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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!
Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011
For two weeks, we spent early mornings and late evenings interviewing them: the 43 GSBI 2011 finalists, chosen from a pool of more than 162 qualified applicants, all of whom spent three months completing mentored learning exercises as part of the GSBI application process. Going through this for the first time, I was intimidated by the sheer volume of time required to prepare for and conduct the interviews in addition to my “day job”, requiring 16-hour works days. But all of that was nothing compared to the compelling stories we heard from these amazing 43 social entrepreneurs, connecting by Skype from five continents.
I love the definition of ‘social entrepreneur’ used in the awards ceremony program at this year’s Skoll World Forum: 1) society’s change agents; 2) creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better. By the way, the Skoll World Forum was amazing in many dimensions: intellectual, emotional, spiritual; check out the videos of the sessions. Each of the women and men we interviewed—and there were more women than ever this year, an encouraging indicator of change in and of itself, but more on that later—each of these agents had a palpable passion for effecting social change by disrupting one of the wrongs afflicting the poor people of our planet with an innovation. Whether an innovation in technology, business model, or ecosystem, or some permutation of thereof, we had the honor of listening to each of them explain her or his vision for changing the world.
For this alone, each deserved to of win one of our 20 positions for the remaining five months of the 2011 GSBI program. Our collective task was to choose those who would benefit most by participating in the next three months of virtual learning, each individually matched with two Silicon Valley executives, then a two-week intensive in-residence program in August.
This year’s GSBI class was announced on April 13, 2011. Eight are women, the highest number and percentage ever. Eight are working in Africa, again the highest number and percentage ever, and also an encouraging trend. Six are from Asia, including India; two each are from Latin America and Haiti; and one each is from Europe or working globally. Twelve are working to provide clean energy to some of the 1.4B “off the grid” people, once more the highest number and percentage ever 45% offer a product, 40% offer a service, and 15% offer both to the poor communities they intend to transform for the better.
All of the 2011 GSBI class will present their business plans on August 18, the culmination of their work during the in-residence portion of the program. The presentations will be here on the Santa Clara University campus, with immediate feedback from a panel. Imagine a live, ‘best-of’ version of The Planet’s got Talent for helping the poor (but with genuinely helpful feedback), mark your calendars, and come hear how this amazing class will change the world.
Monday, Apr. 18, 2011
Silicon Valley Mentors and Academics Partnering with Social Entrepreneurs
to Address Most Difficult Developing World Challenges
Twenty socially-minded enterprises from around the world have been chosen to receive full scholarships to participate in the ninth annual Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI™). These ventures provide essential goods and services to the poor, and often act as catalysts for economic growth.
The GSBI program empowers socially-minded entrepreneurs to build economically sustainable organizations and to solve problems for people living in poverty around the world. The signature program of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University, the experience and capacity-building GSBI program combines online and in-residence exercises with training and mentoring from academic leaders and Silicon Valley executives over an intensive eight-month period.
Products and services being developed by the 2011 Class include: biogas-powered milk coolers for Ugandan farmers; microfranchise training and employment opportunities for slum youth in Kenya; probiotics to improve health in Mexico; solar-powered chicken and egg production in Haiti; and women-created fashion and furniture from recycled garbage in the Philippines.
Read more at http://www.scu.edu/news/releases/release.cfm?b=208&c=9775
Thursday, Apr. 7, 2011
Just six months in to my new role as Executive Director for the Center for Science, Technology, and Society here in the heart of Silicon Valley, I am still the “new kid on the block” in the social entrepreneurship universe. Our focus at the Center is promoting the use of science and technology to benefit underserved populations worldwide, and the primary means by which we promote are through entrepreneurship and innovation. Specifically, we focus on helping social entrepreneurs build sustainable and scalable ventures through our pioneering Global Social Benefit Incubator™ program, now entering its 9th year, and more recently through the Frugal Innovation Lab initiative, a vision of my colleague Radha Basu.
One advantage of being the new kid is the opportunity to look at the neighborhood through a different lens. Another is to profess naïvete, often borne of genuine ignorance of the tremendous body of knowledge amassed by brilliant people around the world. With that caveat, how we can help entrepreneurs and innovators scale the best solutions to create impact at the level of the issues affecting poor communities around the world?
