Center for Science, Technology, and Society, News page

  •  How can we Strengthen the Contributions of Incubators and Accelerators?

    Friday, Jul. 18, 2014

    James L. Koch is the Don C. Dodson Distinguished Service Professor of Management. He was founding director of Santa Clara University's Center for Science, Technology, and Society, and a co-founder of the Tech Museum Awards, as well as the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®).

    Among the chief takeaways from the Incubation to Acceleration track I chaired at Michigan’s 2013 BoP Summit was a singular notion: conventional business wisdom has limited applicability at the BoP. That insight stood in stark contrast to the assumptions that underscored the 2003 Networked World Conference at Santa Clara University. The purpose behind the latter conference had been twofold: to engage technologists, inventors and entrepreneurs in alternative future scenarios, and to spark Silicon Valley potential to develop solutions to urgent global problems, including poverty alleviation.  

    What can we learn from what did – and what notably did not – transpire in the decade between the two gatherings? 

    In answering that question, it’s important to consider how we might strengthen some of the lessons learned, to frame, as Peter Buffet wrote in a "New York Times" op-ed, “… a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. (A) new code” that “truly creates greater prosperity for all.”

    The 2003 Networked World Conference at Santa Clara University

    The late C.K. Prahalad delivered the April 2003 keynote at the Networked World Conference – a conference coordinated with Santa Clara’s launch of the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®). Prahalad reiterated the assertion of his 2002 Harvard Business Review article, “Serving the World’s Poor Profitably,” co-authored with Al Hammond, that, “Serving the lives of the billions of people at the bottom of the economic pyramid is a noble endeavor. It can also be a lucrative one.” Moreover, he argued, “Multinational companies should lead this market driven paradigm.”  

    Why Didn’t MNCs Lead the Way?

    Since those early days, Hammond has worked to catalyze the BoP movement at a variety of levels. While my efforts have focused on teaching and mentoring social entrepreneurs, including nearly 200 GSBI ventures, we’ve collaborated in a number of areas such as the development of a sector approach to scaling innovation. Independently, we’ve observed that the BoP market development efforts of major corporations have been greatly eclipsed by grassroots innovators. 

    Bill Davidow, co-founder of Mohr Davidow Ventures, offered discussant comments following Prahalad’s keynote. In retrospect, they proved prescient. Among them he suggested: 

    Corporate infrastructure is not equipped to do the job.

    BoP markets are risky and fragmented, and the needs are very different. Social customs are different, politics are different.

    Unique markets require special attention and understanding. Large organizations like to do things that are homogeneous.

    Davidow concluded, “I believe the opportunity is to create lots of entrepreneurship and inventiveness. I have lots of faith in that messy process.” 

    What Can We Learn from Social Entrepreneurs at the BoP?

    The Michigan summit was an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the GSBI ventures, but also to learn from other conference attendees, especially the individuals who joined my New Venture Development panel: entrepreneurs Donn Tice of d.light and Radha Basu of Anudip; Nancy Wimmer and her meticulously documented study of Grameen Shakti’s transformative rural business model; and Saurabh Lall, director of Research at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and recent coauthor of a major study of BoP incubators and accelerators.

    Four recurring themes emerged. First, the BoP customer has been poorly understood. Second, customer needs may exist, but market demand for products that meet the need may not. Third, vertical integration is often a necessity. Fourth, depth and breadth approaches offer alternative paths to scaling impact.

    The BoP Customer Has Been Poorly Understood

    Only recently has the “one-size fits all” myth been rejected. For example, the renewable energy success story of Grameen Shakti grew because it embedded its customized products and after-sales services in rural villages. Even at the BoP, consumers want choices, and may prefer to invest in aspirational goods that give them a perceived higher quality of life rather than goods that directly benefit their health (e.g., cell phone applications like mobile banking versus clean cooking stoves). 

    Customer Demand Must be Created

    While a consumer need may exist, market demand for products that meet the need may not. For example, before d.light could sell solar lanterns, they needed to educate consumers about the product to generate market demand. Similarly, Anudip needed to overcome self-limiting, culturally-based concepts of women’s roles in Muslim society to stimulate demand for its market-based skills training; and Grameen Shakti leveraged the trusted “brand” of Grameen Bank and pragmatic agency of village engineers to create customized use-case solar solutions fitted to the needs of rural households and future cash flows of micro-enterprises.

    New Businesses are Often Forced to Become Vertically Integrated.

    The actors in the supply chain are commonly in formative stages or simply do not exist. Distribution channels must be created, often to penetrate low-density markets that characterize the rural poor.  This was the case for both d.light and Grameen Shakti. Becoming vertically integrated from product design, to manufacturing, marketing, distribution and after-sales service strains the integrative capacity of new ventures and requires increased attention to organizational culture, systems and talent. Because of this, the flat portion of S-curve market cycles stays flatter longer. A great deal can be learned from the practices of organizational development in severely resource-constrained environments.

