Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  Framing Dignity

    Monday, Apr. 16, 2012

    Whirlwind Wheelchair International designs sturdy, low cost wheelchairs that are built and used in developing countries. Whirlwind has trained wheelchair users and community members for 25 years on how to build and repair these wheelchairs in local workshops using locally available materials. Unlike the traditional wheelchairs designed for a hospital, the Roughrider is tough enough to negotiate the bumpy surfaces of rural and slum environments, where typical chairs tip over. They apply technologies from US mountain bikes to help people who are socially excluded in the developing world. Whirlwind extends its innovations through a network of social enterprises and local organizations. Whirlwind Wheelchair International graduated from the GSBI in 2006.

     Our GSBI alumni are restless. They are not content with the innovations they brought to GSBI. They continue to improve, invent, and imagine. To match that spirit, the Center has just launched the Global Social Benefit Fellowship. Santa Clara University undergraduates work with GSBI alumni to learn from them and to support them with research. In early April, two Global Social Benefit Fellows visited Whirlwind Wheelchair’s headquarters in San Francisco to discover how they might help this international organization.

     Whirlwind is expanding its mission from providing a service to those excluded by society, to providing an entrepreneurial framework for those same people to start their own microbusiness. To do this, they are applying what they have learned about rugged wheelchairs to the creation of adult-sized tricycles that can carry small goods for sale, such as stamps, snacks, drinks, or lottery tickets. Push-cart vending is ubiquitous in the developing world. A trike opens up this economic niche for those unable to walk. This reframes Whirlwind’s strategy: from designing a mobility device --> to creating a microenterprise platform so that the socially excluded can earn an income.
    Keoke King, director of marketing at Whirlwind, demonstrates where micro-entrepreneurs will carry their goods for sale on a very early prototype of the tricycle
    Aaron Wieler, director of R&D at Whirlwind, explains the research opportunities
    This is where our fellows, Nate Funkhouser and Stella Tran, can help. Microfinance institutions usually make smaller loans than the price of a tricycle, but if Whirlwind can make the case for extending credit to potential buyers, then this innovation could really take off. Microcredit is extended to those who want to buy push-carts, so why not for a mobility device plus microenterprise platform? Nate and Stella will investigate the economic landscape of push-carts, trikes, and microfinance, and research the best ways to make a business case for these kinds of loans.

    Whirlwind challenges us to recognize that those who cannot walk can still live a life of dignity. They often cannot do this on their own, but technology can help. The physical framework of the trike provides a platform for the disabled to participate in the economic life of their society. Our task now is to reframe the thinking of economic institutions so that they can fulfill the potential of this technology to extend dignity to aspiring entrepreneurs.

    For a great video on Whirlwind Wheelchair International watch: 

    Keith Douglass Warner OFM is a San Francisco native, a Franciscan Friar, and the   director of Education in the Center. 



    Nate and Stella investigate the functionality of the roughrider
  •  Laureate Feature: E HealthPoint

    Friday, Apr. 13, 2012

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    Who: Amit Jain, Co-Founder & President

    What: E HealthPoint:

    Where: India

    When: The Tech Awards 2011 Nokia Health Award Laureate:

    How: E HealthPoint’s clinics deliver improved health and productivity to low income populations in India using broadband wireless to provide affordable point-of-care medical services and clean drinking water facilities. This innovation is estimated to benefit more that 200 million people.

  •  Careers in Social Entrepreneurship

    Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012
    This post is a preview of tonight's panel discussion co-sponsored with the SCU Alumni Association and Career Center. You can find event information here.
    Social Entrepreneurs apply the principles of entrepreneurship to create social change. They think innovatively about how to improve health, increase access to technology and education, refine agricultural or building practices, or utilize sustainable energy.
    Tonight’s panelists offer a diverse range of perspectives on the world of social entrepreneurship. The groups operate in different sectors, different countries and with different business models. The speakers themselves hold different positions within these groups, and come from very different backgrounds, including finance, engineering, and program development.

