Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  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

  •  Energy from Rice Husks? Solar-Powered Milk Chillers? There's a Map for That!

    Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2011

    The following post first appeared in the SCU Today "News & Views" on Friday Jun. 17, 2011

    A new “Energy Map” is giving students and teachers a rare glimpse into the struggles and triumphs of companies providing energy and clean fuel to people off the radar of the PG&Es of the world.

    The site provides details about the business models, technologies, and regional conditions behind 40 social enterprises in 16 countries. The businesses are overcoming vast hurdles to bring electricity or alternative fuel to 500 to 500,000 people apiece in remote parts of the developing world.

    The Energy Map was the brainchild of several leaders at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS), which for the past decade has hosted an annual competitive training program for social entrepreneurs (Global Social Benefit Incubator) and judged hundreds of contestants for the annual Tech Awards from the Tech Museum.

    The group saw that the 40 energy businesses that had come through GSBI or the Tech Awards were a great untapped resource. They spent six months surveying the 40 ventures, detailing in plain language how they overcame hurdles like limited resources; weak distribution or infrastructure channels; or lack of financing. The resulting site is helping to speed up the learning curve for students, researchers, aid groups and social entrepreneurs interested in the issue.

    So far, it’s being well-received. “People really like the easily digested nuggets of information they get here,” said Andy Lieberman, the program manager for the Energy Map at CSTS. “They are surprised to see so many common elements among seemingly disparate companies.”

    The map site includes quick explainers of terms like biomass, passive solar, and carbon offsets. It also provides mini case studies of companies like Cows to Kilowatts, a Nigerian company that built a “biogas digester” to process waste from slaughtered cows into biogas. The stories describe how the businesses ended up with their current business and financing models, and how they are dealing with problems specific to their region or industry.

    For example, Sunlabob Renewable Energy, a Laos-based franchiser of solar energy products, learned that it was hard to disconnect tardy customers when the solar panels were affixed to homes, so they changed to a portable-lantern model.

    The site contains video vignettes, links to company websites, as well as links to extra resources.

    The solutions being described in the Energy Map are likely to become more and more pertinent, both to developing countries and to developed nations like the United States, Lieberman and his colleagues say. As oil gets more expensive and gas and energy prices start to spike, some of the innovations already underway in poor rural areas could be useful in the U.S.

    “These ventures are making great strides in the fight for more just and sustainable access to energy for the 1.5 billion people who are currently excluded,” said Lieberman. “That’s core to our mission at CSTS.”

    CSTS created the Energy Map in partnership with social-enterprise information company Ayllu.

    Read more.

  •  Mission and Vision for a Clean Tech Social Enterprise in Senegal

    Friday, Jun. 24, 2011

    GSBI '10 Alum, and clean tech social entreprenuer Daniel Bode was recently interviewed for the following article in his current hometown of Grand Junction, Colorado. 

    Last January, after Dany had completed his traning at the GSBI, I had the opportunity to travel with him and two other friends to see his organization in action. The four of us came from all over different parts of the US and met at JFK airport for the long flight to Dakar, Senegal.

    From his mother's Wednesday evening children's program, to the Malika Monkeys (a skills training program for young Senegalese men), to the numerous jatropha plantations of Mission Goorgoorlu, it wasevident that Dany cared deeply for his home country and was determined to build something that would help the people of his community. 

    More about the Malika Monkeys

    Malika Monkeys is a workshop for young Senegalese men which began in 2000. There are approximately 14 young men in the program who work in various skills. They specialize in djembe drums which are available for sale internationally. You can learn more at:

    More about Mission Goorgoorlu

    Mission Goorgoorlu has developed a locally-produced biofuel outboard engine that easily attaches to native boats and can be used on land as an engine to power other services. Learn more on our CSTS Energy-map:

  •  Jugaad Mindset - Frugal Innovation

    Tuesday, Jun. 21, 2011

    In a recent topic on the hot topic was frugal innovation. Karl Moore talks about his recent trip to India and the “Jugaad mindset, a Hindi word that in a nutshell refers to making do with what one has to solve one’s problems.”

    There are some key points to his article that illustrate the concept of frugal innovation and why it’s valuable.

    1. Frugal innovation results in great value: no-frills, good quality, functional products that are also affordable to the customer with modest means.

