Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  Human Capital, Sustainable Social Enterprises, and Fossil Fuel Subsidies

    Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013

    Originally published on Weds, Nov. 20 2013 on

    The BoP Summit organized by William Davidson Institute last month focused on creating an “action agenda” to help build better enterprises serving the global poor. In both breakout and plenary sessions, human capital emerged as a core challenge. Specifically, many social enterprises struggle to attract, develop, and retain talent – especially in rural markets that lack infrastructure and the big-city vibe that appeals to young entrepreneurs.

    A number of social enterprises focus on livelihood training and have developed hybrid models. GSBI alum Anudip, for instance, provides market-aligned skills training for marginalized women and youth in rural and peri-urban India. Graduates can compete in the open market, or if they wish to remain in their communities, work at global “smartsourcing” firm iMerit, a for-profit in which Anudip holds a significant stake. Digital Divide Data, another GSBI alum, provides higher education opportunities and impact sourcing employment to youth in Kenya, Cambodia, and Laos.

    Many social enterprises provide other goods and services that governments and markets fail to deliver – safe drinking water, clean and affordable energy, therapeutic foods, agricultural inputs – to name a few. While these enterprises frequently result in dignified livelihood opportunities that fuel local economies, the paucity of proximal talent can impede their rate of scaling. Experienced managers know that the cost of turnover is high: it takes time to recruit and develop; institutional knowledge, often not centrally stored is lost; and relationships that drive revenue aren’t instantly transferable. Harris and Kor recently reported on the role of human assets in scaling of social enterprises.

    The human capital challenge spans every level of the enterprise including entry-level positions, mid-level management, senior leadership, and more often than not, governance. Proportionally, there simply aren’t that many experienced, successful business people who can serve as leaders or mentors in frontier markets, particularly not in rural areas. Moreover, entrepreneurial ecosystem services that catalyze formation of appropriate human capital are underdeveloped, including a paucity of institutions of higher education, credentialing programs, and enterprise incubators and accelerators.

    A “$1:$1:$1” recommendation emerged from the BoP Summit working group on Enterprise Support. It goes like this: for every $1 invested directly in a social or BoP enterprise, there is a need for $1 in capacity development or technical assistance to the enterprise, and for another $1 in ecosystem development. The dollars don’t all need to come from the same source. Still, the burning question is, where is all this money going to come from?

    In September, the World Economic Forum assessed the impact investing sector from the supply side, citing various estimates of growth to the $400 billion to $1 trillion range by 2020. However, WEF noted the current market size is around $25 billion. Whether the growth estimates are unrealistic or not, the estimated $41 trillion upcoming wealth transfer from Baby Boomers to Generation X and the Millennials is transforming asset management paradigms as younger generations express enthusiasm for double or triple bottom line returns. Once reliable financial and social returns are demonstrated, it is reasonable to anticipate that investment capital will become much more abundant.

    But human capital is a different matter. Among the more than 200 social entrepreneurs with whom we’ve had the honor to work, a significant fraction are Western educated. As they scale their ventures, their compelling visions for a more just and sustainable world attract young talent, whom they train and groom. These ambitious young managers forsake high-paying jobs with benefits that enable them to plan for their own futures. After several years, however, many feel they are “falling behind” – servicing student loans, saving for a home, creating a foundation for their own families are simply not possible on the salaries social enterprises are able to pay them, even if they enable quality lifestyles in Kenya, India, or elsewhere in the developing world. In the developed world, social sector salaries present many of the same challenges and often preclude quality lifestyles, especially in big cities; the human capital gap is not limited to BoP markets.

    Providing reasonable compensatory benefits to Western educated talent would encourage more to devote their careers to building and leading social enterprises; this of course only a partial solution: ecosystems services must evolve to generate sufficient local talent to build and lead impact enterprises globally. In parallel, however, encouraging well-educated Western youth to pursue careers in social entrepreneurship can help close the human capital gap.