    Andy Lieberman- CSTS: Online Program Director
    The mission of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) is to promote the use of science and technology to benefit underserved communities worldwide, primarily by working with socially-minded entrepreneurs. The Center implements its mission through its signature program, the Global Social Benefit Incubator, the Frugal Innovation Lab, and its numerous educational and public engagement activities.
    Andy Lieberman manages the GSBI Online program, the Clean Energy Sector program, the Tech Awards laureate programming, and the CSTS social enterprise metrics database. He uses his background in technology, education and international development to help social enterprises increase their reach and impact. He has received awards from the United Nation’s World Summit on Information and Society and The Tech Awards, and also participated in the Global Social Benefit Incubator.

    Ellen Metzger - Village Enterprise: Operations Supervisor
    Village Enterprise helps equip those in a cycle of poverty with the tools they need to start an income generating business. Their programming focuses on helping these entrepreneurs throughout the whole process to build long-lasting businesses: they provide a start-up grant, ongoing training and mentoring, and a business savings program.
    Ellen Metzger is the Operations Supervisor at Village Enterprise. She comes from a background in Finance and Accounting, with a particular interest in development and micro-finance

    Gemma Bulos - Global Woman’s Water Initiative: Director
    GWWI trains women in Africa to become community leaders for safe, clean water.  They provide technical training on how to build simple water harvesting, treatment and toilet technologies, as well as the tools to educate their communities about safe water practices.
    Gemma Bulos is one of the co-founders of GWWI.  Her background includes developing innovative programming for income generating projects, participating in the creation of several successful NGOs, and extensive travel. Before becoming Director at GWWI, Gemma was the Founder/Executive Directer of A Single Drop (USA) and Founding Director of a Single Drop for Safe water in the Philippines. She has been recognized nationally and internationally for her social entrepreneurship work, and her integration of technology in social change.

    Jacob Schultz - Kiva: Fellows Program Manager
    Kiva believes that everyone--even those in most remote locations--should have the power to create opportunity for themselves and others. Kiva uses the internet and their network of micro-finance institution partners to connect lenders and entrepreneurs worldwide. The Kiva Fellows are the volunteers who collect the stories, photos, and updates from the entrepreneurs, bringing their stories to life for lenders, while simultaneously providing invaluable information to the local micro-finance institutions.
    Jacob Schultz is the Fellows Program Manager.
    whirlwind wheelchair

    Marc Krizack - Whirlwind Wheelchair International
    Whirlwind Wheelchair International is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world while also promoting sustainable local economic development in the process. They are committed to building all-purpose wheelchairs that are durable and locally repairable, making them truly useful to riders in the developing-world.
    Marc Krizack, Director of Operations, helped establish Russia’s first independent living center, first university level disabled students program and first university level orientation and mobility (for blind people) teacher preparation program.

    Mathias Craig - blueEnergy Group: Executive Director
    blueEnergy Group uses four distinct but complementary programs that aim to provide access to power, water, and other services in the most challenging contexts. Their Holistic Community Development Program coordinates partnerships between communities, the government, education and the public and private sectors to identify and address needs in individual areas; the Global Leadership Program gives individuals the tools they need to implement their own social entrepreneurship goals; the Renovables Program is working on developing Nicaragua’s abundant renewable energy potential; and their WindEmpowerment program is a global association working for locally built wind turbines.
    Mathias Craig is the Executive Director of blueEnergy. He founded the group in 2003 and has a background of over seven years of experience working with wind energy. He has also spent time living in Latin America, and obtained degrees in both Civil and Environmental Engineering. At blueEnergy he contributes administrative, programmatic and fundraising leadership.
    digital divide data

    Michael Chertock - Digital Divide Data: Chief Development Officer
    Digital Divide Data increases the value of data by making it more easily available to all by transferring it online, on mobile devices, and in information systems. Moreover, DDD recruits highschool students trapped in a cycle of poverty, providing opportunity through training, employment, and schooling. By doing so, they simultaneously build human resources and management capacities, fueling the economy in the communities that DDD serves.
    A co-founder and former Board Chair, Michael is Chief Development Officer for DDD. He has an extensive background in both development and philanthropy, serving as the Program Officer in the Global Development in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; as a consultant in philanthropy and international development for private foundations and donors; acting as the co-founder and Managing Director of Global Catalyst Foundation; managing the philanthropy arm of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm; and helping to start Schools Online.

