Remaining Resilient

If we were to pick one word that speaks to hope in 2020, it’s resilience. As the world faces a global pandemic, we’ve seen incredibly resilient people, enterprises, communities, and nations emerge as role models and heroes. Yet resilience is not new to social entrepreneurs. While these women and men are tapping into their own resilience as they confront COVID-19, they have also long fought to build resilience into the world’s impoverished communities, providing hope to our most vulnerable.


Resilience in the social enterprise ecosystem is about a community’s ability to absorb stresses and bounce back stronger in fighting poverty, systemic injustices, health crises, climate change, and more. As these entrepreneurs work tirelessly on the front lines of poverty eradication, social justice, and climate resilience, they elevate those who are marginalized, particularly women and people of color, by providing equitable access to resources and opportunity. Miller Center is honored to accompany our social entrepreneurs worldwide to build resilient communities and architect a more just, humane, and sustainable world.

Stories of Resilience 2020

A Message From Our Executive Director

The past year has brought significant challenges, critical impact, and exciting changes to Miller Center’s work. COVID hit us and our social enterprise (SE) alumni like a hurricane. As you can imagine, most of our alumni don’t have the financial resources to wait out the virus and they operate in countries where the government isn’t in a position to provide relief.

The team at Miller Center felt a moral imperative to keep our positive impact on track by continuing to walk with our SEs. We quickly prototyped and launched our 3-week Crisis Business Planning Program. We have since followed it up with our BounceBack program which focuses on recovery and growth for our SEs. All of this is possible because of our talented mentors, generous funders, innovative program managers, dynamic digital platform, and gritty social entrepreneurs.

The response the team has delivered to the needs of our community appropriately exemplifies the theme of this year’s annual report — resilience. As you read the stories here and more online, you will find resilience at the heart of what the social enterprises, mentors, Santa Clara University students, Jesuits, and Catholic Sisters we work with are doing around the world.

In the midst of the global pandemic, two more Global Social Benefit Fellows won Fulbright awards (bringing the program’s total to 12), we launched a women-led cohort with xx SEs, grew our mentor cadre to xxx mentors, and partnered with Beneficial Returns and some loyal donors to form an emergency loan fund for our alumni.

Thank you for your continued engagement and support of our work. This annual report is for you, and honors the resilience we have all dug deep for during this unprecedented time in our history.

Wishing health and safety to you and your loved ones!

Hear from Brigit

If you have not had the chance to watch our ED transition celebration, please take the opportunity to hear from Brigit.

Building the Foundation

Smart Havens Africa

Safe, stable housing is foundational to resilience. Smart Havens Africa CEO Anne Rweyora learned this from an early age after her father passed and her mother had to prioritize rent over school fees. Anne and her co-founder Will Broad, whose family also struggled, built Smart Havens Africa to make the dream of homeownership a reality for low-income and women-led families in Uganda, where over 1.25 million women-led families rent indefinitely. They intimately understand that homeownership provides the foundation upon which education, health care, food security, and human dignity are built.

To create a sustainable and affordable pathway out of poverty, Smart Havens Africa

  • Utilizes innovative, affordable technology to create interlocking stabilized soil bricks (ISSBs) with locally available materials to speed the construction process
  • Employs and trains women to provide them access to the male-dominated fields of construction and engineering
  • Builds communities to break down barriers between neighbors and bring families together in supportive environments
  • Enables families to own their homes within 3 to 10 years through their accessible rent-to-own housing model

SHA has participated in two Miller Center accelerator programs — in 2018 and 2019. According to Anne, “The feeling that we have about the relationship and the impact that Miller Center has helped us create is beyond words. We became like family. They really hold your hand in building a scalable and impactful enterprise.”

She and her team envision scaling in Uganda and Eastern Africa to help 1,000 people each year to achieve their dreams of a home.


“Smart Havens Africa has given hope to families who had lost hope of having their own home.”

— Anne Rweyora | CEO, Smart Havens Africa

Lighting the Way


“Born with a handful of solar lights, Pollinate Group has grown into a movement of changemakers, empowering women to lead their communities out of poverty.”

—Sujatha Ramani | CEO, Pollinate Group

Pollinate Group

In India and Nepal, where almost 200 million people live in extreme poverty, Pollinate Group empowers women through entrepreneurship. The enterprise trains women to sell solar lights, clean cookstoves, and other products that improve health and save time and money for families in some of the most neglected communities in the world. Pollinate has trained over 650 women who have reached more than 652,000 people — saving their customers $23 million and dramatically reducing their CO2 emissions compared with more costly and unhealthy alternatives like kerosene and candles.

The enterprise has participated in two Miller Center accelerator programs and hosted Santa Clara University students under our Global Social Benefit Fellowship. When our fellow, Samantha Bennett won a Fulbright-Nehru research scholarship, she spent eight months in India with Pollinate where she studied women’s agency through entrepreneurship and clean energy solutions until the pandemic cut her trip short. At home, Samantha reflected on her time with these women entrepreneurs and wrote their st

With the outbreak of COVID-19, the company’s sales came to an abrupt halt, prompting Pollinate to join our Crisis Business Planning Program — an intensive 3-week, mentored program developed specifically to help Miller Center alumni weather the pandemic. “The game plan we developed was extremely valuable,” said Director of Philanthropy Biheng Zhang. “We were able to think 30, 60, 90 days ahead.” Through the process, Pollinate accelerated a move to cashless transactions and received a $100,000 loan from the Truss Fund, an emergency loan fund developed by Miller Center and impact investor Beneficial Returns to help them avoid layoffs.