    It seems ironic that choosing vocations devoted to poverty eradication and planetary sustainability should consign some of the most talented young leaders of our generation to relative poverty themselves, at least compared to their peers. Providing compensatory benefits, such as contributions to a 401(k) and student debt service, would further tax the financial returns of social enterprises, or reduce the surplus available to invest in scaling. So, what, then, is a possible solution?

    The Overseas Development Institute identified a potential source in a report released last week: redirect fossil fuel subsidies to support human capital for social good. Shockingly, the International Energy Agency found that fossil fuel producers received over $500 billion in subsidies in 2011. These subsidies distort both energy and carbon markets. Off-grid clean energy solutions created by social enterprises around the world are less competitive, as the full cost of extraction isn’t reflected in market prices for fossil fuels. Carbon prices are artificially low as a result of these subsidies, limiting incentives for innovation that slow global warming. Energy accounts for a disproportionate share of household expenditures among the poor, and global warming disproportionately affects the poor, a fact that not only causes significant harm to those nations, but is disrupting international relations around the world. As ODI indicates in the title of its report, time for change: let’s shift subsidies to sustainable energy solutions and to closing human capital gaps so that social enterprises can scale more quickly.

    Thane Kreiner is executive director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, at Santa Clara University, home of the Global Social Benefit Institute.

  •  Reflections on Opportunity Collaboration 2013

    Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013

    Many people I know and respect had told me that Opportunity Collaboration was the best conference they went to. Being an unconference, the guidance was “it is what you make of it”.  

    From the moment we were all boarding the flight from Mexico City to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, I knew I was in for something different.  It felt like we were going to summer camp.  The plane was abuzz with conversations. Fellow conference goers were already meeting and engaging one another.  The conversations ensued on the bus ride from the airport to the conference facilities, Club Med.  Even though most of us had been on red-eyes to get to Mexico City, the air sparked with energy and enthusiasm.  

    Upon arrival at Club Med, we were taken to Communications Central where each of us had mail slots.  This was one way of connecting with each other.  I came to refer the slips of paper I would find in my box, asking to meet, as love notes.  It proved to be an efficient method of scheduling time with interesting people.  The only difficult part was where to meet.  By the pool?  In the bar?  Walk on the beach?  One of my favorite moments was scheduling a meeting using my iPhone.  The location of the meeting?  “Beach”.  I laughed typing that in.  

    I can safely say that every conversation I had throughout the week, be it in a breakout session, before or after colloquium (homeroom class), by the pool, or saddled up at the bar, were fascinating learning moments.  I have been to hundreds, if not thousands of conferences throughout my professional career; that never happens.  There is a magic combination of attracting 350 passionate people from around the sector and the relaxed environment that allows for truly interesting discussions.  The transactional nature of “typical” conferences has no place at Opportunity Collaboration.  I went from one impromptu discussion on what role BIG banks can play in this sector to a dinner breakout on spiritual activism.  

    The connections I made at the conference go way beyond having a business card.  I have already had a number of conversations with people I met, some of which were “thank you”, others “see you soon” and others still “let me connect you with people I believe can help you”.  And who knows where other connections I made will go.  There were many stories of people meeting several years ago at Opportunity Collaboration and now they are working together.  

    Opportunity Collaboration is an unconference about continuing to build a strong and resilient social impact sector through relationships.  Like good wine, it takes time.   

    From the Desk of Pamela Roussos, Director of Strategic Alliances

    Opportunity Collaboration
  •  CSTS October Newsletter is out!

    Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013

    The CSTS October Newsletter is out!

    This Month's topics include the GSBI Accelerator, Alumni in the News, and Opportunity Collaboration.

    Read and download the PDF here

  •  Global Social Benefit Fellow Reflects on Collaborating with Peers

    Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

    Even though it has been over three months since I returned from my Global Social Benefit Fellowship placement in Zambia, I still have not processed all that I learned.

