, which the Center for Science, Technology, and Society undertook with generous support from the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, asked 45 impact investors over six months to share with us their investment methods, profit expectations, geographic focus, due-diligence practices, and other factors. Our goal was to unearth some knowledge that could catalyze a more coordinated, venture-capital-style system for social-venture startups. 

    To learn more about the study, Coordinating Impact Capital, A New Approach to Investing in Small and Growing Businesses attend the unveiling of the study:  July 26 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at Santa Clara University’s Arts & Sciences Building, Wiegand Room, 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, Calif. 95053. Register here

  •  Teaching Engineering without Electricity

    Monday, Jul. 18, 2011
    Credit: Kat Wade
    The SF Chronicle recently highlighted Radha Basu’s continued work using technological innovation to reshape markets and communities in developing countries around the globe. Nestled in Silicon Valley, a group of graduate students gear up for Basu’s innovative course, Engineering for the Developing World, in which students turn Western design convention on its head and change the world with products designed with emerging markets as the consumers. The course is taught in association with a new CSTS program called the Frugal Innovation Initiative which fosters development and application of technologies in clean energy, clean water, public health, and mobile applications. 

    To learn more about Radha Basu read the SF Chronicle article. Visit the Frugal Innovation Initiative site to learn more about what’s happening at SCU!

  •  Gifts & Graces receives Fair Trade Certification

    Thursday, Jul. 14, 2011

    We just received word from GSBI '09 alumni organization Gifts & Graces that on June 17th, 2011 they received WFTO - Philippines accreditation. The recently launched WFTO - Philippine Certification and Labeling Initiative aims to promote and distinguish Fair Trade products from Filipino producers specifically for the Philippine consumer market. 

    What is Gifts and Graces all about?

    Gifts and Graces, headquartered in the Philippines, has a global presence and is the brand of choice for handcrafted quality gifts made by livelihood communities of marginalized members of society.

    Their Mission is to improve the quality of life of marginalized members of society, by providing product development, technical training on enterprise management, and global market access to livelihood communities under the Gifts and Graces brand. 

    Through a strong partnership with other NGOs and non-profits, and with the help of committed and passionate board of trustees, staff, and supporters who believe in our cause, we help communities and individuals reach their full potential and break free from the cycle of poverty. 

    What does this new certification mean?

    It means that Gifts & Graces abides by the 10 principles of Fair Trade:

    1. Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers.
    2. Transparency and Accountability
    3. Fair Trading practices
    4. Payment of a fair price
    5. Ensuring no producer is using child labor or forced labor
    6. A commitment to non-discrimination, gender equality, and freedom of association
    7. Ensuring good working conditions
    8. Providing capacity building
    9. Promoting Fair Trade
    10. Respect for the Environment

    Gifts & Graces can now display the WFTO - Philippines label on their products to guarantee that they adhere to social, economic, and environmentally responsible business practices. This is a great achievement for one of our GSBI alumni and we congratulate them!

    Visit the Gifts & Graces website to see their product gallery and follow them on facebook!

     

  •  WE CARE Solar Boosts Safe Childbirth

    Tuesday, Jul. 12, 2011
    Image via We Care Solar

    WE CARE Solar, Berkeley locals and GSBI '09 alumni, were recently featured in an article by Earthtechling highlighting their solar suitcase. 

    WE CARE Solar promotes safe motherhood and reduces maternal mortality in developing regions by providing health workers with reliable lighting, mobile communication, and blood bank refrigeration using solar electricity.

    The "WE CARE Solar Suitcase" powers overhead LED lighting, charges cell phones or two-way radios, and includes LED headlamps that come with their own rechargeable batteries. The first deployment of these systems occurred in June 2009. Now these systems have been introduced in 14 countries. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, they were asked to send solar suitcases to aid medical relief teams in tent cities and maternity clinics.

    More recently, they were invited to pilot a study of lighting for rural health clinics in Liberia with World Health Organization using the Solar Suitcase. These systems are designed to be user-friendly, robust, durable, and nearly maintenance-free. They can be reproduced and easily installed in existing hospitals and clinics that have unreliable/problematic power systems. Improved surgical lighting, enhanced usage of existing medical equipment, and the establishment of a sustainable telecommunication system is being shown to reduce delays in providing care, and to increase the capacity of health workers to care for patients with obstetric complications. In addition, workers report more confidence in performing skilled care, and no longer fear night duty.

    To view the Earthtechling article click here.

    WE CARE Solar is also featured on our Energy Map, and spoke at our Map release event last month. You can view their profile, or see pictures from the event. 

    To learnmore about WE CARE Solar you can visit their website
     

 


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