    Depth Scaling

    Influential players including investors and funders are often guided by incorrect assumptions.  Conventional business wisdom holds that ventures are most likely to scale through a narrowly focused product or service strategy, or by doing a few things well. While the economic rationality of this approach is frequently compelling in large established markets, many BoP ventures find that becoming embedded in local ecosystems requires that they seek a more significant level of social and economic impact through a depth-scaling approach within a community or narrower geographic context. Key in Grameen Shakti’s becoming the world’s largest solar home system provider to the poor was the ethos of its founders – if the village does well Shakti does well.  

    How can we strengthen the contributions of incubators and accelerators? Below are four suggestions. 

    1. Reduce Pressure to Scale

    Investors equate scale with success. Despite the uncertainties under which BoP ventures operate, new ventures are often pressured to scale before they know their customers, develop cost efficient distribution channels, understand unit economics and price structure, create demand, and attract and train the correct talent. The incubation phase for new BoP ventures should be a time to gather this information and “get the unit right” before scaling.  This entails understanding the “unit of social benefit” or impact as well as the “unit economics” or financial viability of a replicable unit of the business.

    2. Coordinate Funding Sources

    Capital is often aimed at specific stages of venture development, resulting in fragmented funding sources and “lean periods” as ventures graduate from one funding source but do not yet qualify for the next. John Kohler, Director of Impact Capital in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University advocates that incubators and accelerators should facilitate hand-offs across venture financing stages by conscious attention to milestones that are relevant to investor criteria for early-to-growth stages of organizational life cycles.  This is a work in progress that will involve re-imaging how capital markets might work if they were truly intended to serve the greater good.

    3. Set Appropriate Expectations

    There is a greater need to emphasize the challenges of execution.   Investments are needed to build the organizational capacity and support sustainable growth. Research by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) on incubators and accelerators suggests that by fostering a disciplined approach to growth, providing access to technical services, and increasing selectivity these intermediary organizations can become more central actors in facilitating access to a continuum of capital that is aligned with organizational life cycle needs.

    (Above: Eco-fuel Africa, a member of the GSBI class, aims to empower communities in Africa by converting locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizers. Image credit: GSBI)

    4. Codify Informal Knowledge

    Over the past decade, hundreds of ventures have been launched, but few have achieved significant scale in relation to the size of the market opportunity. The success of ventures depends on understanding the unique characteristics of doing business with those at the BoP. While the domain is just starting to understand these particularities, this process can be accelerated by learning from the exemplary practices of successful entrepreneurs. Codifying informal knowledge can enable the participants in incubators and accelerators to ground abstract concepts and convert uncertainty into clearly defined risk factors with field-tested mitigation strategies. Incubators and accelerators would benefit from a greater attention to learning from success and failure. ANDE research finds that systematic assessment of social benefit or impact is seldom used by incubators and accelerators as a feedback mechanism to measure and improve their effectiveness. 

    A Concluding Note

    The “fortune at the base of the pyramid” thesis may not have been correct. That’s especially true if our ultimate measure of value is the functioning of the global economy in facilitating growth through the flows of material goods, money, and people. It may not have been correct if we apply the rationality of large company decision making that measures success in quarterly returns or ad revenue growth curves. Neither is this thesis of a fortune in serving the unmet needs of humanity likely to hold in the future if we measure our fortune in the prospects of a sequel to “Angry Birds,” the unprecedented stock option wealth of CEOs, or the ability of social media to lure brilliant mathematicians and physicists to apply their genius to the development of “big data” algorithms for high frequency trading or monetizing the private data of unsuspecting users to benefit a small number of people.

    The real fortune at the base of the pyramid is a different kind of treasure — one that is measured in life options as opposed to stock options. It is measured in children who will not die of diarrheal disease before the age of five. It is measured in access to economically sustainable technology solutions that can provide all members of a family with safe water for just eighteen dollars a year. It is measured in the recognition of our collective humanity.

    The challenges discussed at the 2013 Michigan BoP summit are complex, and reflect a different mindset and reality than the 2003 Networked World Conference a decade earlier. These challenges call for whole systems thinking. At the same time, we’ve made real progress in identifying the critical factors for market-based solutions to play a meaningful role in providing every child the freedom to hope. In the next ten years, converting those dreams into reality is the scale by which we should measure our progress. 

  •  Pope is the Real Deal

    Friday, Jul. 18, 2014

    The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP), Catholic Relief Services, and the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame convened a two-day Impact Investing symposium at The Vatican on June 16-17, 2014. John Kohler, Director of Impact Capital at Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society offers his reflections on the event. 

    Pope Francis is the real deal. 

    In mid-June, I had the distinct pleasure to join a unique 2-day session on impact investing that was hosted by the Vatican.  As one would expect, the generative question posed was:  “How might the church use or promote impact investing to serve the poor?”  What made it unique were the recent writings and pronouncements Pope Francis has made to encourage the use of capital to lift up the poor.  Now, for the first time, there is direct acknowledgement and support from the Papacy for those involved in impact investing globally.

