Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
Reflections on the social enterprise accelerator’s accomplishments and challenges; outlining experiments for increasing impact.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is a pioneer in social entrepreneurship and impact investing. Founded as the Center for Science, Technology, and Society in 1997, Miller Center melds Silicon Valley’s spirit of innovation with Santa Clara University’s Jesuit ethos to help find sustainable solutions to global poverty.
“Miller Center’s mission is to accelerate global entrepreneurship in service to humanity,” said Jeff Miller, chair of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and a trustee of Santa Clara University. “We do everything in our power to help social enterprises thrive, so they can succeed in their work to eradicate poverty.”
Miller Center is part of a broad ecosystem that uses social entrepreneurship—which blends the goals of social action with the rigor of business know-how—to create social change and address environmental challenges. Aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and the call to action by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’, Miller Center concentrates on advancing social enterprises that help poor communities become resilient to the damaging effects of climate change and that foster economic empowerment and health of women.
“Climate change will impact the global poor most dramatically, and the majority of the world’s 4 billion poor are women,” said Thane Kreiner, Ph.D., executive director of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “Social entrepreneurship offers a solution to these inextricably linked global challenges of poverty, climate change and gender inequality.”
Some Miller Center Accomplishments and Milestones
“Miller Center was founded with a vision of uniting the Jesuit tradition of working to create a more just, humane and sustainable world with the Silicon Valley tradition of innovation in science and technology,” said Jim Koch, senior founding fellow of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Don C. Dodson Distinguished Service Professor of Management for Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. “I’ve always seen our role as connecting humanism with technology to serve the common good and especially the needs of the poor. It’s gratifying to witness Miller Center’s progress so far.”
During its first two decades, Miller Center has:
· Through its Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) programs, served more than 600 social entrepreneurs from 65 countries; their social enterprises have raised more than $340 million in investments and positively impacted more than 230 million lives
· Enlisted a cadre of more than 140 Silicon Valley executives as Miller Center mentors, who accompany GSBI social entrepreneurs for 6 to 10 months through structured curricula that are personalized and tuned to the needs of the entrepreneurs
· Trained more than 250 impact investors, whose capital is essential for social enterprises to scale
· Deployed 75 Global Social Benefit Fellows, undergraduate Santa Clara University students who conduct field-based action research that has helped 22 Miller Center GSBI alumni scale their impact
Miller Center forges strong partnerships with other actors in the social entrepreneurship and impact investing ecosystems. It has built a GSBI Network of more than 25 mission-aligned social enterprise incubators and accelerators around the world, and it is pioneering innovative partnerships with corporations. For example:
· The General Electric (GE) healthymagination Mother & Child program, focused on social entrepreneurs improving the health of women and children in sub-Saharan Africa
· Seagate Technology, which engaged Miller Center to train local Seagate business leaders as mentors for Thai social entrepreneurs
· The eBay Foundation, sponsor of a GSBI Xchange program to systematically transfer Miller Center’s social entrepreneurship methodologies to partners worldwide for local use
Experiments for Amplifying Social and Environmental Impact in the Future
“While Miller Center has accomplished a great deal, the need for social justice is greater now than ever,” said Kreiner. “We continually experiment with new ways to scale the impact of social enterprises, leveraging the acumen of our Silicon Valley mentors, the impact investing community and future change leaders among our students.”
Miller Center is currently experimenting with the replication of successful social enterprise technology solutions and business models by identifying best practices and turning them into playbooks for up-and-coming social enterprises.
For instance, off-grid energy social enterprises might use microgrids in areas of high population density and stand-alone solar home systems in more sparsely populated regions. Playbooks based on best practices of successful off-grid energy social enterprises can help new entrepreneurs jumpstart their efforts, reduce risk for impact investors and allow social enterprises to reach financial sustainability more quickly.
“Directly and through our global network of mission-aligned accelerators, how can we help thousands of social enterprises successfully scale their impact?” asked Kreiner. “How can authentic impact investors locate and ascertain viable deals? How can the next generation of change leaders engage in lifting billions of people out of poverty? These challenges occupy and inspire us.”
About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University in California. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication with an emphasis on climate resilience and women’s economic empowerment. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.
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 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry and theology; and law and engineering doctoral degrees. 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.
All photos are courtesy of Santa Clara University.