    Sam Baker -Not For Sale: Business Development
    Not for Sale combines technology, intellectual capital, abolitionist groups, and a growing network of individuals to create a comprehensive response to human trafficking and slavery. Not For Sale spreads knowledge and inspires action by creating tools that can be used by a wide variety of groups--students, businesses, individuals--to donate their skills to the cause.
    Sam guides the expansion of Not For Sale's social enterprise initiatives, which focus on empowering survivors of trafficking and at-risk communities. With a business education and experience as an entrepreneur in Central America, Sam enjoys working through the daily challenges of integrating social impact and business. Whether in the garment industry in Cambodia or indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon, Not For Sale's business team is dedicated to modeling businesses that encourage economic freedom over dependence.

    Whitfeild Fowler - Driptech Inc.: Director of Engineering
    Driptech is an international water technologies company. Their mission is to alleviate poverty by creating affordable, water efficient irrigation solutions for small-plot farmers in developing nations. With this technology, priced 50% lower that the nearest competition,  the small-plot farmers can increase their yields 20-50%, with while decreasing labor and expenditures.
    As the Engineering Manager at Driptech, Whit leads the engineering and product development efforts there.  In addition, he is a visiting lecturer in the subject of Design For Manufacturability for Stanford University's Mechanical Engineering department and for Keio University's Graduate School of System Design and Management (in Japan). Prior to his present positions, Whit worked in jobs involving mechanical engineering or reliability for several other organizations on the west coast and in the midwest including Velkess, SunPower, Bloom Energy, GE Infrastructure - Aviation, GE Healthcare, and Logic Product Development.  He completed a Ph.D. (2009) and  M.S. (2005) in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford. 

  •  Laureate Feature: Sarvajal

    Friday, Apr. 6, 2012

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    Who: Anand Shah, Co-Founder & CEO

    What: Sarvajal:

    Where: India

    When: The Tech Awards 2011 Nokia Health Award Laureate:

    How: Sarvajal enlists local entrepreneurs as Sarvakal Franchisees to operate and distribute water locally through delivery or through “water ATMs” in their villages from company-owned filtration units. They support franchisees centrally by providing maintenance, marketing and back-end operations support. This model allows them to grow quickly and innovate locally.

  •  Laureate Feature: WE CARE Solar

    Friday, Mar. 30, 2012

    Want to see more photos? Visit our Facebook Page!

    Who: Laura Stachel & Hal Aronson, Co-Founders

    What: WE CARE Solar:

    Where: Headquarters in Berkeley, CA. Impacting: Nigeria, Liberia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, Burma, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Haiti

    When: The Tech Awards 2011 Nokia Health Award Laureate:

    How: Our Solar Suitcase is a simple, portable, self-contained solar electric system providing reliable light and power to health workers and others in need. 1.6 billion people in the developing world live without electricity. This includes more than 300,00 health clinics that cannot provide 24-hour emergency care, hospitals in need of back-up power.

  •  Laureate Feature: Eko India Financial Services

    Friday, Mar. 23, 2012

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    Who: Abhishek Sinha, Co-Founder and CEO

    What: Eko India Financial Services:

    Where: India

    When: The Tech Awards 2011 Flextronics Economic Development Award Laureate:

    How: Eko facilitates money transfer, deposit, withdrawal and bank account opening services at next-door retail shops using number dialing on basic mobile phones for low income and financially excluded people.