    Two weeks before we arrived Pope Francis sacked the entire board of the Financial Information Authority (AIF), the financial watchdog of the Vatican Bank, and replaced them with an international group of experts, including a woman. It’s clear that Francis is a man with the courage to enact change. He is intent on using the Church’s position, presence and energies to serve the poor.  Impact investing is one of those ways. 

    Impact investing employs private capital to achieve measurable social and environmental impact, often in underserved communities. While some monetary return is expected, the end goal is a more vibrant community, abundant with opportunities for sustainable, satisfactory livelihoods. At the conference, we explored specific examples of how impact investing aligns with the Church’s mission to serve the poor and used them as points of discussion and discernment.

    Part of my contribution were a few observations from the field:

    · For micro-enterprises, the mom-and-pop shops that are the critical tendrils of commerce in poor communities, access to capital remains stubbornly difficult or far too expensive. 

    · Involvement by local banks requires a pledge of substantial assets (which the poor do not have). 

    · Businesses need ‘capacity development’, a strengthening of their business model, at every stage of the lifecycle, from idea conception to successful execution to spreading and scaling the model. 

    · Equity exits, (the ability to sell investor shares in a company for a financial return) are difficult to achieve in base-of-pyramid markets. 

    · It is wise to focus on financial inclusion for women based businesses, since research from Goldman Sachs finds that women are 80% likely to bolster her community with the additional revenue, as compared with men at 30%. 

    I ended my presentation by showing the following photo. In it you can see a woman in a poor community parenting her children. Notice the flower in her hair and in the little girls’. While the backdrop depicts their dismal economic condition, what is strikingly evident is the dignity that these poor people possess. In the main, the poor are not asking for our handout - they are simply asking for the tools to earn a dignified living – the same tools, financial or otherwise, that we have used to build our societies.

    In Rome, our discussions navigated in the right direction, but that we have a long way to go. One point I was guided to is the immense complexity of the Catholic Church and how difficult it is to take unified action. There are numerous religious orders—Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines—each with their own priorities, approach, and culture. Yet, it’s important not to hide behind the complexity. Even though impact investing is a bold new concept and still somewhat unproven, we must continue to make strides towards discovering new financial tools to work on behalf of the marginalized. 

    It seems so evident that the Church’s funds should go to those that need it most and in the most sustainable way possible, that in the days that followed, I wrestled with the questions: Why the Church is just now addressing this issue. Why are they so late to the game? 

    The answer awoke me at three in the morning. 

    We are the Church. We are already in the game. This little pocket of activity at Santa Clara University is the Church in action. Let’s continue leading the way. 

  •  The GSBI® Network Explained

    Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014



    What is the GSBI Network and how many organizations are in it? 