    2. Frugal innovation goes beyond clever R&D. It has a lot to do with process –  maximizing the efficiency of the supply chain.

    3. No fuel, no capital investment, almost no modern technology, and yet a high quality of service: that’s frugality at its best.

    4. The circumstances of the operating environment matters a great deal when it comes to frugal innovation.

    To compliment these ideas we have a list of core competencies that are taught in our Frugal Innovation Lab:

    - Ruggedization
    - Affordability
    - Simplification
    - Adaptation
    - Reliance on local materials and manufacturing
    - Renewability
    - User-centric design
    - Lightweight

    Frugal Innovation has been part of local organizations and processes for decades, but applying these concepts to technological and multi-national organizations is where it will get interesting. Adopting the paradigm of frugal innovation should create better products with more efficient production and delivery. Overall this paradigm shift has the potential to create a positive impact for millions in underserved markets whether it’s in clean energy, health care, or mobile applications and instrumentation.

    By Radha Basu, Regis and Dianne McKenna Professor of Science, Technology and Society at the Center for Science, Technology, and Society Dean's Executive Professor, School of Engineering. Radha served as the Managing Director of the Center for the 2009-2010 academic year. 


    Learn more about SCU's CSTS Frugal Innovation Intiative:


  •  Mother Earth (GSBI Alumni '08) Launches Earth Food

    Friday, Jun. 10, 2011
    Earth Food is about eating sensible, natural, healthy and non-toxic food.

    Mother Earth (GSBI Alumni '08) announced the launch of its in house brand of healthy, organic, chemical-free range of food products named EARTH FOOD. This initiative is launched in association with Sahaja Samrudha, Karnataka’s first farmer producer company. EARTH FOOD launches today, June 10, at the Mother Earth Store, Domlur, Bangalore. In addition, Mother Earth offers fashionable choices in garments and accessories that are natural and stylish as well as sustainable and fair for gifts and home décor that keep India’s green hand skills alive.

    Find out more about Mother Earth:

  •  Social Entrepreneurs Focused on Alleviating Malnutrition & Food Scarcity

    Monday, May. 9, 2011
    Kurago Biotek (Mexico)

    This year, three of the 2011 GSBI class are focused on alleviating many of the malnutrition and food scarcity problems that plague Mexico, Nigeria, and Haiti.

    Kurago Biotek (Mexico) has developed nutritional supplements using biogel technology to mix probiotics, prebiotics, and vitamins for better overall health.

    Haiti Community Development (Haiti) promotes the production of the highly nutritious, locally grown Moringa for overall health benefits and economic development.

    Centre for Community Development - Nutrition On Your Doorstep (Nigeria) addresses Haiti’s food security needs through solarpowered production means.

    Please join Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society for a day of business plan summary presentations by all twenty 2011 Global Social Benefit Incubator entrepreneurs from around the world.

    Save the Date: GSBI 2011 Business Summary Plan Presentations

    Thursday, August 18, 2011
    Mayer Theater, Performing Arts Complex
    Register Here

  •  Solar Sister

    Friday, Apr. 29, 2011

    Solar Sister was one of the 20 socially-minded ventures from around the world that has been chosen to receive full scholarships to participate in the ninth annual Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™). The ventures provide essential goods and services to the poor, and often act as catalysts for economic growth. This year, over half of the 2011 GSBI class is focused on developing or distributing cleaner and cheaper sources of energy for the nearly 1.5 billion people in the world who have no access to reliable, grid power.

    Solar Sister empowers women through economic opportunity. Using a market based solution to eradicate energy poverty in rural communities throughout Africa, Solar Sister gives women the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Solar Sister combines the breakthrough potential of micro-solar lighting with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network. Women become their own bosses and earn independent income as entrepreneurs. Solar Sisters are change agents in their communities, providing access to affordable solar technology to replace the kerosene lanterns that are used throughout rural communities in developing countries.

    GSBI combines online instruction and in-residence exercises with training and mentoring from academic leaders and Silicon Valley executives over an intensive eight-month period. The final phase of the program features an in-residence program on Santa Clara University’s campus August 7-19, culminating with a business plan summary presentation on August 18.

    Learn more about the GSBI program!


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