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  •  Action Research Abroad and Beyond

    Monday, Nov. 3, 2014

    2014 Fellows
    Over the last twelve years, we have worked with over 300 social entrepreneurs through our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs. GSBI programs enable social entrepreneurs to benefit from the expertise and experience of Silicon Valley executive mentors as they refine their business models and identify opportunities for scaling impact.
     
    Through our Global Social Benefit Fellowship, we provide undergraduates the opportunity of a lifetime: to work in interdisciplinary teams with GSBI Alumni social enterprises around the world. This past summer, 15 students worked for 7 weeks with 6 social enterprises in Mexico, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Uganda.
     
    The Fellowship offers a unique experience abroad that cannot be compared to any other study abroad program that the University offers to students. In the GSB Fellows program , students work with social enterprises that are making a real impact today. As a Jesuit university, SCU educates students with the intent that they will utilize their education to improve the lives of others. As a Fellow for GSBI, students are able to begin this mission before they start their senior year.
     
    The Fellowship is a year-long program in which the students are able to utilize the skills they have acquired through their first three years at SCU to figure out how to help a social enterprise better their business. The program is not just traveling abroad, and the impact doesn’t begin and end with the trip itself. There is a significant amount of work that is done before and after the time spent abroad with the entrepreneurs, and the pre- and post-work is some of the most beneficial work that is done for the entrepreneurs and the Fellows. These classes that precede and follow the time abroad are research-heavy and time-consuming. However, they enable the students to deliver meaningful results that truly help the social entrepreneurs with their missions.
     
    Our current class of Fellows returned this past August with new outlooks on how closely the world is connected. Through each of their individual experiences, these Fellows were able to meet and learn from people who are overcoming real problems everyday. The time abroad really brings home the fact that the work that they are doing during the program is going to help real people. The issues are very prominent to many, but there are solutions. The Fellows are able to help figure out these solutions and actually meet some the people whose lives they have impacted.
     
    Caroline De Bie, who has been working with the social enterprise BanaPads, reflects on her time abroad:

     “Everyone who has ever traveled to the developing world comes back all starry-eyed, saying that the people they encountered on their journey were some of the most inspiring, innovative, hard-working and happy people they have ever met. And while it’s easy to silently be annoyed by their optimistic view of poverty, I know exactly what they’re talking about.


    One of the most memorable personal stories that we heard during our time getting to know our community in Uganda was the story of a woman named Grace. Grace was one of the first Champions hired by BanaPads in 2010. She was a young mother trying to care for her children and looking for ways to pay their school fees. Once she was hired by BanaPads, she started selling the pads to her neighbors and to local fisherman who would walk by her house. But then she started to save her earnings, eventually saving enough money to open her own store. Although she has no formal education in business, she has her own system of keeping track of inventory and is always thinking of new ways to take her business to the next level.

    When we asked her what her favorite part about being a Champion was, she replied, “I love waking up in the morning and knowing that I have my own business. It keeps me working and moving, and I live a better life because of it.” Simply feeling that she is in control of what happens to her and what path she will take in life is enough to keep her going.

    After this encounter with Grace, I started to notice this desire for personal autonomy in the other people we talked to. Almost every Champion we talked to said that they felt so much happier now that they could pay for their kids’ school fees. Several high school students we talked to had dreams of going to University to make a life for themselves. I saw signs at almost every school encouraging young people to stand up for themselves and not to fall prey to people who might take advantage of them. Everywhere, I saw small business owners and community efforts run by people who wanted to make a change in their own life and in others’ lives.
     
    To learn more about her experiences, read her blog.
     
    Alex Cabral spent her fellowship working in Mexico with Illumexico, which provides solar electric systems to rural communities. After her return to her “normal” life, she reflected on the differences between her own community and the communities that she was able to meet during her time abroad.
     
    Although the communities had similar characteristics (rural, low-income, houses made of wooden planks with woven palm-leaf or tin-planks roofs), each place was unique. Some communities were fairly spread out, with houses sprinkled throughout an open field. Some were buried in the hills, so that it took a 25-minute walk just to get to the front porch. People had talking parrots, motor scooters, hammocks, stereos, a random combination of everything. As I walked through each village, I tried to picture what my life would have been like if I had grown up in those areas. It was difficult. I had never been in that environment before, nor did I know many people who had.

    The lifestyles of those reading this blog cannot compare to those of the rural residents of Campeche or Oaxaca. Imagine your grandmother trekking up a rocky mountain for an hour, with bags full of groceries, only to arrive home and begin cooking dinner for a family of six. Imagine chopping reeds with a machete in the backyard for 5 hours in 100-degree weather and stifling humidity so that your family can keep warm when the temperature drops at night. Imagine life without the convenience of running water, electricity, large-scale grocery stores, food diversity, a cold beer on a hot day, ice cubes.

    Even with all of these differences, we are one and the same. When interviewing a mother of three children, she described to us how thankful she was that her children could now do their homework after the sun goes down. Now, they have the ability to learn more, have access to better jobs, and create a more comfortable life for themselves compared to previous generations. The success she wishes for her children is the same kind of hope that parents in the Bay Area have for their future toddler CEOs and entrepreneurs.

    I saw these connections in each community. In Balancax, Campeche, we approached a blue house with a tin roof and tarps on the windows to keep in the “cool” air. We were welcomed by 5 people, one of who reluctantly looked us over. Before we could explain ourselves, he knew us. He knew we were there to question, to “investigate.” He was the equivalent of the mayor of the community, and asked us at least 10 minutes worth of questions before we gained his trust, were given permission to survey his community, and later received a parting gift of frozen milk and coconut, the coldest food available in the village. Don’t we all wish public officials showed so much care for communities? That they would serve as protectors, then resources, and finally friends?
     