    The GSBI Network is the lynchpin in our plan to multiply the positive impact that we’ve already seen our GSBI programs can have. At Santa Clara University, the Jesuit mission and ethos, combined with Silicon Valley ambition and entrepreneurial know-how, have produced a very powerful formula; we want to make that “open source” and enable others to capitalize on and expand what we have done.
    There are 11 members of the GSBI® Network with several other new members currently in the process of formally joining the Network. Most are Jesuit universities, but other members include non-Jesuit, but mission-aligned universities and non-governmental organizations. We’ve got some practices that are working exceptionally well, which we want to spread. Yet, there are important things for us to learn from the other Jesuit members. They are based in the developing nations we aim to serve and have a  better context to make change happen on the ground. 
    Can you give me the top accomplishments of the Network over the last 3 years of its existence? 
    The GSBI Network was founded in late 2011. In the three years of its existence, more than six new social enterprise incubator and accelerator programs have launched at member institutions. Students are also learning about social entrepreneurship through courses and experiential learning opportunities that let them engage with social enterprises in their communities or across the globe. Network members are also sharing best practices directly with each other in true South-South collaboration. Members of the GSBI Network have individually established themselves as thought leaders in social entrepreneurship through publications like the Journal of Global Management for Sustainability’s special issue on social enterprise. Network programs have already supported the efforts of dozens of enterprises.  
    In what specific ways would you like to see the Network evolve over the next five years?
    We want to grow dramatically in the number and breadth of members – engaging university and non-university members. We also want to see the collaborations and partnerships among members multiply. Finally, maybe most importantly, by seeing how certain practices work across multiple sites over time, we can pin down the best practices for building an ecosystem that enables social enterprises to flourish. 
    Given the recent global meeting of the Network on May 19-21, what are the action items/collaborations that come out of it?  How did this meeting differ from past Network meetings? 
    Some of the positive outcomes from the recent May meeting include an agreement for Santa Clara University to deliver a “train the trainers” program at Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines share our methodology with 8 Asian Jesuit universities. For the first time ever, we engaged domestic (US-based) Jesuit institutions with the GSBI Network and expect that some of them will go on to launch social enterprise programs.  
    Another outcome we’re especially excited about is a commitment among other GSBI Network members to pursue an innovative “Replication” idea, where we would orchestrate something akin to franchising successful social enterprise business models from their original communities to new sites using the GSBI Network members as Replication Hubs.  Many successful social entrepreneurs don’t seek to grow their business too far beyond a home community that is the focal point for their passion.  A Replication network would enable us to take already-proven business models, match those with carefully selected entrepreneurs, and give them training, support and mentorship at a GSBI Network member; this would dramatically improve their chances for success and investment-readiness.
    I read that the focus of the meeting was on having students spend their service learning time helping social enterprises solve practical challenges. Is this correct? Will this be a push to involve students more directly in the work of the Network? 
    As institutions of higher education, GSBI Network members have a special interest in global education and experiential learning for their students.  SCU shared our innovative Global Social Benefit Fellowships program, which raises the bar on traditional models of service learning; beyond giving students a chance to visit and volunteer in the developing world, our GSB Fellowships engage students in direct work with a social entrepreneur to provide a valuable business service or deliverable that helps the enterprise.  Other Network members are also innovating in this space, like Ateneo de Manila’s SE Consultancy course, in which student teams work as consulting teams for local social enterprises.
    Across the world, cash-strapped social enterprises frequently lament that getting and keeping competent personnel in uneducated communities is one of their greatest ongoing challenges.  Students and faculty offer a tremendous reservoir of volunteer talent, to help enterprises complete important projects at low or no cost.  The benefit is mutual:  for Universities with a mission to serve humanity, social enterprises offer a compelling opportunity for global education and learning through service.
    Students are eager for these opportunities, and the Network members see this as an excellent way to connect our centuries-old mission of education and service to humanity, with cutting-edge programs to foster social entrepreneurship.   
    How can I help or get involved?  
    One of our most pressing needs is to grow our pool of GSBI mentors.  Mentors are seasoned business professionals who work directly with social entrepreneurs to develop their business.  We are taking more social entrepreneurs under our wing, and more mentors are needed to support them.  We are especially seeking people with direct experience as entrepreneurs and investors. However, we are also in need of professionals at various levels who bring experience in areas such as finance, marketing, business strategy, and human resources.  Many of our social entrepreneurs have a great idea and a passion to help their community, but have limited knowledge of the mainstream business principles that Silicon Valley business professionals encounter daily.  
    The Center also relies on charitable contributions of every level to operate.  While the University covers our overhead, the Center’s programs are completely sustained by grants and donations.  We are counting on community support to enable the Network to reach its full potential. 
  •  Jack Bird Awarded Nobili Medal

    Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014

    Established in 1876 by Joseph A. Donohoe in honor of John Nobili, S.J., founder of Santa Clara University, the Nobili Medal is given to the male graduate for his constructive contribution to the University as deemed by the faculty and the provost. Jack Bird won the historic award for outstanding academic performance, personal character, and student activities.

    The most defining of those activities was the Global Social Benefit Fellowship.

    “The Fellowship has truly been the most inspirational and stimulating experience I have had at Santa Clara University” remarked Jack.

     “My time in rural Zambia allowed me to synthesize what I had learned in the classroom with real world issues and gave me a chance to actualize my passions in service to humanity. The Fellowship has shaped my vocational perspective in ways that I never imagined were possible.

    Jack worked alongside fellow Santa Clara students Lynsey Cumberford and Laura Ruggles at the Jesuit Chikuni mission, four hours south of Lusaka, Zambia. The Fellows conducted action research projects to evaluate and further develop Chikuni mission’s agroforestry and energy education program.

    The three also worked with GSBI® trained social enterprise Lifeline Energy, which enhances the education of rural Zambians through the Lifeplayer, an interactive radio.


  •  Investing for the Poor Conference Concludes

    Wednesday, Jun. 18, 2014

     JUNE 17, 2014 - ROME: Catholic Relief Services and the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, together with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP), closed its two-day symposium regarding Impact Investing today.

    Some of the highlights included

    ·       Dr. Carolyn Woo, President and CEO, Catholic Relief Services, began the day by providing an overview of day one highlights. She discussed the importance of measurement, details and the new framework we must work in to properly design and execute a successful Impact Investment program.  Woo also described the important role as a moral authority the Church needs to play moving forward.

    ·       Sr. Helen J. Alford, O.P., Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at The Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), helped to shed light on Impact Investing in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium.  She explained that “the Church needs impact investors to be reliable, concrete and relevant,” and added “This is not a new issue—it’s old, it’s part of bigger movement—creating money and creating social good at the same time.”  Religiously inspired investors among religious communities such as the Methodists and Quakers were among the first to employ social benefit as a criteria in investing. Turning to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, according to Evangelii Gaudium, the number one priority of our mission should be social inclusion. Pope Francis has talked about how exclusion is one of society’s biggest problems. 