Pollinate Group’s work has tremendous impact — illuminating the power and resilience of women. The entrepreneurs Pollinate empowers report gaining confidence and respect as a result of operating their own businesses, taking on new leadership roles in their communities, and earning financial independence to care for their families and keep their children in school.

Achieving Strength through Partnership

Innovation Works

Almost three years ago, Baltimore community development advocate Frank Knott reached out to Miller Center to determine whether our work with social entrepreneurs globally could be applied in an urban American setting. Frank and his team concluded that Miller Center was the right partner to help reduce Baltimore’s racial and wealth divide.

Innovation Works was founded last year with the goal of launching 250 social enterprises in 10 years that will employ 5,000 Baltimore residents and attract $100 million in investments to the city’s under-resourced neighborhoods. As part of IW’s strategic partnership with Miller Center, the two organizations have refined our industry-leading curriculum to meet the community’s needs and launched three joint accelerator programs to date, pairing IW mentors with our mentors to work with more than 60 Baltimore-based social enterprises. Innovation Works has also hosted three of our Global Social Benefit Fellows to perform action research that will help prove this partnership model and replicate it in other urban centers.

The Innovation Works team worked diligently from the start to connect with all of the social entrepreneurial activities happening across Baltimore, forge partnerships to fuel the ecosystem, and be mindful of not reinventing the wheel. This is evident in the quality of the social entrepreneurs and the Innovation Works mentors who have been recruited and trained with support from Miller Center.

We are proud to partner with the outstanding team at Innovation Works as they teach and accompany local social enterprises that create sustainable neighborhood economies and result in better family living, more resilient communities, and a safer, more vibrant city.

“Quote (include “leading with love”?)”
—Jay Nwachu, President & Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Works

Extra Assets


Pivoting in the face of Crisis


Miller Center’s work with social enterprises to eliminate poverty and protect the planet spans such complex issues as economic empowerment, clean drinking water, sustainable farming, infant mortality, reproductive health, improved education, and more.

Three areas where Miller Center is at the forefront of accelerating social entrepreneurship are:

    1. Supporting women’s economic growth
    2. Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, and clean energy
    3. Restoring dignity to marginalized communities—refugees, migrants, and human trafficking survivors


Kuala Lumpur-based PichaEats grew out of a desire to empower and provide a sustainable living to refugees and asylum seekers living in Malaysia. The social enterprise identifies families who can cook, provides training, designs menus and packaging, runs marketing campaigns, and arranges logistics to deliver food cooked by Picha chefs to clients. Since 2016, PichaEats has partnered with chefs originally from Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, and Pakistan — serving over 160,000 meals, mostly through corporate catering, and giving back MYR 2 million (over $450,000) to refugee families.


PichaEats was in the midst of Miller Center’s Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins accelerator when the pandemic struck. CEO and co-founder Kim Lim knew she had to pivot the business to survive. According to Lim, “In a span of less than a month, the team launched The Zaza Movement — an initiative named in honor of our late chef — to have people make donations that enabled refugees to cook from home and deliver meals to front-liners and people who have lost their jobs,” and increased their focus on packaged meals for families. By mid-April, PichaEats had distributed nearly 15,000 meals in almost 20 communities, demonstrating their resilience, decisive action, and compassion.


Communities Fed

Meals Served x 1,000

Growing a Sustainable Future


NUCAFE is planting seeds for sustainable growth, both literally and figuratively, in Uganda and beyond. The National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises helps smallholder Ugandan coffee farmers earn higher prices by providing training, end-to-end processing, and direct access to better markets through the collective power of cooperatives. Today, NUCAFE works with more than 1.5 million individual farmers, helping them capture a greater share of the coffee value chain and lifting them out of a vicious cycle of poverty.


The coffee cooperative first participated in Miller Center’s 2016 accelerator program and we have continued to accompany each other since, as NUCAFE participated in our individualized alumni accelerator, graciously hosted two of our immersion trips for staff and supporters to see the real impact of our alumni in the field, and welcomed five of our student Global Social Benefit Fellows to conduct action research in Uganda. Fellow Griffin Garner was so inspired by his work with NUCAFE that he applied for and won a Fulbright Scholarship to continue working with the organization. (Griffin Quote) Although disrupted by the pandemic, Griffin ???


When Miller Center joined the Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) in launching the Sisters’ Blended Value Project to transform social ministries into social enterprises, NUCAFE signed on to provide apprenticeship opportunities to two congregations of Catholic sisters in Uganda. The sisters recently completed their apprenticeship where they ????


Like so many around the world, NUCAFE and their smallholder farmers were hard hit by COVID-19. The organization participated in Miller Center’s three-week intensive crisis business planning program and received an emergency bridge loan from the Truss Fund, ????.

The fund’s support allowed NUCAFE to continue to buy coffee from its network of farmers and prepare to meet international demand as coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants reopen.


Miller Center’s work with social enterprises to eliminate poverty and protect the planet spans such complex issues as economic empowerment, clean drinking water, sustainable farming, infant mortality, reproductive health, improved education, and more.

Three areas where Miller Center is at the forefront of accelerating social entrepreneurship are:

    1. Supporting women’s economic growth
    2. Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, and clean energy
    3. Restoring dignity to marginalized communities—refugees, migrants, and human trafficking survivors


Miller Center By The Numbers


Fellowship Alumni


University Valedictorians


Fulbright Scholars


Total Action Research Projects


Fellowship Alumni

Program Partners


Don't Stop Here

We welcome the opportunity to engage with:

  • Social entrepreneurs looking for mentoring to grow their organization
  • Impact investors and grant funders looking to maximize the impact of their investments
  • New mentors and experts willing to share their expertise
  • Organizations tackling any of our initiatives and are interested in exploring partnership opportunities