    To read more of her reflection, click here.
     
    If you are interested in learning more about these life-changing experiences, please join us at the Social Entrepreneurship Action Research Roundtables. Teams of Global Social Benefit Fellows will present on cross-cutting themes in social entrepreneurship, drawing from their unique experiences in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Uganda, and the Philippines.
     
    Those interested in applying for the fellowship, especially juniors, are encouraged to attend.
     
    November 3 - APPtitude: Harness Human Potential through Mobile Technology
    November 10 - Global Women Entrepreneurs #flawless
    November  12 - What Went Wrong With The Millennium Development Goals?
    November 17 - Cultural Understanding as a Path to Development
     
    All presentations will be held 4:15-5:15 pm in the Schott Admission Room next to the Enrollment Center.
     
    Click here to listen to the podcast from last year’s roundtables.
     
  •  5 Tips for Any Social Entrepreneur

    Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

    “Cut my veins and cookstoves will flow out”, Proscovia (Prossy) Sebunya, a Ugandan clean cookstove social entrepreneur told us recently during a GSBI Boost workshop in Kampala, Uganda.
     
    Prossy went to college and studied industrial ceramics.  After graduating she got a job but then received a YMCA scholarship, which took her to Crete to learn about the science and art of using ceramics for cooking, the technology used for many clean cookstoves today. She has been working with cookstoves ever since.  Prossy’s passion for clean cookstoves as a solution to helping marginalized communities save money by using less fuel (charcoal and wood), save the environment by reducing deforestation and receive health benefits from smokeless cooking is shared by many social entrepreneurs around the world.
     
    The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) recently funded the GSBI to create Boost, a training program for clean cookstove entrepreneurs that can be easily adapted to target any social entrepreneur (SE), no matter what sector they are focused on.  We have piloted it in Nairobi Kenya, Dhaka Bangladesh, Accra Ghana and Kampala Uganda and soon Beijing China.  The GACC has funds available to support clean cookstove entrepreneurs around the world and they see Boost as a way to strengthen the business models of these entrepreneurs so GACC can invest in them to meet their goal of having 100 million households adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020.
     
    While the 3-day Boost workshop is targeted to earlier stage social enterprises what we have seen by training over 70 organizations in the last few months, all participants get value whether they are still in the planning stage or have been in business for many years.  GSBI has always taken a very practical, hands on approach in working with SEs.  In our world, the SEs are at the center, everything we do is to support them.  Therefore in our programs we focus on their businesses with them.  It isn’t about reading case studies of other businesses; it is about their business.  The GSBI mentors roll up their sleeves and dive deep into the businesses with the SEs.  Boost delivers that same experience and benefit in a workshop setting through short presentations and simple templates with ample work time during which the entrepreneurs apply what was just presented to their business with the facilitators providing one-on-one mentoring.   
     
    During the last 12 years of working with over 280 social entrepreneurs we have learned there are certain elements that every social entrepreneur needs to keep in mind in order to build a scalable and sustainable business.  Those learnings are reflected in the design of Boost, and can be expressed as 5 best practices for any social enterprise:
     
    Top 5 Lessons Learned:

    1.   Lead with your mission and impact model.  What differentiates a social entrepreneur from an entrepreneur is that the social entrepreneur leads with their impact model and supports it with a business model.  Entrepreneurs lead with a business model; social impact is an afterthought at best.  No matter what the impact that a social entrepreneur is passionate about--clean water, clean energy, education, access to health care, livelihoods, financial inclusion--that impact is the center of the SE’s focus. The business model is designed to achieve impact in the most cost-efficient and scalable manner possible.

    2.   Know your customers.  Most SEs target marginalized communities, and the most successful ones spend significant time truly understanding who their customers are, what they want, how they think, and their realities.  They know and live the on-the-ground realities of the poor and marginalized.  On our recent trip to Nairobi, we visited GSBI Online alum Keneth Ndua of STAMP Investments at his factory where he is producing the ECOS cookstove that has a built-in chamber to boil water (thereby killing bacteria) while it cooks. He showed us a series of prototypes refined over several years and explained his ongoing process of taking the stove to women’s groups in different regions of Kenya to see how it responds to their traditional ways of cooking.

    3.   Partner effectively to maximize your reach.  As entrepreneurs we want to do everything ourselves to keep control of our vision, but this is often to our detriment because it weakens our focus on the core activity that our enterprise does best. Developing and manufacturing a product, say a clean cookstove, is a totally different business than distributing and selling them.  As the field is evolving, we are now seeing social enterprises focusing on developing products and others focused on distributing them. Specialization is occurring within the distribution space too. For example, urban areas and rural area have different economics and require different marketing and sales strategies.  Livelyhoods, based in Nairobi, is working with slum youth training them to sell socially responsible products such as solar lighting, clean cookstoves and water filters back into their slum communities.  Solar Sister began working with women in rural Uganda teaching them to sell solar lights to their community.  Now it has included clean cookstoves into their product mix and have expanded to northern Nigeria and Tanzania.  UpEnergy is focused on providing access to clean energy solutions to Ugandans by selling direct and through micro-entrepreneurs. Having a specialized target market allows each organization to define the best product mix and develop the best salesforce for that market.
     
    4.   Understand the economics of your enterprise, and make sure they work for everyone in your value chain: customers, distributors, suppliers, and your enterprise.  This is an extremely important point and one many SEs don’t consider. Of course the economics have to work for your business. But the distributors, suppliers, and customers also have to be motivated too.  For example, if a product is too difficult to sell or the margin is too low, distributors will not actively promote it, meaning that it won’t reach the intended beneficiaries. Here is a comment from a survey of a recent Boost workshop, “What I found helpful was using the financial model, I was able to play around with figures to achieve my desired production/profits for my shareholders.  So I know how much I need to produce.” These are important considerations for SEs that can unlock their potential for scale by turning the entire value chain into promoters for the SE’s success.