    ·      Sean Callahan, Chief Operating Officer, Catholic Relief Services, led a panel on Sectoral Needs and Opportunities.  He made it clear that it’s not a question of whether we do these things—but when and how we do these things and added that we all must align in the same direction. Shaun Ferris, Director of Agriculture Programming, Catholic Relief Services, described agricultural livelihoods in Latin America and CRS’ Path to Prosperity model, moving beneficiaries from the status of Recovery (highly vulnerable); to Building (vulnerable, yet viable); to Growing (entrepreneurial  and thriving); Tom McPartland, CEO, ELMA Philanthropies Services, described some very successful Impact Investing programs for healthcare in Africa; and Paul Polak, Founder and CEO of Windhorse International, presented several case studies about his success designing water programs in India.

    ·       Dr. Mirza Jahani, CEO, Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A, ran a session about Blending Philanthropy and Impact Investments in a Faith-Based Model. He explained the goal of the organization: to improve quality of life through local, permanent institutional development and added that the key to his organization’s success has been in building institutions that take a long-term approach to addressing social issues.  These include banks in Afghanistan, a university in central Asia, a park service in Nairobi, Kenya, and a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, among others.

    ·       Matt Bannick and Sal Giambanco from the Omidyar Network described the important collaboration that must take place between for-profit and non-profit communities.  We all have shared interest here.  We care deeply about disadvantaged and the poor and our core values very much aligned with Pope Francis and other universal principles. This begins with respect and ends with humility. They added that the three fundamental keys to profit investment are value, self-sustainability and massive scale.

    ·       Terry Mollner, Board Member, Calvert Family of Socially Responsible Investment Funds, presented on Emergence of Investing for Good, and Ernest von Freyberg,President of the Holy See’s Institute for Works of Religion, provided Vatican Bank perspective on Impact Investing.  According to Freyberg, the Catholic Church is well positioned to engage with Impact Investing. It has an impact vocation in promoting the dignity of the human person. It has great service providers in its global ministries in health care, education and social services. And the church has great potential impact investors: the Catholic Church in Europe and North America built up tremendous wealth in the 19th and 20th centuries, and as its institutions shrink, church groups are looking to put this patrimony to use.

    ·       Mark Palmer, Chief Financial Officer, Catholic Relief Services, moderated a panel about the outlook of Catholic institutional investors and introduced Steve Schott, CapTrust Advisors and Jimmy Ryan from Merrill Lynch/Bank of America. According to Schott, “There is an appetite among my clients to learn more about Impact Investing.”  Ryan explained that none of his clients are engaged in Impact Investing yet because he has not heard enough about the options available for his clients.  He added it will be important for everyone to become educated on this topic.

    ·       Andreas Widmer, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at The Catholic University of America and President of The Carpenter's Fund, suggested that there should be very different teams for humanitarian aid vs. economic development, just as in a counseling relationship there are different providers who handle crisis and long-term counseling, so we don’t fall into the co-dependency trap. He explained that we need to find the best entrepreneurs on the ground in the countries to be role models.  He ended by saying the root of evil in companies does not come from the system but resides in individuals making bad decisions. We need to hold our business community to a higher standard and live our Christianity seven days a week, not just on Sunday. Because as Pope Francis has said, business is a noble vocation.

    ·       Dr. Patricia Dinneen, Chair, Impact Investing Council, Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, said that the conference had achieved its three objectives:

    o   Shared learning 

    o   Networking

    o   Discernment

    ·       His Eminence, Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, closed meeting by saying “everything we have done here is a way of responding to the Pope’s call for inclusive economics for the common good. In a very real way our discussion here on Impact Investing is a way of also addressing how we can make market-based business reach out to fashion an inclusive system of economics.” He added that we need to have a strong strategy and competent people on the ground to execute, and he sees CRS as playing a mediating role. The most immediate task is to present all that has been discussed during this conference to the local churches and the local bishops.

    He gave sincere thanks to all attendees and ended with a blessing for all attendees for safe travel back to their homes and their families. 


  •  Investing for the Poor Conference Concludes First Day of Sessions

    Monday, Jun. 16, 2014

    JUNE 16, 2014 - ROME: Catholic Relief Services and the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, together with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP), convened its two-day symposium regarding Impact Investing today just outside the Vatican in Rome, Italy.

    Some of the highlights included:

    ·       A private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  The Holy Father addressed all 100 participants of the conference and then met and shook hands with each attendee. “I offer you a warm welcome and I express my gratitude and appreciation for your Conference, which offers an important contribution to the search for timely and realistic strategies to ensure greater social equality,” Pope Frances told the conference participants. “A sense of solidarity with the poor and the marginalized has led you to reflect on Impact Investing as one emerging form of responsible investment.”

    ·       Dr. Carolyn Woo, CEO & President of CRS, called the gathering “a conference of high church and high finance.”  Regarding the issue of why we are engaging in Impact Investing, she added, “We must, we can and we will. Our Faith tells us we must do this, major studies prove that we can eradicate poverty and today we will learn how to do it effectively.”