  •  International World Water Day: Social Entrepreneurs Tackle Water and Sanitation Issues

    Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012
    Today, March 22nd is the 19th annual World Water Day. The United Nations General Assembly established World Water Day in 1993 as a way to focus attention on the importance of fresh water, and each year chooses a specific theme to emphasize. This year’s theme is water and food security.
    While many are celebrating the UN announcement that we have reached the Millenium Development Goals’ drinking water target ahead of schedule (89% of the world’s population with access to “improved drinking water sources”), there is still much work to be done in giving equitable access to water for all.
    One group making strides in this arena is social entrepreneurs – leaders of non-profit and for-profit organizations pursuing the social mission of alleviating poverty.  In our 9 years of experience with The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBITM) at Santa Clara University, we have trained hundreds of social entrepreneurs to help them build and scale sustainable organizations that solve problems for poor people around the world. Many have set up organizations designed to tackle the challenges of access to and reliability of safe drinking water, efficiently using water for agriculture and food security, and safe and healthy access to improved sanitation.  Read on to learn more about their efforts as we celebrate them on World Water Day. 
    Though we have met the MDG’s target goal of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water, there is still a great disparity between which people have access and which do not. The number of people in rural areas using an unimproved water source in 2010 was five times greater than in urban areas. On average, women in rural Africa and Asia have to walk 6km a day simply to obtain water.
    gram-vikas Gram Vikas (GSBI ’04) Gram Vikas focuses on creating change at the community level, empowering local families to take responsibility for the health, education, and livelihoods. The water and sanitation program uses a 100% participation guide, teaching everyone how to build, maintain and understand sanitation services, so that everyone in the community—including women and the poor—have access to safe, clean water.

    The drinking water target is measured by the number of people with access to “improved” water sources, such as a piped supply, borehole, or protected well. It does not account for whether these sources are reliable, sustainable, or even functional. As long as a borehole exists, it is counted - whether or not water comes out when you turn the tap. In order for water technology to be useful, it must be reliable, and people must have the ability to have it fixed if it breaks.
    naandi-clean-water Naandi (GSBI ’08) The Naandi Foundation incorporates reverse osmosis and ultra violet technologies to create safe drinking water for India’s poor, resulting in improved health and productivity. Over 390,000 households in India have been reached by Naandi’s water purification technologies.
    meridian-design-aqua-star Meridian Design, Inc. (GSBI  ‘07) Meridian Design makes safe drinking water available on an individual level, by designing and selling portable water purification devices which are small, hardy, and affordable.
    The MDG focuses on sustainable access to clean drinking water and sanitation; however, there are essential uses for water that are not part of the drinking water target.  Water is imperative for every form of food provision--feeding livestock, growing rice and grains, to fish farming. In fact, irrigation accounts for close to 70% of human water usage. Having enough clean drinking water for each individual does not necessarily mean there is enough access to water for farming, industry, sanitation or health - problems which greatly affect a country’s ability to develop.
    ide-india International Development Enterprises India (GSBI ’06) IDEI connects smallholder farms in India with inexpensive irrigation devices. This generates a greater yield for the farmers, allowing them to spend their extra earnings on their children’s education, a more nutritious diet, and expanding their farm and livestock.

    The MDG to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to basic sanitation appears to be off-track.  Poor water sanitation is responsible for the death of 1.8 billion people a year. Unclean water and poor sanitation is the 2nd biggest killer of children, and related illnesses often prevent children from attending school.
    pump-aid PumpAid (GSBI ’08) Pump Aid is committed to providing clean accessible water sources in Sub-Saharan Africa by building pumps and toilets in communities. Their Elephant Pumps safe, protected water sources that are easily built and easily maintained by the local communities. Their Elephant Toilets are similarly designed with local materials, and they help prevent sanitation-related illnesses.
  •  Laureate Feature: Nano Ganesh

    Friday, Mar. 16, 2012

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    Who: Santosh Ostwal, CEO & Founder Director

    What: Nano Ganesh:

    Where: India

    When: The Tech Awards 2011 Flextronics Economic Development Award Laureate:

    How: Nano Ganesh is a remote control system for the agriculture water pumps located in rural areas. Using Nano Ganesh along with a low cost mobile phone, a farmercan remotely switch a pump on or off, check power availability, and check the pump status.