    5.   Have a plan for getting to the next stage of growth, how much funding you need, the type of funding, how you will use the funding and the social impact it will create.  There are two things every SE is looking for, financial and human capital.  Unfortunately many SEs take whatever money they can get.  Not being strategic about the size and type of capital can be problematic for long-term growth.  We have seen SEs give too much of their company away in the first rounds of funding which means later stages can decimate them in terms of an ownership position.  This is a big problem for investors too because later they have less buy-in from the SEs: they have lost most of their ownership position so why should they “play”?  Investors aren’t going to run the company, so what happens?  This is a topic for another article.  The other issue we’ve seen with SEs is early on they end up taking small amounts of money from many different investors and their capitalization (cap) table becomes messy.  This is problematic for Series A investors, some walk away.  For non-profit social enterprises, well-intentioned grants can lead to mission drift by pushing the SE to projects that are within their mission, but not necessarily the most strategic for the SE.  A common pitfall is taking grants to expand to new geographies before the model is truly proven and the enterprise is prepared to scale in its current geography.  In all of our GSBI programs we work with SEs to develop a funding ask that is based on the enterprise’s strategic plan. The funding ask includes not only the amount of money required, but also the form of capital (grant, loan, equity, etc.), details of how the funding will be used, and the impact that will result.
     
    We don’t plan on cutting Prossy’s veins to verify that clean cookstoves will flow, but having experienced her passion and hearing her stories of dedication we believe her.  She represents all the clean cookstove and fuels social entrepreneurs we have worked with during the GSBI Boost pilots.  What a gift to us to see their eyes light up as they work through these 5 elements and see their businesses in a new light.  How through a small investment they can easily double production and by adding a few more distribution partners they can triple sales, providing access to 3 times the number of poor and marginalized people to clean energy.  Three billion women cook on three stone fires, exposing them and their children to horrible respiratory and eye issues.  The problem is huge.  We have experienced first hand that with a little support these passionate social entrepreneurs can make an even larger dent in the problems that face our world.  
     
     
  •  eBay Foundation and GSBI® Partner to Benefit Entrepreneurs in BRIC Countries & U.S

    Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014

    Since 2013, eBay Foundation and the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) have partnered with a clear purpose-- to help social entrepreneurs build strong organizations and scale their impact. eBay and GSBI share a theory of change that worldwide poverty alleviation is best accomplished through social enterprise, especially through those organizations that integrate financially sustainable practices into operations and aim for massive scale. 

     
    Over the past two years, eBay Foundation has sponsored the participation of six social enterprises in the GSBI Accelerator. The program pairs late stage social entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley mentors to prepare them to scale already successful businesses. The businesses sponsored by eBay Foundation range from the Kenya-based smallholder farmer micro asset financing organization, Juhudi Kilimo to Prospera, a Mexican company which helps women build sustainable businesses by providing training and access to markets.  Each participant came away from the program with a vision for growth as well as connections to potential funders to support their organizations’ development. 
     
    This fall, eBay Foundation and GSBI are launching their largest joint project to date, a program for entrepreneurs at an earlier stage in their organizational life cycle.   October 7th marked the launch of this custom cohort of the GSBI Online program. The program aims to develop livelihoods in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the United States. eBay Foundation is sponsoring this initiative as part of a commitment to job creation, small business support, and economic development in these geographic regions. 
     
    The 6-month program pairs each social entrepreneur with a savvy Silicon Valley executive mentor. They work as a team to clarify the social entrepreneurs’ business models, hone their financials, and plan for scale. This year, for the first time, volunteers from eBay are joining the experienced GSBI mentors to provide technical expertise to many of the companies in the cohort.  
     
    The organizations in this cohort enter the program with a diverse array of mission-driven businesses, such as generating income for sex-trafficking survivors in Russia, helping smallholder farmers gain access to the best equipment in China, and providing data collection jobs for marginalized youth in the slums of Brazil.  The 18 ventures participating in the program employ different strategies to build economies including:
    -------
    Fostering Job Creation 
     
    DDD Peru provides high-quality IT services by employing low-income youth and providing them with opportunities for professional development and substantially higher incomes.
     
    DialJob is building a Blue-Collared Job Exchange Platform using mobile & cloud telephony technologies and is also launching a mobile-friendly website with content in local languages. It will give visibility and branding services to skill-development institutes and offer partnership opportunities to placement consultants, mobile-recharge outlets and grocery stores.
     
    Fabric Plus creates livelihoods in rural Assam and Northeast India by supporting the production of high-quality silk yarn and Assam silk products.
     
    RuralShores Business Services is India’s largest Business Process Outsourcing provider with more than 20 delivery centers in rural areas of India. RuralShores provides employment to youth at their doorstep, leading to sustained employment and curbing urban migration.
     
    Safehouse Foundation provides victims of trafficking with rehabilitation, including an art therapy program where participants create jewelry that is sold to sustain the organization and provide an income to participants.
     
    Ponto Solidário displays disseminates and increases sales of artistic products made by Brazilian craftsman all over the country, including Amazonian locals and other artisans in rural areas.
     
    ReliaTech collects and refurbishes computers and provides them at little or no cost to low-income individuals, disadvantaged entrepreneurs, schools, churches, senior centers, and other nonprofit organizations. Employees and interns are students and graduates of The Stride Center which trains low income individuals for ITC careers.
     