    ·       Dr. Filipe Santos, Academic Director, INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, started the conference by introducing the concept and context of Impact Investing. He defined Impact Investing as “the purposeful allocation of financial resources to initiatives that can deliver measurable societal impact (social and environmental) alongside financial returns.” He noted that society is divided into three sectors: the commercial sector, the public sector (government) and the charity sector (foundations and philanthropy). The trend over the past 10 to 15 years has seen the public and charity shrink while the commercial sector has grown exponentially. At the same time, there has been an increased dissatisfaction with the role of both the financial system and the commercial sector in allocating resources in a productive way, and the inequality that results from a concentration of wealth. This has provided a motivation for the rise of Impact Investing. He also noted that in order to pursue Impact Investing, we must let go of prejudices, such as the discomfort many feel at seeing an entrepreneur who helps the poor receive high compensation.

    ·       Dr. Pat Dinneen, Chair, Impact Investing Council, Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, introduced three speakers who described successful Impact Investment projects that include insurance, healthcare and microfinance already taking place in Brazil, Nicaragua, Southeast Asia and several countries in Africa.

    ·       Sir Ronald Cohen, Head of the Social Impact Investment Task Force established by the G8, said we are on the brink of a revolution that will help developing countries. He described more than 26 Social Impact Bonds -- in which investors fund social services and are paid back by the government from its savings if certain benchmarks are achieved -- that are already working around the world to help prisoners, hospitals and microfinance.  Official aid is being dwarfed by private investors, and it’s time for us to step up and reshape the concept of philanthropy.  

    ·       Father Seamus Finn, OMI, Vice Chair of the Board, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, presented the concept of Impact Investing through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching. He described the responsibility of the Church as laid out in Catholic Social Teaching to help promote the common good. He noted that historically church communities, such as monasteries and universities, created cultural “spaces” in which new ideas could be tried, and that the Catholic Church might provide such a space for Impact Investing. He also described some of the challenges of the model, such as reputational risk and skepticism in some Church circles toward the corporate sector, as well as adherence to the Precautionary Principle, that this new approach must have a reasonable prospect of success without doing a lot of harm, especially to the poor, should it fail..

    ·       Margie Sullivan, COO Chief of Staff, USAID, moderated the next panel.  She said that 30 years ago 90% of development was generated by the government, and 10% from private investors.  Today it is the inverse, as the role and scale of government shrinks. The panel included Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, who said his $20 billion agency with a staff of 10,000 should use its resources in a catalytic way. “We can achieve transformational changes,” he said. Other panelists included Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen Climate and John Rogers, Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Secretary to the Board of Goldman Sachs.



    About Catholic Relief Services:

    Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit and on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief, @CRSnews, Goggle+, Pinterest and YouTube.

    Conference website: 


    Media contacts:

    Catholic Relief Services:

    Mendoza Business College:

    A daily summary will be posted on the conference website.

  •  New Partnership Aims to Channel Venture Capital Toward Promising Solutions to World Poverty

    Monday, Jun. 16, 2014


    SANTA CLARA, Calif., June 16, 2014— In 2010, Clínicas del Azúcar was a promising business that was discovering ways to drastically cut the cost of diabetes care for the estimated 12 million residents of Mexico who suffer from the disease. But it wasn’t until three years later, when a syndicate of investors discovered their progress and potential, that they received a crucial $1.3M investment that has enabled Clínicas del Azúcar to triple their beneficiaries, from 1,000 to 3,000. 

    Introducing investment-ready social entrepreneurs, such as Clínicas del Azúcar,  to investors who have experience in the field of “impact investing” is the idea behind a new partnership between Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®), which provides intense training and mentorship for social enterprises around the world, and Toniic LLC, a global network of investors focused on social enterprise.  

    “This partnership will connect a concentrated group of high-potential social entrepreneurs with one of the largest global networks of high-impact investors—channeling venture capital to fund sustainable solutions to our world’s most pressing problems,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS), home of the GSBI.

    At the heart of the agreement is a shared drive to provide those living in poverty with basic human needs, such as affordable clean energy, safe drinking water, quality health care, education, jobs, and economic opportunity.

    The GSBI-Toniic partnership will magnify each organization’s ability to effect meaningful change.  Impact investors are ready to use their resources for social good, but struggle to find investment-ready social enterprises that have a proven business plan, strong management team, and a viable business model.  

    “Doing due diligence on social enterprises thousands of miles away can be costly and lengthy,” notes Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO of Toniic. “GSBI provides a significant screen and enhanced quality control for Toniic investors that gives us an extra level of confidence.”

    In its annual program the GSBI Accelerator, high-potential entrepreneurs are offered rigorous training and mentorship to become investment-ready and able to multiply their reach and impact.  GSBI has worked with some of the finest social entrepreneurs operating today, including micro-lender Kiva, Husk Power Systems, and eyeglass provider VisionSpring.