    When we were told about the roundtable presentations, we chose a theme and were charged with presenting cross cutting themes of social entrepreneurship based on our experiences in the field. We were put in teams of 3-4 fellows with the rule being that none of our roundtable members could have been part of the same fellowship placement.

    The Sunday before our presentation, Emily (Solar Sister/Angaza Design in Uganda), Phil (Anudip/Imerit in India), and I gathered sluggishly in a conference room. Our title was “Clean Energy: Unlocking Economic Potential”, but aside from that, we had nothing. The three of us had been in three different countries, with three different enterprises, conducting research in three very different areas.  Yet there we were trying to string together our experiences into a coherent presentation with cross cutting themes, all while trying to remain interesting and engaging.

    The first few hours of preparation was a cycle of thinking we had gotten somewhere only to realize that we were wrong about something and had to start back from square one. Pacing back and forth, slowly but surely, however, we began to cover all of the whiteboards in a colorful splattering of words, arrows, questions, and comments. Little by little, with the help of many cups of tea and some much needed Thai food, we began to piece together what we thought would be a suitable presentation. We then wrote down a list of open ended questions and tacked them on to the end of the presentation.

    When the day of the presentation rolled around, I was apprehensive about what was going to happen. I was worried that we would sound disjointed and fail to get to the level that was expected. As we began rolling however, I became more comfortable and realized that we didn’t in fact sound too bad. At the end of our presentation, we entered into a discussion with the audience, posing the open ended questions that we had written down. This led to an exciting debate about the usefulness of the social entrepreneurship in addressing the needs of off grid communities. I came to realize that we had in fact, learned quite a lot from our many hours locked in the conference room. Not only did each of us have some experience that was relevant to the topic, but we were able to articulate it in such a way as to broaden one another’s understanding of this theme.

    After watching the second round table presentation from three other fellows, the fact that we had all learned so much from our placements became even more apparent. Despite our wildly different experiences in the field, through a few hours of serious discussion, we were able to come together and generate some very interesting questions and theories.

    Again, even though it has been three months, I am still learning from my experiences, and I can say that I am very grateful to have 13 other fellows whose experiences I can learn from as well.

    Jack Bird
    Team Zambia
    GSBF 2013

  •  Global Social Benefit Roundtables

    Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

    Arriving in India was a sensory overload. It has hot. The food was spicy. I couldn’t understand the language and it was a twelve and a half hour time difference.

    Even with extensive preparations through the Global Social Benefit Fellowship, it was hard to process all the experiences we were emerged in daily. Utilizing my film background, I worked with sister enterprises Anudip and iMerit, who focus on rural education and job placement in Eastern India, documenting their methods, processes, and social impact. I regularly took three to four hours trains rides to rural villages to film interviews with both the employees and students of the sister organizations.

    The excursions were enlivening, eye-opening, and my favorite part of my trip providing a true insights into life in rural India. My fellow fellows and I sifted through a lot this information through discussion and blogs over the summer, but the Social Entrepreneurship Action Research Roundtables (SEARR) gave us another opportunity to analyze our time abroad in a more discussion-based manner.

    Our mentors and teachers, Thane Kreiner and Keith Warner, helped fashion us into groups for the roundtables with each team focusing on a different aspect of Social Entrepreneurship. I teamed up with Emily Albi, who worked in Uganda with Solar Sister and Angaza Design, and Jack Bird, who worked with Lifeline Energy in Zambia. As Jack and Emily are very passionate about energy poverty, we decided to center our roundtable on the idea of clean energy in developing nations. While I personally had not dealt with clean energy while working in India with Anudip and iMerit, Jack and Emily were experts on it. After a brief consultation we came up with our name, “Clean Energy: Unlocking Economic Potential,” and we were off.

