Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  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

  •  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:


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