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The Tech Museum Awards Impact–– A Five Year View

Barnholt Article

Edward W. Barnholt

As we celebrate the fifth year of The Tech Museum Awards, it seems fitting to reflect on the impact of the program. Clearly the institution of The Tech has been enhanced and expanded by the amazing stories of the now 125 Laureates that exemplify the best of technological innovation. Our board, staff, donors, and visitors––both in person and virtually––have gained a global perspective and increased sensitivity to the challenges that confront this planet we share. The Tech Awards have reached every continent and scores of countries, bringing home to us here in Silicon Valley sobering realities and inspiring success stories. But how have The Tech Awards impacted our Laureates and, perhaps more importantly, the people they serve with their technological innovations in every corner of the globe?

In the first year, one of the Tech Awards founders, Jim Morgan, Chairman of Applied Materials, presenting sponsor of the Awards since its inception, foresaw the opportunity to do more for the Laureates than acknowledge and publicize their work at an exhilarating annual gala. With Jim’s leadership, the Tech Laureate Venture Network(TLVN) was established in 2002 to provide the Laureates with information and access to people and resources that could expand their endeavors. The TLVN transformed the Awards into a year round program and established ongoing, long-term relationships with the Laureates.

In 2003, Jim Koch another Tech Awards leader and founding director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University, took this concept even further by launching the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI). The GSBI brings technological innovators to the University for an intensive two-week residential program to build their business acumen and entrepreneurial skills, and the majority of the participants have been our Tech Awards Laureates.

So now through information gleaned from on-going contact and periodic surveys, we have asked our Laureates, “How has The Tech Awards program been beneficial to you?” Overall the Laureates concur that the Tech Awards have provided heightened visibility and much needed validation for their organizations. They have been featured in their local news and international media. Through the expanded elements of the Awards program, many Laureates report that their work has grown and been stabilized. Laureates have built their capacity through new connections with philanthropists and with business and non-profit leaders. They have emulated the lessons of Silicon Valley, importing best business practices and the entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes this tech region. The Laureates report that they are now more strategic and have implemented better management procedures, based upon their associations with this expanded community of Laureates, sponsors, and partners. We also are heartened to discover that many of the Laureates indicate they have contributed to the emergence of other social benefit entrepreneurs.

But can these impressive qualitative reports be confirmed and quantified with metrics? In case after case, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” For example, 2001 Laureate Freeplay Foundation has expanded its reach from 500,000 individuals in 10 countries to 1,650,000 individuals in 25 countries. Headquartered in South Africa, Freeplay provides wind-up and solar powered radios to poor people in remote regions and connects them with life-saving information. 2003 Laureate Equal Access has seen its annual budget grow from $1M to $4M, but equally significant is that the percent coming from revenue generation has more than doubled from 30% to 65%, which reduces the young organization’s reliance on fundraising. Equal Access utilizes radio and satellite technology to cost-effectively reach large numbers of people in remote areas of the developing world. They have extended their broadcast reach from 9M to 13M individuals, enabling the people Equal Access serves to lead more equitable and successful lives. Similarly, 2002 Laureate Bunker Roy’s Barefoot College increased its budget share from earned revenue from 45% to 81%, while at the same time reaching 75,000 families in 2004 compared to 40,000 in 2002. Based in India, Barefoot College puts practical knowledge, such as how to create and manage power and harvest rainwater, into the hands of the rural poor so they can build and maintain their own sustainable communities.

Putting it all together, The Tech Museum Awards program is having a profound impact around the world. Our Laureates learn essential skills from one another and from the outstanding resources the program avails them. They view their efforts in a new light, with a focus on sustainability and the ability to scale their innovations to reach increased numbers of people more effectively and efficiently. Their work continues, enriched withncreased advocacy. We in The Tech Museum community have the privilege of becoming part of this global enterprise casting a bright light on those who are applying the power of technological innovation to the urgent needs of humanity and our precious environment. We acknowledge that none of this would be possible without the generous support of the Awards sponsors and partners. We indeed have cause to celebrate and ample evidence to spur us on to accomplish even more in the years ahead for The Tech Museum Awards––Technology Benefiting Humanity.

About the Author


Edward  W.  Barnholt recently retired as Chairman, President, and CEO of Agilent Technologies.  He led the company’s four business sectors: Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis, Semiconductor Products, Test and Measurement, and Automated Test.  Prior to Agilent, Mr. Barnholt served as a Hewlett-Packard Company executive vice president and general manager of the Measurement Organization.  He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford.  He served as Chairman of The Tech Museum’s Board of Directors from 2001-2003 and has been Chairman of the Tech Awards Executive Committee from 2004 - 2005.

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