    Mobile Metrix is pioneering market research in low-income communities. Young local adults collect information door-to-door using handheld technology. The data and insights thus gathered empower companies and governments to more effectively distribute their critical products and services.
    Microenterprise Support 
     
    Custom Clouds (Kolabo), helps micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in growing economies get online. They also leverage the Internet to fuel economic growth and create jobs in their communities.
     
    Social Synergy is a management consulting firm catering to social enterprises and impact investors. Social Synergy catalyzes the strategic transformation of the culture and method of decision-making. It works across all levels and functions of a social enterprise to help them realize their stated impact potential---a "last-mile" effort of critical importance in the impact investment value-chain,that remains unaddressed.
    Improving Health, Water and Sanitation 
     
    Healing Fields is developing a health-related sustainable livelihood model for its community workers, which will help to keep them motivated to engage in creating awareness about hygiene and disease prevention.
     
    JSV aims to create jobs and foster entrepreneurship by training economically disadvantaged students from rural backgrounds with limited formal education in various paramedical streams at a low cost. JSV is also piloting a program to improve access to primary care and public health for the rural population by empowering local women trained in innovative low-cost diagnostic technology.
     
    Drinkwell uses a micro franchise model to establish local water businesses in arsenic and fluoride-affected areas. By providing affected villagers with water filtration technology and business tools, Drinkwell taps into the entrepreneurial spirit within these communities to create jobs, generate income, and improve health outcomes.

    Agriculture
     
    Green Agrevolution provides end-to-end agriculture services, ICT advisory, input and output collection) to small farmers through DeHaat kiosks run by micro entrepreneurs. 
     
    Shree Kamdhenu Electronics develops simple information technology tools that help rural base-of-pyramid dairy farmers raise their income through transparency in milk collection operations.
     
    Smart Agriculture Analytics (SAA) is an information service that provides business intelligence on agricultural technology (agritech) needs in China; this will enable world-class suppliers and investors to provide the most sustainable solutions to Chinese farmers.
     
    Increasing Financial Access 
     
    MPOWER Financing removes financial barriers to higher education in the US. It works with investors and universities to lend to students who are not served by traditional banks because of lack of credit history or cosigner. 
     
    NuBnk/Village Ventures is an online lending platform that links impact lenders in advanced economies with rural community financial organizations which in turn support micro entrepreneurs in India and Sri Lanka. 
     
    The Global Social Benefit Institute has worked with over 300 social enterprises to build sustainable, scalable business models to benefit the lives of 107 million people worldwide. Based in the heart of Silicon Valley at Santa Clara University, GSBI combines Silicon Valley acumen and a drive to eradicate poverty by supporting social entrepreneurs around the world through their entire lifecycle.
     
    Contacts
     
    Program Inquires: Hallie Noble, hnoble@scu.edu
     
    Media: Jaime Gusching, jgusching@scu.edu

     

  •  GSBI Accelerator In-Residence Wrap Up

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

     The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Accelerator program is the flagship program at the Center for Science,
    Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University. 
     
    The GSBI Accelerator program magnifies the impact of social enterprises by providing entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley mentors, investor connections, and the GSBI alumni network. In the pursuit to become investment-ready, social entrepreneurs complete preparatory course work to assess the "gaps" or areas of improvement in their businesses. Then they work alongside their committed, smart mentors to fill those gaps.
     
    The program culminates in the In-Residence, which occurs over a nine day period on campus at Santa Clara University. The GSBI Accelerator strengthens the business model of social entrepreneurs, identifies the best type of investment --grant, equity, etc.-- and refines their ask in order to secure appropriate capital for them. GSBI is the bridge between Silicon Valley start-up accumen and the rest of the world.
     
    From August 14th to August 23rd, we welcomed fourteen of the social entrepreneurs on campus for the In-Residence. Throughout these days, the social entrepreneurs met with their mentors and determined what is needed to be done in order to best scale and improve their business plan.
     
    Read on to learn more about three of our social entrepreneurs that participated in GSBI Accelerator this year and how the program was able to help.
     
     
    "We can connect children to their world through hearing."
    World Wide Hearing, Montreal, Canada
     
    When we think of hearing loss, we may think of it as a problem that affects only the aging population. However, over 180 million children worldwide are born with hearing loss and have few resources to better their condition.
     
    Audra Reyni, Executive Director of World Wide Hearing, explains that, “When children are born with hearing loss, they are born into silence. Hearing can be the difference of having a chance at life, or having missed opportunities.”
     
    World Wide Hearing provides access to affordable, high quality hearing aids for low-income children with hearing loss in developing countries. They do this by training local female entrepreneurs to provide the hearing aids and services. They are currently active in Jordan and are optimistic of where the future can take them.
     
    Audra views participating in the GSBI Accelerator program as a huge push at a crucial time. GSBI has provided strategic advice at a time when World Wide Hearing has the capability to scale in a big way.
     
    "The program made us think through business and strategic problems that we need to solve in order to maximize our social impact," Audra explained. “What we really had to think about was marketing in developing countries at the last mile distribution level, really thinking about the strategies we could use, considering the end users. It can be very different from developed countries, which requires a different lens.”
     
    For Audra, the time with her mentors was invaluable. “It’s been intense and required a lot of learning, but it was a wonderful group of people, so it’s been fantastic.”

     

    "We can solve dryland poverty and deforestation at the same time."
    Komaza, Kenya
     
    Tevis Howard, a Bay Area native, took a gap year and went to Kenya to do Malaria research.  During about a year and a half of living there, he saw quite a bit of poverty and transitioned from science to social entrepreneurship. Tevis had the unique idea of planting trees in order to help dryland farmers out of extreme poverty. This sparked the beginnings of Komaza.
     