    "Both Toniic and GSBI seek to address the global challenges of deepening poverty and increasing inequality by enabling more impact investors to use their capital to support and scale stronger social businesses. We are excited to partner with GSBI, whose partnership will provide us with high-quality investment opportunities for our global investors." said Toniic’s chief investment officer and head of Asia Pacific, Shalaka Joshi., based in Mumbai.

    The GSBI-Toniic partnership includes plans to create an executive education program for new and seasoned impact investors, as a way of sharing best practices in the sector.  The curriculum is currently in development with philanthropist-education group, The Philanthropy Workshop West, as a co-creator.

    “We are thrilled to team up with Toniic, one of the few  global networks of impact investors, to expand funding options for  our incredible line-up of social entrepreneurs,” said Pamela Roussos, director of strategic alliances at CSTS.   “Toniic is a pool of sophisticated investors with high expectations that matches and elevates our own work.”   


    About GSBI

    The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) is a leader in accelerating global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. The GSBI currently offers two capacity development programs to global social entrepreneurs: the GSBI Accelerator, for more advanced social enterprises seeking to scale their business, and GSBI Online, for earlier stage ventures seeking basic business training. Both programs are designed for high engagement between entrepreneurs, mentors and GSBI program staff.  To date, the over 200 social enterprises that completed the GSBI programs have gone on to impact the lives of 100 million people worldwide.


    About Toniic

    Toniic is a global network of action-oriented impact investors, both individuals and institutions. We increase the velocity of money and services into impact investing to address global challenges. Our members commit to discover, evaluate, nurture and invest in entrepreneurs, enterprises and funds that promote a just and sustainable economy.


    About Santa Clara University

    Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,800 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, theology, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see


    Media Contacts

    Jessica Loman | Director, Toniic | | 804-814-3195

    Jaime Gusching | CSTS | | 408-554-6048

    Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | | 408-554-5121



  •  A Call to Magis

    Monday, Jun. 16, 2014

    On May 18, Santa Clara University hosted our inaugural Magis event, celebrating the social entrepreneurship movement and its leaders. It was a warm Sunday evening that brought more than 300 special guests to campus, uniting modern Silicon Valley entrepreneurship and the centuries-old Jesuit drive to serve humanity.

    St. Ignatius of Loyola used the Latin word magis to encourage us to live and give more generously, asking the question, What more can I do for others? At the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, our goal is to help social entrepreneurs provide essential goods and services to more people living in poverty around the planet. At Magis, we asked the broader Santa Clara University community, What more can we do? What more can Santa Clara do to eradicate poverty?

    According to the World Bank, 4 billion people live in poverty, including more than 46 million here in the U.S. The UN projects the global population will grow to 10 billion by 2050. It appears unlikely that planet Earth can sustain further population growth and the consequent environmental pressures that fuel climate change. The convergence of population growth and global warming make the poor even more vulnerable. We are at an inflection point. More clearly needs to be done for others – and for the planet.

    Charity is not enough. While essential following natural or human-made disasters, charity doesn’t stimulate economic growth, empower local communities, create lasting change, or scale. In fact, meaningful scale has eluded most poverty alleviation efforts. Development paradigms applied to reconstruct Europe after WWII have proven largely unsuccessful in Africa, India, and Asia where most of the global poor reside. The “fortune at the bottom of the pyramid” philosophy has yielded few sustainable solutions to the most pressing problems of poverty.

    A social entrepreneur is a pioneer of innovation, someone who recognizes a problem and uses business principles to create and run a venture to yield positive social change. Social entrepreneurship has emerged as a scalable alternative with greater potential to effect sustainable change in poor communities while preserving the environment.

    One of the sector pioneers along with Skoll Foundation and Acumen Fund, the Center now serves as an open-source learning laboratory for scaling social impact.

    Our leadership team, Advisory Board, and GSBI Mentor corps include many start-up executives and venture capitalists: the DNA of Silicon Valley. What unites us is the Center’s mission: to accelerate global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. The convergence of Silicon Valley entrepreneurial acumen and Jesuit tradition both distinguishes Santa Clara and offers us a unique opportunity to do more to eradicate poverty and slow global warming.

    Three pillars form the Center’s integrated social justice platform. Our GSBI® (Global Social Benefit Institute) programs help social entrepreneurs apply Silicon Valley entrepreneurial thinking to their ventures that serve the poor. In the first 12 years of GSBI, we’ve worked intensively with more than 200 social enterprises, which have collectively impacted the lives of nearly 100 million people in 55 countries around the planet. Second, our Impact Capital program facilitates financial investments to help social enterprises scale. Third, our Education and Action Research program educates future leaders who can apply the principles of social entrepreneurship in whatever vocations they pursue.

    In the spirit of this unique convergence, Magis honored social entrepreneur and impact investor Graham Macmillan and renown leader of the social entrepreneurship movement, Skoll Foundation President & CEO Sally Osberg. Both remarked that the values of Santa Clara University infused Magis; indeed, the Secretary of Higher Education for the Society of Jesus, Fr. Michael Garanzini, welcomed guests that evening.

