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  •  A New Solidarity

    Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

    James L. Koch

    Senior Founding Fellow, Center for Science, Technology, and Society

    Don C. Dodon Distinguished Service Professor of Management
    Twelve years ago I joined small group of approximately 40 mayors, international NGO leaders, and senior World Bank officials for a meeting with Pope John Paul II.  It was five years after the founding of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University and six months after the launching of the Tech Awards—Technology Benefiting Humanity.  It was also just eight months after September 11, 2001. For me, the takeaways from this Rome meeting mirrored the sense of humility and hope embodied in the network of inventors, corporate leaders, venture capitalists, pioneering practitioners, and World Bank Development Marketplace officials that had been drawn to the mission of the STS Center back home in Silicon Valley.
    In this meeting Pope John Paul called for a new solidarity as an essential condition for human progress in the context of mass global migrations to cities. Today, after more than a decade of work vetting thousands of technology innovations for their potential social benefit impact, hands on mentoring with hundreds of social entrepreneurs, and continuous engagement with a global network of practitioners, the broad outlines of a new solidarity are beginning to emerge.  But first, Pope John Paul II, in his own words from May of 2002:
    “A city is much more than a territory, and economic productive zone, a political reality. It is above all a community of people, and especially of families with their children.  It is a living, historically rooted, culturally distinct, human experience. Those who exercise administrative and political control over it have weight responsibilities for the common good of the people, human beings graced with inalienable dignity and rights; just as citizens have important duties toward the community.
    The ethos of a city should be marked by one characteristic above others, solidarity. Every one of you faces serious social and economic problems which will not be solved unless a new style of human solidarity is created.  Institutions and social organizations at different levels, as well as the state, must share in promoting a general movement of solidarity between all sectors of the population, with special attention to the weak and marginalized.  This is not just a matter of convenience.  It is a necessity of the moral order, to which all people need to be educated, and to which those with influence of one kind or another must be committed as a matter of conscience.
    The goal of solidarity must be the advancement of a more human world for all, a world in which every individual will be able to participate in a positive and fruitful way, and in which the wealth of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, but a help.”
    A new style of human solidarity and a general movement of solidarity between multiple sectors for the advancement of a more human world for all are now visible across the 2014 landscape. The messy process of entrepreneurial activity focused on the development of sustainable market-based solutions to the most daunting and urgent issues of our time is a transformative change in business mindsets—one that values human progress and social impact over short-term profits. 
    This bottom up process is part of a powerful convergence of three trends:  triple bottom line business mindsets; friendlier government policies like B-corporation statutes; and, a growing consensus in development economics that aide and welfare without human agency and market mechanism are insufficient to alleviate global poverty. While not to diminish the shrill headlines of regional crises and human suffering, several factors provide encouraging evidence of a general movement of solidarity between all sectors for the advancement of a more human world for all.  
    The BoP movement framed by the pioneering work of C.K. Prahalad and subsequently documented as a market opportunity by Al Hammond and his colleagues has evolved since 2002 from small number of case studies to literally thousands of bottom up experiments around the world.  There are over 3,000 Ahsoka fellows alone. 
    Through formalization of the tacit knowledge from this bottom-up experimentation radically new approaches to technology and business model innovation are being diffused to practitioners, universities, and businesses around the world.  The network effects of this diffusion is spreading viable solutions, creating the economies of scale to stimulate new and complimentary capabilities up and down previously nonexistent value chains.  For example, in the off-grid energy space, Beyond the Grid, a joint US-Africa initiative is leveraging the falling cost of renewable energy generation, advances in storage, smart meter and mobile payment technology, innovative business models, and new distributed energy companies.
    The current Fourth Sector Mapping Initiative of the Urban Institute is documenting the emergence of new models of shared value enterprise—from pay for performance public-private partnerships, to hybrid social businesses, community based co-ops, and B-Corporations.  In May of 2002, there were no B-Corporations; today there are more than 1,000.
    Sector wide collaborations are focusing resources on the need to catalyze ecosystems and develop holistic solutions.  The previously mentioned Beyond the Grid initiative has brought together 27 private sector partners to expand access to clean, affordable energy to 240 million people in the rural and peri-urban communities of Africa.  This collaboration spans investors like Capricorn, Gray Ghost, and Khosla Impact, as well as companies like Schneider Electric, and distribution businesses like Solar Sister which is expanding its last mile network of women entrepreneurs to provide energy access to more than 400,000 homes.
    There is an increased readiness on the part of financially strapped local governments to embrace public-private partnership and pay-for-performance social business solutions as more cost effective alternatives to the provision of essential government services.
    Innovations in social sector finance are facilitating the aggregation of capital to support the growth financing needs of promising social mission enterprises and leveraging network effects to expand geographic reach or deepen penetration in regional markets.  Of particular note here is the work of John Kohler in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.
    The Social Progress Index, developed under the leadership of Michael Porter, was launched in 2013 as a common way of measuring multi-dimensional progress in human well-being across nation states and over time.  It is a robust and empirical measure of the degree to which our institutions are adapting to address the complex and urgent needs of humanity.  In some respects it is a proxy for our collective intelligence about how to live more sustainably, justly and peacefully on this earth.  In a number of instances these and other measures, like the World Bank’s poverty line threshold of $1.25 a day, suggest that our trajectory of learning and progress is increasing.  By the latter measure the United Nations 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report concludes that the portion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty halved between 1990 and 2010. 
    However, when medical research on minimum nutrition requirements, to say nothing of education, clothing, shelter, and transportation, are taken into consideration this penury baseline guarantees at best a wretched existence. 
    “In his 2013 book “The Great Escape,” the Princeton economist Angus Deaton argues that poverty measurement is ultimately a question of democratic consensus, not scientific calibration—a continuing exercise based on what is acceptable to policy makers and the public, including the poor themselves” .
    Answering the question of how to advance “a more human world for all, a world in which every individual will be able to participate in a positive and fruitful way, and in which the wealth of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, but a help” (Pope John Paul, II, May 2002) is a moral imperative of the highest order. 
    While the hope of a new solidarity may appear to be within our grasp, progress will depend on our ability to muster the financial, human and social capital needed to address complex challenges both on the ground, in the pioneering work of social entrepreneurs, and at institutional levels. While much has been learned, so much more remains to be learned.  Ultimately, we may find that humility and the subtle processes of consensus building, collaboration, and humble inquiry will be our greatest assets.


