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.