    Komaza offers a partnership that motivates farmers to plant trees and short-term crops that, in turn, provide decades of life-changing income. Dryland farmers are the poorest people on earth, and they are struggling to grow crops on bad soil with no rain. East Africa is currently facing a multibillion dollar wood market failure, there are tens of millions of families on dry lands living in extreme poverty.
     
    “Deforestation is intrinsically linked with poverty,” Tevis shared. “We’re trying to break that cycle by doing the obvious thing: by planting trees.”
     
    GSBI was able to help Tevis learn how to best communicate his story. His mentors were able to spend time with him and provide a fresh set of eyes to figure out who he is targeting and the best way to reach them.
     
    “It’s really important to tell your story well so that you can get the support needed to make your vision become real. It’s about getting people and money pointed in the right direction,” He said. Tevis was able to share his story recently on NBC Bay Area News, click here to check out the TV spot that featured Komaza.
     
     
    "We can eradicate curable blindness in India."
     
     
    “When someone is in darkness, they aren’t able to move, they aren’t able to do their daily chores, they become dependent.” One-fourth of the world’s blind population is in India and 80% of this blindness is curable. Bharath Balasubramaniam, President of Community Outreach at Sankara Eye Care, explained what Sankara Eye Care is doing to try to end curable blindness.
     
    They have outreach camps and bring eye care services to those in the rural areas. If necessary, they will bring the patients back to their full hospitals and the patients receive everything–surgery, food, room– completely free of charge, and then are taken back into their village. When they are back in their village, Sankara also goes back for post-op care. There is no cutting corners or skimping on quality in order to keep the services free.
     
    Sankara Eye Care’s mission is to eliminate curable blindness across India by scaling to 20 Sankara Community Eye Hospitals, serving over a million rural poor every year. GSBI has been able to aid in this mission by providing Silicon Valley executives as mentors for Bharath. His mentors have helped him understand the variable options that are available for funding and identify which opportunities are plausible. Another way the program helped Bharath was distinguishing the differences between marketing and sales.
     
    “It was a little confusing for us. We were blending and mixing the two, so now I have better clarity of which is which and what I need to look at once I get back,” He said. The program was very educational and now he has a better idea of what needs to be done in order for his vision to become a reality.
     
    We are very pleased with the success of the GSBI Accelerator and all the social enterprises that are part of our 2014 class. We would like thank the donors for their generous contributions, so that we are able to continue to help entrepreneurs such as Audra, Tevis, and Bharath.

     

      

  •  It Takes a Village

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

    The Group to Promote Education and Sustainable Development (GRUPEDSAC), GSBI Alumni 2009, is a Mexican social enterprise that operates sustainable rural development training centers addressing food, water, building technologies, and rural livelihoods. GRUPEDSAC operates two locations in Mexico. The Center sponsored Jack Bird, GSBF 2013 – Zambia, Lifeline Energy, to spend 3.5 weeks (23 June to 16 July) with GRUPEDSAC to prepare a training manual based on their food and water education demonstration training events. During his time in Mexico he learned about the hard work and community that is required to build a sustainable world.

    As our truck bumped up the rocky road to GRUPEDSAC’s center at Piedra Grande outside of Mexico City, I remember chuckling to myself at the fact that I had packed shorts and flip-flops for this adventure. Not only was the weather consistently below 50° F and rainy for the entire week I was in Piedra Grande, but within days, all of the pants I had brought were caked in mud and specks of cement, my shoes were falling apart, and several of my shirts were stained with salsa. But if I have learned anything from living and working in the developing world, it is to throw out all expectations and preconceptions about what life will be like.
     
    GRUPEDSAC, a former GSBI participant, is an organization working to promote sustainable development by implementing ecotechnologies in impoverished communities.  These technologies include rainwater catchment systems, earth construction methods, and efficient cook stoves. My job was to spend about month between the two centers that GRUPEDSAC runs researching several of these ecotechnologies for the purpose of creating a manual.
     
    After doing similar work in Zambia last summer I figured it could not be much different. But whereas in Zambia I was with two other students and spoke the language, in Mexico I was alone, and with no Spanish under my belt, I was reduced to using hand gestures in order to procure simple items like a tube of toothpaste. In order to adjust to my new surroundings in Zambia, I had been able to ask question after question about everything that interested me including politics, the geography, and culture. In Mexico, I was reliant almost entirely on my ability to silently observe my surroundings. I had a translator to help me with the more technical aspects of the ecotechnologies that I was documenting. However, in order to understand what was going on, I had to patiently observe everything. What I learned from this observation was not just how to create ecotechnologies, but also something much deeper regarding our common future.
     
    What was abundantly clear was how difficult this work was. For instance, building a wall of rammed earth is an incredibly time consuming and energy intensive task. I found myself drenched in sweat after only a few minutes of working and the sunburn I received on the back of my neck was quite a spectacle. But at least I could retreat to the shade from time to time and had the luxury of being driven 40 minutes through the steep hills to the communities where we were working.
    What was truly impressive was the commitment of the community members to one another. Many had to walk for hours to be at the given worksite and the women often carried several children and all the food for lunch. Nevertheless, each day there were about 30 or 40 community members working together to build these ecotechnologies. They would start long before I arrived and stay long after I had left, committing themselves wholeheartedly to the implementation of a technology that would benefit only one of their members and make the world just slightly more sustainable.
     