    The Sunday before our presentation Jack, Emily, and I found our way in to a conference room, opened our laptops and our minds and began to talk, think, discuss, and debate clean energy in the developing world. In setting up the lecture, we decided to play to our strengths. Jack and Emily focused on explaining the idea of energy and the power sustainable energy has as a catalyst for change, while I talked about how energy access in rural areas allowed Anudip and iMerit, the companies I worked for, to enact their business strategy and help rural poor transform their lives.

    After Jack, Emily and I spoke, we planned to open it up to discussion with the audience. This was the part I was most nervous for, relying on audience participation to fuel discussion always makes me nervous because there is no way to predict what might be said or if anything will be said at all. We posed two main questions to the audience, “What defines an energy Social Enterprise?” and, “Does holding Social Enterprises to a triple bottom line hinder their growth and impact?”

    With the first question we hoped to provoke discussion by debating whether PG&E could be considered a social enterprise as they provide energy to ‘underserved’ populations in rural areas. In the second question, we speculated whether clean energy was unlocking potential, or actually undermining potential by restraining scalability in order to keep the enterprise environmentally sustainable.

    The answers for the spectators were phenomenal putting all my fears to rest. The audience was passionate, engaged and voiced defenses of both sides of the issue. The excited discussion and connection of the audience turned our lecture on clean energy into a true roundtable.

    The Social Entrepreneurship Action Research Roundtables were a fantastic opportunity for my fellows and I to organize all the knowledge we had gained while abroad in our respective placements, draw some conclusions, and compare perspectives on key issues. It allowed us voice the experiences we had, and apply them to the materiel we learned developing out action research projects.

    Moreover, the talks helped raise awareness of the fellowship as it ends its second placement and begins to recruit a third class. Hopefully, you attended one, but if you didn't keep an eye out for the talks next year with the next installment of Global Social Benefit Fellows.

  •  Women's World Banking: Founding a Movement

    Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013

     On October 30th, a role model for women around the world shared her story with Santa Clara students.  Michaela Walsh, a pioneer woman manager for Merrill Lynch in Beirut in the 60’s, the first woman partner of Boettcher in the 70’s, and Founding President of Women’s World Banking, inspired students with her story of tenacity, passion, and determination.  As one of the first women on Wall Street to be named partner, Walsh shared her vision for the next generation to be tenacious and willing to bend the rules to create change.  Students were encouraged to go beyond seeking set paths and blaze their own.   

    Michaela Walsh, childhood friend of CSTS Senior Research Fellow of Emile McAnany from Kansas City, is best known for her founding of the Women's World Banking organization in 1980 and leading it as CEO until 1990 where she remains on its board. WWB was the first all-women's global financial organization to serve women in developing countries with access to small and medium loans. Today it has more than forty national affiliates with assets of  a billion dollars. But the founding of WWB was only the culmination of a journey that included many turns in her life. She was was an early female employee of Merrill Lynch, and the first woman to serve abroad with that organization in Lebanon form 1960-64, also on her return one of the first women to earn a broker's license on Wall Street. Her work at the Rockerfeler Brothers Fund lead her to attend the UN Conference on Women in Mexico City in 1975. There she met women from developing countries with whom she created a working group to help women attain financial independence. The history of that work from 1975 to 1990 is included in her 2012 book Founding a Movement. Michaela's mission today is to encourage young women to become involved in the issues of development and change with a special focus on helping women in developing economies to access the financial means to prosper. She was very interested in the work of the Social Benefit Fellows and their future careers as global change makers. 


    From the desk of Emile McAnany


  •  Lions and Tigers and Social Entrepreneurs, Oh my!

    Friday, Oct. 18, 2013


    “This is the most gratifying thing I do all year.” Dennis Rekker, GSBI mentor, told a group of 16 social entrepreneurs representing 10 startups from 9 countries in Africa and Southeast Asia on Friday, Oct 18th.


    During October, ten tech startups DEMO 2012 Award Winners from Africa and Southeast Asia traveled to the Silicon Valley on an innovation Tour to meet with industry leaders, incubators, and other entrepreneurs before pitching their ideas at the DEMO Global Showcase in front of investors and tech innovators.