    Leaders from social enterprise incubators and accelerators at Jesuit universities and other mission-aligned organizations around the world joined Fr. Garanzini at Magis as we convened the fifth GSBI Network meeting. The GSBI Network can multiply Santa Clara’s marriage of Silicon Valley DNA with Jesuit ethics in several ways. First, GSBI Network partners share best practices in social enterprise incubation and acceleration, making real our vision to help more social entrepreneurs. Second, by engaging students and faculty in practical action research with social enterprises, we can collectively help those ventures scale to serve more of the global poor. Third, these experiential learning opportunities help our students become future leaders who can create a more just, humane, and sustainable world.   

    We are at an inflection point. The convergence of population growth and global warming make the poor more vulnerable. At the same time, young people around the world are demanding career options that offer more than money: they want a better world. Santa Clara is humbly at the heart of this transformative time. We are striving to do more, and we invite you to join us.

  •  Women, Nature, and Opportunity in Africa

    Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

    BaNaPads demonstrates an inclusive economy

    The transformation of a social problem into an opportunity for mutual benefit is the kernel of social entrepreneurship. One need not look further than BaNaPads (GSBI 2012) to illustrate how social entrepreneurs recognize a social need and create a business with a mission to serve their fellow human beings. As he was finishing up his studies at university, Richard Bbaale learned about the significant social and economic problems caused by the lack of access to women’s sanitary products in Uganda. Many teenage girls miss school days during the menstruation cycle, and this becomes a leading cause of girls failing to complete their studies. The inability to complete school has lifelong consequences, keeping women at an economic and social disadvantage. Most Ugandans are quite poor, and no multinational corporation perceived any opportunity to market these products to them.

    Where others saw problems, Bbaale perceived economic opportunities. He identified an agricultural waste product, the banana stem (technically, a pseudostem) as a free resource. Uganda grows a lot of bananas, and after the fruit are harvested, the banana stalk is chopped down to decompose in the field. Bbaale identified a process for transforming this into different kinds of fibers that are assembled and sterilized into sanitary napkins.

    BaNaPads’ marketing and distribution system is just as innovative and important. Bbaale has recruited BaNaPads Champions: village women – mothers and grandmothers – who sell the sanitary products and foster community education among girls. These micro-entrepreneurs are deeply rooted in village communities, and have the trust of locals. They sell products on consignment, often using local schools as their venue.

    Thus, BaNaPads has been able to keep its costs very low and yet is able to reach and benefit customers very far from the beaten path. At the same time, they provide a modest income for African women villagers.

    When I saw Bbaale give his business plan presentation at GSBI two years ago, I thought: this is very nice, feel-good project, but unlikely to do very much. Later that year, I had the privilege of visiting the BaNaPads facility in Uganda, and came away impressed with the passion, determination, and entrepreneurial approach of Bbaale and his team. He has a bold vision: to scale up significantly and expand to other East African countries. Recent reports indicate he is gaining traction! They have opened a facility in Tanzania and begun operations there, with plans for more.

    In December 2013, Thane Kreiner and Pamela Roussos brought an executive social benefit immersion delegation to visit Bbaale. That night, Thane emailed me and insisted we send Global Social Benefit Fellows to support BaNaPads in their expansion. The enterprise received a grant from the Swedish International Development Agency to scale up their production and expand their networks of BaNaPads Champions. A European investor has expressed interest in funding further expansion.

    This summer, three Global Social Benefit Fellows will spend 7 weeks in Uganda with Bbaale, conducting action research to document how BaNaPads is expanding. BanaPads is replacing their hand machines with an integrated set of biogas-powered production system, and this needs to be analyzed and optimized. The enterprise is scaling up its recruitment and training of village-based micro-entrepreneurs and needs to formalize those processes in a manual. They have demonstrated that demand far outstrips their current capacity, but they are seeking a mobile app that can effectively track their distribution activities. Our fellows will conduct a needs assessment and partner with the Frugal Innovation Lab to recruit engineering students to develop this.

    Women have made good progress toward equal opportunities in the US and Europe over the past fifty years, but many obstacles clutter the path of African women toward equality. Many media reports reinforce Afro-pessimism, the belief that Africa’s problems are unsolvable. Yet Bbaale and BanaPads show us that with entrepreneurial thinking, women can indeed find their place in an inclusive economy.

  •  Impact Capital at the Vatican

    Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014

    The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services and the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame is hosting a two-day, invitation-only symposium. The Center's Director of Impact Capital, John Kohler, was one of the select few invited to discuss the topic of  "Investing for the Poor: How Impact Investing Can Serve the Common Good in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium."

    The conference is an opportunity to learn core concepts of impact investing and how it aligns with the Catholic Church's mission. The goal is to discern how the Church might use or promote impact investing to serve the poor. Several global leaders in the impact investing field from business, government, academia, and philanthropy will be in attendance.  The conference may even have an audience with Pope Francis himself. 

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