    These campesinos and bricklayers understand something that we in the developing world can learn from. Creating a sustainable world is not easy. It takes a lot of work, and not from just from a single individual. These community members rallied together to help one family at a time, knowing that when it was their turn to build a water cistern or eco toilet, the others would be there to help them. This type of cooperation is empowering not only for the beneficiary of the technology, but also for the community as a whole, which realizes that building a sustainable planet is not reserved solely for those with lots of money and technology. Although each project on its own will not solve the environmental crisis, taken all together this type of community-based dissemination can have a big impact.  Observing how these communities were capable of actualizing sustainability certainly gave me hope. The future of our planet depends not on individual effort, but on a widespread commitment to help one another, even if the task at hand is difficult.
     
     

  •  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. www.toniic.com

     

    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 www.scu.edu

     

    Media Contacts

    Jessica Loman | Director, Toniic | Jessica.loman@toniic.com | 804-814-3195

    Jaime Gusching | CSTS | jgusching@scu.edu | 408-554-6048

    Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | dlohse@scu.edu | 408-554-5121

     

     

  •  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.

  •  Sixteen Global Social Entrepreneurs Selected for Pioneering GSBI Accelerator

    Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014

    Sixteen Global Social Entrepreneurs Selected for Santa Clara University’s Pioneering GSBI® Accelerator

    10-month program to advance social enterprises includes August 14-22 in-residence in the heart of Silicon Valley.

    SANTA CLARA, Calif., Jan. 14, 2014— Sankara Eye Care Institutions aims to eradicate preventable and curable blindness in India by providing free high quality eye care to millions of rural poor. Eco-fuel Africa converts locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizers.  Medical Technology Transfer and Services (MTTS) develops, manufactures, and distributes durable devices for intensive newborn care for poor communities in Vietnam. 

    These three well-established “social enterprises”— non-profit organizations or for-profit businesses that seek to address social and environmental problems—are among the 16 chosen for the 12th annual Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Accelerator program at Santa Clara University. 

    The acclaimed 10-month program pairs one leader from each social enterprise with two experienced, start-up savvy Silicon Valley executives as advisers. The aim is to help the entrepreneurs focus on and solve the largest obstacles keeping their businesses from “scaling,” or reaching more beneficiaries in their home countries or new ones. 

    “This year we received the strongest applicant pool of leading social entrepreneurs to date,” said Cassandra Staff, GSBI’s program director. “This speaks to the value of the GSBI Accelerator program and the impact the program has on preparing mature entrepreneurs for additional investment capital and growth.” 

    Sponsors of the GSBI Accelerator program include: eBay Inc. Foundation, Applied Materials, Skoll Foundation, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and the GSBI Endowment Fund supported by Jeff and Karen Miller and Howard and Alida Charney. 

    After six months of online work with GSBI staff and two Silicon Valley mentors apiece, the cohort will come to Santa Clara University’s campus Aug. 14 for nine days of intensive training that culminates in an “Investor Showcase” Aug. 21. The showcase has become an inspiring event attended by hundreds of impact investors and others interested in accelerating the work of social entrepreneurs. 

    The 16 organizations in this year’s GSBI class operate in countries across the world including Mexico, South Africa, Jordan, and Vietnam. Among the other members of the GSBI Class of 2014 are: a company that makes biodigesters for small scale farmers in Mexico; a Peruvian employer of unskilled labor, whose workers are delivering data services to international clients; a South African company that teaches disadvantaged youth to be self-directed learners and chart careers; and a Chinese provider of renewable solar energy.

    The list of GSBI mentors can be found at http://www.scu.edu/socialbenefit/entrepreneurship/gsbi/mentor.cfm.

    Reporters interested in interviewing any of the entrepreneurs while they are in town or Silicon Valley mentors may contact Deborah Lohse of SCU Media Relations, dlohse@scu.edu or 408-554-5121. 

    GSBI® Online is a similar program, tailored to early-stage social enterprises, that leverages Silicon Valley acumen and features online modules on business strategy, operational planning, metrics, and financials. Applications are open through Feb. 21 for the next cohort: http://cms.scu.edu/socialbenefit/entrepreneurship/gsbi/

    The follow is a list of 2014 GSBI Accelerator organizations:

    · Buen Manejo del Campo, dba Sistema Biobolsa 

    Sistema Biobolsa revolutionizes small scale agricultural by empowering farmers with high quality, patented biodigester technology, which allows them to convert animal and organic wastes into natural gas and organic fertilizer.  

    http://sistemabiobolsa.com/home/ 

    · Digital Divide Data 

    Digital Divide Data (DDD) is a social enterprise that delivers solutions with impact to meet the data services needs of businesses and institutions worldwide.  DDD pioneered a new model called Impact Sourcing in Cambodia from 2001.  

    http://www.digitaldividedata.org/

    · Eco-fuel Africa Limited 

    Eco-fuel Africa empowers communities in Africa to use tailor-made technology to convert locally sourced farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel (green charcoal) and organic fertilizers (biochar). This slows the rate of deforestation, reduces indoor air pollution, improves educational opportunities among girls and women by eliminating the need to search for wood, and reduces malnutrition by providing farmers with organic fertilizers.

    http://ecofuelafrica.com/

    · Ecofogão Ltda

    Ecofogão is a woodstove manufacturer, which introduced the innovative concept of ecological clean and efficient stoves to the Brazilian market in 2004. Ecofogão was mainly created to serve low income market that depends on woodstoves for daily cooking, but also has taken advantage of the middle class market that uses woodstoves for recreation purposes.  Ecofogão now wants to scale up toward the larger low income market of the northeastern Brazil.

    http://www.ecofogao.com.br/

    · Esoko

    Esoko is Africa’s leading communication platform for the agriculture sector, with a range of mobile based solutions, and serving a diverse array of partners in 10 countries.

    http://www.esoko.com/

    · IkamvaYouth 

    IkamvaYouth enables disadvantaged South African youth to pull themselves and each other out of poverty through education. The core program is the provision of after-school tutoring support to self-selected learners in grades 8 to 12 three times a week. This results in an actively engaged self-directed learner.  