    The congregation of entrepreneurs listened intently as Program Director, Cassandra Staff led the group through the workings of the GSBI Online program, targeting early stage social enterprises, as well as GSBI Accelerator, the program designed around gap analysis to eliminate obstacles that prevent organizations from achieving scale and investment.


    Mike Looney Director of the GSBI Mentor Network then discussed the roles of mentors in GSBI. He opened by asking how many of the entrepreneurs in the room had a mentor. One hand stood in the air. GSBI mentors are similar to sports coaches, previous players who know their position very well and now teach others how to play the entire field. Our mentors specialize in building business that scale and bring that insight into the program to help the entrepreneurs grow.  GSBI veteran mentor Brad Mattson talked about the full extent of the relationship formed during GSBI and how often mentors and mentees stay in contact past the program. Participants can relate to the mentors who know what they are going through and who provide push-back and honest feedback to help them succeed.


    GSBI provides an experience where mentors and mentees can share with the entire group their insights and experiences. Upon asking those assembled, "how many of you plan to find a mentor?" all sixteen hands shot up.



  •  Congratulations John Kohler, ANDE Member of the Year!

    Monday, Oct. 7, 2013

     It takes a lot to make a grown man blush.

    Yet, the cheeks of John Kohler, Director of our Impact Capital Program, flushed red when the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) honored him as Member of the Year at their annual conference.

    John thought he was going to give a talk on his ground-breaking Demand Dividend, an innovative investment tool designed to accelerate investment in enterprises serving the world's poorest village communities.

    He simply didn’t see it coming.

    “Well, the award was a surprise! Since ANDE is such a big tent covering all aspects of impact, this is a huge honor. It is peer recognition from a community of practitioners that I care deeply about. It’s just fabulous. I couldn’t be more honored.”

    John is one of the brightest stars of the impact sector. He brings over 30 years’ experience to the Center, gained from his executive leadership at Hewlett Packard, Silicon Graphics, and Convergent Technologies/Unisys and his extensive venture experience. John provides guidance as a mentor and impact advisor to the social entrepreneurs of the GSBI Accelerator and GSBI online community. 

    Congratulations, John! We are happy to have you!


  •  Evolution and Adaptation of the Flagship GSBI Yields Promising Results

    Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013

    Evolution and Adaptation of the Flagship GSBI Yields Promising Results  

    As part of its vision to positively impact the lives of 1 billion of the world’s poor by 2020, the Center is successfully experimenting with ways to scale social benefit.

    We explained the design of these experiments in a Huffington Post blog earlier this summer. The GSBI Online experiment met with terrific success and we’ve just announced a third cohort. Through GSBI Network, we help “incubate incubators” for social enterprises, and are pleased by the recent addition of two new members, Birla Institute of Management Technology (India), and Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico).  But our most ambitious experiment was the GSBI Accelerator to prepare proven social enterprises for scaling their impact and help them secure appropriate capital.

    We think of the Center as an open-source learning laboratory for scaling social entrepreneurship and impact investing. As we learn from our experiments, we endeavor to share the knowledge with the broader ecosystem. Data from our GSBI Accelerator experiment suggests that optimal capacity development paradigms will vary depending on the stage of the social enterprise. We discussed some key emergent parameters just before the social entrepreneurs arrived on the Santa Clara Campus for the in-residence component of GSBI.

    Immediately after the GSBI Showcase in a NextBillion blog, we explained both the GSBI Accelerator design and what Silicon Valley can learn from social enterprises that are preparing to scale. This year’s highly customized program for more advanced social entrepreneurs was extremely well received by mentors, content leads, impact investors, and critically, the social entrepreneurs themselves. As Venture Beat noted, our central theme of investment-readiness includes helping the entrepreneurs learn how to find appropriate capital. Impact investors are engaged in the continued evolution of our GSBI Accelerator experiment. We are accepting applications for the next cohort! 