I know some incredibly intelligent folks who think in multiple dimensions; I’m limited to three. At my nascent stage of understanding, the axes are: technology, business model, and context. Technology innovations for social benefit are often considered in terms of the goods or services they provide to the poor. On a trip to visit social entrepreneurs in India in January, I observed that two very different needs—clean water and off-grid energy—could better scale through technology innovations enabling measurement and transactions. How do we foster, reward, and honor technology innovations throughout the value chain?
After more than a quarter of a century in Silicon Valley, it’s easy to think of business models in that vernacular: let’s make it as big of an enterprise as we can, as quickly as we can, to maximize the present value of our bottom line, be that single, double, or triple. I’ve met a lot of social entrepreneurs who are most passionate about serving communities they know personally—that’s anecdotal, not statistical. Moreover, mechanisms for accrual of benefits from scale through replication or franchising to the original entrepreneur or innovator are less evident in theory or practice. What are the right incentives for “open source” social entrepreneurship and who needs to “play”?
Assuming one can identify the best technology innovation to solve a particular social problem and the right business model for building a sustainable and scalable venture (or ventures), there are a number of other contextual factors that influence whether or not the venture will be successful. In the realm of genetics, these were referred to under the umbrella of ELSI (Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues). The people who live in the house down the street, or in this case the faculty in the building across the green on campus, look at the universe and the neighborhood through different lenses. How do we encourage meaningful research to identify success factors in social entrepreneurship based on sociological, cultural, political, and other contextual factors?
Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011
The Tech Awards, presented by Applied Materials, was launched in 2000 and is an annual international awards program that honors innovators from around the world who are applying technology to benefit humanity. It inspires global engagement in addressing the world's most pressing problems by recognizing individuals and organizations that utilize innovative technology solutions. Laureates are inducted each year into The Tech Awards Network (TAN) that provides access to resources and mentoring aimed at increasing organizational impact. The Tech Museum, Applied Materials, and Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology and Society (CSTS) collaborate to insure that laureates benefit from the educational, networking, and leadership opportunities in Silicon Valley.The Tech Awards Gala 2011 will be held on Thursday, October 20, at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
The Tech Awards focuses on five categories: Environment, Economic Development, Education, Equality and Health, which were inspired by the 15 Global Challenges identified in the State of the Future report (published by the Millennium Project of the American Council of the United Nations University. Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organizations are eligible. Candidates are nominated and then invited to submit applications. International panels of judges review the applications and select 15 laureates.
Three laureates in each category are honored and one laureate per category receives $50,000. They are honored at an annual Gala event and inducted into TAN, which extends the award program from an annual event to a year round program. Laureate benefits include The Tech Awards Showcase, media interviews, filming, marketing materials, seminars, workshops, speaking engagements, networking opportunities, and more. In addition to the opportunities provided by the Silicon Valley community, CSTS provides the laureates with additional chances to network by connecting them with the Santa Clara University community and its network of social entrepreneurs worldwide. Each year the laureates are invited to participate in the Center's annual fall conference that looks at the theme of how to take technology innovations to scale through collaborations among The Tech Awards laureates, large NGOs, corporate partners, and the Center's Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) program. This year’s conference will bring examples of successful social entrepreneurship to the wider Silicon Valley community. Based around interactive panel discussions, the agenda will focus on providing tangible examples from entrepreneurs who have built their social ventures into self-sustaining organizations that provide real, on the ground impact to those living in systemic poverty. This year's conference will take place on October 19, 2011 on the Santa Clara University campus. Nominations are accepted through March 31, 2011. The Tech Awards program requires participation in a two-step nomination process:
Step 1: Submit Nomination
Submit a nomination for yourself, or another organization. Nominations for The Tech Awards 2011 are now open until March 31, 2011.
Step 2: Application and References
If your nomination is accepted, you will be invited to submit a more detailed application and required to provide references (e.g., business colleagues, professors, mentors, or members of the group applying).
Learn More About the Application Criteria and Categories