    http://ikamvayouth.org/

    · iKure Techsoft Private Limited 

    iKure is establishing a chain of Rural Health Centers using innovative technology. Patients receive quality primary healthcare in their community, including doctor consultation, medicine, and basic check-ups. In case of any secondary or tertiary care, the patients are connected seamlessly to hub hospitals using proprietary software.

    http://www.ikuretechsoft.com/

    · JITA Social Business Bangladesh Limited 

    JITA Bangladesh is a joint venture of CARE International & Danone Communities dedicated to empowering women through a network of enterprises to create employment opportunities and improve access to markets for BOP consumers.

    http://jitabangladesh.com/

    · Komaza 

    Komaza is an agro-forestry company working to provide African dry land farmers with planting inputs, training and maintenance services, and processing-sales support. The goals are to cultivate a life-changing income for farmers, curb rampant deforestation, and earn investor returns.

    http://komaza.org/

    · Mali Biocarburant SA (MBSA) 

    Biofuel Mali SA (MBSA) is the first company producing biodiesel in West Africa. It is a private company that makes farmers shareholders in the company. By producing, processing and marketing biodiesel locally, Mali Biofuel SA contributes to the development of the local economy.

    http://www.malibiocarburant.com/malibio/

    · Medical Technology Transfer and Services (MTTS) 

    MTTS is a social enterprise that develops, manufactures, and distributes intensive newborn care medical devices, specifically designed for the needs of low-resource countries. They exist to ensure that all children, irrespectively of the place of birth, have the chance of a healthy upbringing.

    http://www.mtts-asia.com/

    · One Earth Group Ltd. (Brand Name: One Earth Designs) 

    One Earth Designs creates clean, sharable energy. They began by working alongside nomads in the Himalayas, where they developed 54 solar cooker designs to combat fuel scarcity and household air pollution. Now, their R&D portfolio includes collaborations with governments and corporations to develop renewable energy solutions with the potential to improve living standards. 

    http://www.oneearthdesigns.com/ 

    · Prospera 

    Prospera empowers female-led micro businesses and connects them to conscious citizens and consumers looking to create a more equal and engaged society. 

    http://www.prosperando.org

    · Sankara Eye Care Institutions 

    Sankara Eye Care Institutions through its network of hospitals across India is one of the largest communities of eye care providers in the country. Sankara’s mission is to eradicate preventable and curable blindness in India by providing free high quality eye care to the millions of rural poor through a strong service oriented team. 

    www.sankaraeye.com

    · SMEFunds 

    SMEFunds produces a proven, cleaner, and lower-cost alternative to dangerous cooking fuels in Africa that can also be sold as transport fuel at economies of scale.

    http://www.smefunds.com/

    · World Wide Hearing 

    World Wide Hearing Foundation International is a non-profit organization that provides access to affordable, high quality hearing aids to children and youth with hearing loss in developing countries. Their goal is to empower people with hearing loss so that they can realize their full potential.

    http://www.wwhearing.org/

    The GSBI program is unique for several reasons: 

    *The program has built up a strong group of nearly 70 Silicon Valley mentors who are CEOs, venture capitalists, marketing experts, experts in solar or other forms of alternative energy, and other seasoned executives who find it rewarding to work with social entrepreneurs free of charge, as a way of paying it forward.  Some of them have volunteered at the GSBI for 10 years or more. 

    *While many university-based social entrepreneurship programs seek to help their own students become social entrepreneurs, the GSBI Accelerator helps entrepreneurs who are on the ground around the world helping communities. 

    *Undergraduate students leverage the relationships with the social entrepreneurs through research fellowships in countries like Brazil, India, Nepal, Uganda, and Paraguay. 

    *The GSBI has spawned the GSBI Network, composed of mission-aligned universities and programs around the globe that work directly with on-the-ground social enterprises.

    *Earlier stage social enterprises learn the tenets of the GSBI methodology through an online-only version, GSBI Online. Through web modules and video conferencing, participants receive guidance from their Silicon Valley mentors, as well as mentors in their home regions. 

    A Billion Lives 

    It is the ambitious goal of Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society — home to GSBI— to positively impact the lives of a billion people by 2020, by catalyzing the growth of social enterprises who provide the poor with affordable life-saving or life-enhancing products; new jobs or livelihoods; or information and tools to help themselves. 

    “Our GSBI Accelerator, Online, and Network programs could enable social entrepreneurs to collectively improve the lives of up to one-fourth of the global poor,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of the Center. “Our Global Social Benefit Fellows program is creating the next generation of ‘changemakers’: it provides SCU undergraduates transformative social justice learning experiences through practical action research projects with GSBI Alumni social entrepreneurs.” 

    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 www.scu.edu.

    Media Contacts: 

    Deborah Lohse, SCU Media Relations, dlohse@scu.edu, 408-554-5121

    Jaime Gusching, CSTS Marketing Manager, jgusching@scu.edu, 408-551-6048

     
  •  To Distribute or Not To Distribute, That is the Question!

    Monday, Jan. 13, 2014

     At the Center we provide business model centric training to our social entrepreneurs (SEs).  One element of a business model is sales and distribution.  Even in Silicon Valley, with companies working in well established markets, I’ve seen companies struggle with this one.  Do we sell direct?  Indirect? Inside sales? Outside sales?  And as a startup you can’t invest in all of them at once.  How do you pick which one is first and then the phasing of additional ones?  Our SEs struggle with the same questions.  We have seen many solar lighting and clean cookstove companies come through GSBI.  They wrestle with the question of are we a design/manufacturing only company?  Design and distribution?  It is easy to quickly think about distribution because how else are you going to get product out?  And you have the illusion of being “in control” of the sales situation.  But let me tell you, distribution in frontier markets is HARD.  