    From the Desk of Thane Kreiner


  •  CSTS September Newsletter

    Sunday, Sep. 1, 2013

    Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®

    Evolution and Adaptation of the Flagship GSBI Yields Promising Results

    As part of its vision to positively impact the lives of 1 billion of the world’s poor by 2020, the Center is successfully experimenting with ways to scale social benefit more


    GSBI Accelerator Showcase Videos Now Available

    Meet 12 social entrepreneurs who are shape shifting the scaling and impact investment environment.
    Watch the Videos

    2014 GSBI Accelerator Applications Open Through October 31, 2013

    Social entrepreneurs – the GSBI Accelerator can help prepare your venture to scale its impact and be ready for the investor due diligence. 
    Impact investors – maximize social and financial returns by encouraging your portfolio ventures to participate in our capacity development program.  
    Apply Now

    GSBI Online 2013 Fall Cohort Welcomes 15 Organizations

    With a focus on clean energy solutions, this cohort includes organizations serving populations in Haiti, India, Jordan, Madagascar, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Uganda, and the United States. 
    Fall 2013 GSBI more

    GSBI Alumni News – A Snapshot of Our World

    - Promethean Power:  Full Cream Ahead!
    - Juhudi Kilimo: only social enterprise to win CIO 100 Global Award!
    - Husk Power Systems featured in Obama’s Power Africa Initiative!

    - Manoj Sinha CEO of Husk Power Systems on his Accelerator Experience 

    GSBI Alumni: have any news or enterprise updates? let us know by emailing 

    Of Note

    Demand Dividend Builds Momentum In Impact Investment Space
    Looking for an investment vehicle optimized for small and growing businesses in frontier markets? Check out the Demand Dividend and generate your own term sheet.

    Special Issue on Social Entreprenuership

    A special issue of The Journal of Management for Global Sustainability edited by Thane Kreiner is devoted to the notion of social entrepreneurship as practical social justice and is now available online

    Accelerating Adoption of Off-Grid Energy

    Based on its work with more than 60 social enterprises addressing energy poverty, the Center posits that matching off-grid energy sources to productive use will accelerate economic development by creating sustainable livelihoods in poor rural and urban communities...Read more
    BOP Summit October 21-23

    BOP SUMMIT: Creating an Action Agenda for the Next Decade 

    200 leaders will meet at the William Davidson Institute to develop a robust roadmap for building better BoP enterprises October 21-23. Executive Director Thane Kreiner and Founding Executive Director Jim Koch will represent the Center and its GSBI and impact investing programs. 
    BOP Summit October 21-23

    Experienced CEO Pamela Roussos Named Strategic Alliances Director 

    "Having been a GSBI mentor for 5 years, I’ve been very impressed with how this organization has grown and truly established itself as a leader in the social entrepreneurship and impact capital space.” Read Pamela's bio here

    SOCAP Recap

    The Center Shines at SOCAP13
    The Center reinforced its position as a thought leader and practitioner in social enterprise. Read about our role in mentoring entrepreneurs and advancing impact more

    Read blog entries from workshop panel organizers John Kohler, Thane Kreiner, and Andy Lieberman

    AT A GLANCE: GSBI Statistics 

     •    202 enterprises have completed GSBI programs
     •    Nearly 100 million people’s lives have been positively impacted* by these
     •    40% of the enterprises are scaling, meaning that impact is growing in
          a financially sustainable manner

    •     This scaling rate is more than three times that of conventional
          for-profit ventures
     •    $89 million of funding has been raised by enterprises post-GSBI programs
     •    90% of GSBI alumni are still in business

    *Social impact is challenging to measure, especially since GSBI alumni impact lives in many different ways. As part of their participation in GSBI, entrepreneurs identify a metric for tracking the number of lives their venture positively impacts, such as number of people with clean drinking water or number of people using clean cookstoves.  The impact of each enterprise is displayed on its alumni profile.


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