  •  Laureate Feature: Rickshaw Bank

    Friday, Mar. 9, 2012

    rickshaw bank
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    Who: Pradip Kumar Sarmah, Founder & Executive Director

    What: Rickshaw Bank Project:

    Where: India

    When: The Tech Awards 2011 Flextronics Economic Development Award Laureate:

    How: Rickshaw Bank provides a means of self=employment to the poor and the marginalized rickshaw community by offering a “rent-to-own” financing option for rickshaw pullers to purchase an innovative new rickshaw. 95% of rickshaw pullers hire their rickshaw on daily rental basis so much of their earned income is taken up with the next day’s rental fees.

  •  How Women Social Entrepreneurs are Tackling The Feminization of Poverty

    Wednesday, Mar. 7, 2012
    Today, March 8th, marks the 15th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  Focused on Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities, and Progress for All, International Women’s Day is about far more than the continuing effort to shatter the glass ceiling (for more on gender inequity, read this OECD Report and this World Bank Report ). 
    Around the world, women make up 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty.  According to the UN, Women account for a vast percentage of the world’s absolute poor, disproportionally suffering from hunger, disease, environmental degradation and impoverishment. Even more distressingly, women perform 66% of the world’s work, and produce 50% of the food, yet earn only 10% of the income and own 1% of the property (2009).
    It is becoming clear that investing in women gives more “bang for the development buck” as investments made in women trickle down to positively impact their children and communities.  In the developing world women are more and more seen as the societal change agents for lifting themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty. (For more details on the multiplier effect of investing in women and girls read this blog post and watch this GirlEffect video).
    In addition, despite systemic imbalances throughout the world, women control the majority of “household” money – the daily funds used for food, cooking fuel, lighting, and children’s education.  Taken together, women represent a $10 trillion market, about 1/6 of the world’s economy.
    In business, too, we see more and more women-led organizations tackling this problem household by household.  In our 9 years of experience with The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBITM) at Santa Clara University, we have trained 50 women social entrepreneurs to help them build and scale sustainable organizations that solve problems for people living in poverty. Many have set up organizations designed to empower women and girls. 
    Below are a few examples of exceptional GSBI alumni tackling some of these issues. We salute them, and the millions of other enterprising leaders striving to end poverty, and the feminization of poverty, for good.


    Zipporah Ogwenyi, Binti Africa Foundation, Kenya (GSBI ’08). The Binti Africa Foundation provides poor women and girls in Kenya’s rural areas with access to education and products for health, sanitation, and social empowerment. This includes producing low cost, affordable, and locally produced sanitary pads; providing information about health and rights; and creating clubs with a focus on mentoring and building young girls' confidence.


    Suraiya Haque, Phulki, Bangladesh (GSBI ’05). Phulki Provides low cost day care facilities in Bangladesh to enable women to achieve economic emancipation without sacrificing the well-being of their children. Phulki has also begun a project to provide a ‘safety net’, providing counseling, skill training, education and legal services for the thousands of young women working in homes in Bangladesh.

    Katherine Lucey, Solar Sister Uganda (GSBI ‘11). Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity.  Using an Avon-style distribution system, Solar Sisters sell solar lighting products directly to female heads of household – providing light, hope, and opportunity. Read more on their blog.


    Jabeen Jamughodawala, Sahaj, India (GSBI ’09).  SAHAJ is a fair trade organization, working with tribal women artisans of eastern Gujarat, India to create home-based livelihood opportunities. SAHAJ economically empowers these women by providing product design and development, business development, marketing, micro finance, and capacity building for women’s craft industries. This helps the women to be able to stay at home, send their children to school and take care of their health and agriculture. 

    Photo Credit: Gifts and Graces blog

    Gregorie Perez, Gifts and Graces, Phillippines (GSBI ‘09). Gifts and Graces works to improve opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged who seek to earn income by making handicrafts and other livelihood products. Those who benefit most are often female entrepreneurs who use their craft to overcome poverty and become leaders and role models in their communities. Gifts and Graces partners with other NGOs to identify marginalized groups, and then provides product development assistance and training which will help them sharpen their creativity, and improve their craft, and strengthen sales.


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