    In our recent trip to Kenya and Uganda we visited two GSBI alumni working to solve the distribution issue, Livelyhoods and Solar Sisters.  Both organizations are distributing solar lighting and clean cookstoves, some of whom are also GSBI alumni such as Angaza.  

    Livelyhoods is focused in urban slums using youth they train and Solar Sisters is focused in rural areas using women they train.  Both organizations have learned a lot in the years they have been in existence.  Some of the lessons are obvious like commission rates, keeping sales agents involved, objection handling, normal sales related things.  Others aren’t, e.g. Livelyhoods learned that even though they have a mobile sales force, youth pick up the products they want to sell for the day and walk around their community selling them, they needed to have a physical store to provide credibility.  There are a lot of transients in urban slums, if a prospect bought a product and it didn’t work, where would they go with it? How would they know the sales agent would still be around? I’ve seen this in other developing markets, product quality is so bad that everyone expects things not to work and need to return it.  

    When we went to Kapchorwa, a rural area in northeast Uganda with Solar Sisters, that wasn’t an issue because everyone knew the women selling them product, in fact their customers invited the Solar Sisters microentrepreneur and us into their homes. 

    For a product design/manufacturing company to learn all these sales and distribution lessons, it would be very expensive.  That said, as a former product person, I know the value in “hearing from the customer”.  Getting product feedback is paramount to iterating and continuing to build great products.  

    In our short time of walking around the rural areas of Kapchorwa and going into people’s homes to see the solar products they bought we learned about how the lights were used, and abused by our western standards, but it is the reality on the ground.  For instance, I have two bedside lamps, and that is where they stay, by my bed.  I also have a desk lamp that stays on my desk.  Many of these people had bought one small solar lamp, that was moved around from room to room, being connected and disconnected many times a day.  

    From this we learned two valuable things.  It behooves the product companies to meet with their distributors on a regular basis to get on-the-ground feedback. In this case they would learn that durability of the connectors is very important for the longevity of the lamp. Both Livelyhoods and Solar Sisters said that some companies whose products they sell ask for feedback but it isn’t systematic.  

    Again, wearing my product hat, getting this kind of feedback is critical to product success and it doesn’t cost nearly the same as having boots on the ground. The other thing we realized is there is an opportunity in the market for service repair and Village Energy, who is currently going through GSBI Online, has identified that.  

    We take market systems for granted in the US.  For instance, cars, there are organizations that manufacture, others that sell, others that service, some that sell and service, some that provide financing for them, others that do after-market adjustments, etc....  The reality is that our SEs, working in developing countries, don’t have the luxury of operating in a well-established market system.  Not only do they have the difficult job that every entrepreneur has, creating and building a killer product or service, but they either have to create the market system themselves or find others that are fighting the good fight in frontier markets to partner with.    

     

  •  Immerse Yourself in Learnings from Social Entrepreneurs based in Kenya and Uganda

    Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013


    Thane Kreiner and I led an Executive Immersion program for 7 guests, including our advisory board members, to Kenya and Uganda. We got to see the work on the ground of 8 GSBI alumni from both the Accelerator and Online programs. They included Penda Health, Kopo Kopo, M-Farm, Juhudi Kilimo, Livelyhoods, Solar Sister, BaNaPads and Village Energy.

    Purposefully it was a mix of sectors, and urban and rural. As always when we meet with these incredible, dedicated, passionate social entrepreneurs it was exhilarating and insightful.

    In the next couple blog posts we'll share some of our learnings from the trip to include how to roast coffee to differences between rural and urban distribution.



    ·         Penda Health- provides high-quality, affordable, outpatient healthcare through a chain of health clinics. By 2020 they will operate over 100 clinics across Kenya with millions of happy patients. Penda Health aims to be affordable to everyone in Kenya, including low- and middle-income population.

    ·         Kopo Kopo- is a web based mobile payment platform that enables SME owners to accept mobile money payments. Kopo Kopo aggregates payments from multiple mobile money systems, reflects those payments on an intuitive online dashboard, and automatically posts those payments to a back-office system via a notification API.

    ·         M-Farm- connects smallholder African farmers with urban and export markets via SMS and a web-enabled marketplace. M-Farm negotiates with buyers to create demand and assures quality through its network of agents. This motivates smallholder farmers to move beyond subsistence and into cash crops that can feed Africa and the world.

    ·     Juhudi Kilimo- is changing the way farmers do business. They finance targeted agricultural assets for smallholder farmers and rural enterprises across Kenya. Operating exclusively in very rural areas, Juhudi Kilimo gives smallholder farmers access to the tools they need to scale up and succeed.

    ·         Livelyhoods- taps the power of high potential youth in urban slums two create economic opportunities. They create jobs, give slum consumers access to life-changing products and assist companies to penetrate hard-to-reach markets.

    ·         Solar Sister- eradicates energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. By combining the breakthrough potential of solar technology with an Avon-style direct sales network, Solar Sister brings light, hope, and opportunity to even the most remote communities of rural Africa.

    ·         BaNaPads-  are cost effective sanitary pads made from the processed stems of freely available banana plants. The eco-friendly absorbent material is derived from plant and paper materials and is packaged for monthly distribution to school girls. BaNaPads fabrication centers employ and serve the female residents of the rural communities in Uganda.

    ·         Village Energy- pioneers the local assembly of micro-home solar systems and built distribution infrastructure with rural and peri-urban based entrepreneurs at the center. Their approach to renewable energy is to view solar products as the basis upon which previously non-existent services can be delivered in off-grid communities.

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