  •  GSBI Welcomes Pears Challenge

    Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014

    There are 3.7 billion people in the world living under $3 a day, representing a largely untapped market with an estimated $5 trillion in purchasing power waiting for quality products that improve their lives. Israel’s entrepreneurs are admired all over the world for their ability to innovate beyond their borders, and it is the marriage of this innovativeness and desire to serve others that has led the Pears Innovation for International Development Program at the Hartog School of Government and Policy at Tel Aviv University to launch the "Pears Challenge" in partnership with GSBI.

    The Pears Challenge seeks to identify, support, and nurture the talent of entrepreneurs devoted to alleviating poverty in the developing world through innovation. The Challenge will support up to ten teams of Israeli entrepreneurs addressing challenges rooted in the fields of health care, education, agriculture, water, energy, and ICT.

    Over the course of the three-month program in Tel Aviv, the teams of entrepreneurs will gain valuable insights on building a sustainable and financially successful business that will impact the world's poorest people. Then, select participants will win trips to the developing world to further implementation of their innovations.

    Rather than designing their program from scratch, The Pears Challenge decided to join the GSBI Network and leverage the proven GSBI Online curriculum and platform.  Thanks to the financial support of Grand Challenges Canada, the GSBI team has been working with the Pears Challenge to develop a program that will be delivered from March to June. GSBI Director of Strategic Alliances, Pamela Roussos, will travel to Israel in April to contribute as a mentor and subject matter expert.

    We are pleased to share our first-hand experience and in-person guidance to propel this noble effort forward.  Together, we take another step towards meeting the needs of all.

  •  eBay Partners with the Center to Benefit Social Enterprises in Bay Area and around the World

    Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013

    Last week, the Center for Science, Technology, and Society formalized a deeper partnership with the eBay Foundation to scale the impact of high-potential social entrepreneurs through the Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®).

    The eBay Foundation will sponsor two social entrepreneurs in the soon-to-be announced 2014 GSBI Accelerator program as well as 15-20 earlier stage social entrepreneurs in a custom built 2014 GSBI Online cohort. The social entrepreneurs receiving eBay support will be selected for their potential to maximize social impact through increased income generation, access to markets, and local employment. Given eBay's goals, there will be a focus on entrepreneurs from Brazil, India, and China. With hands-on mentorship and a refined curriculum, the Center will take social entrepreneurs to the next level, help them scale their enterprises, and attract funding.

    Additionally, with eBay Foundation’s support, the Center will begin to work with local social enterprises. The Center will pilot a GSBI “Boot Camp” for Bay Area Social Entrepreneurs. This will be comprehensive two-day training for 8-12 social enterprises, which are dedicated to improving the livelihoods of the disadvantaged or underrepresented populations in the Bay Area. The boot camp will help them grow their enterprises in a financially stable and sustainable way.

    More information about these programs will be forthcoming in 2014.


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