Assessing the Impact of Miller Center’s Accelerator Program


By Chan Thai, Associate Professor, & Jacqueline Thai, Research Assistant, Santa Clara University Department of Communication

Social entrepreneurship is a dynamic and challenging field where the ability to secure funding can have a direct impact on an enterprise’s ability to scale. To address this challenge, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship dedicates substantial resources to training and supporting social entrepreneurs through its accelerator program. This program aims to enhance the competencies and skills necessary for developing compelling business proposals, increasing the likelihood of securing additional funding.

The Miller Center Accelerator Program

Miller Center’s accelerator is designed to train and unite social enterprises with the Center’s executive mentor network, world-class programs, Silicon Valley innovation and entrepreneurship, and Santa Clara University’s culture of service. While many participating social enterprises have successfully secured additional funding post-program (Miranda & Lieberman, 2022), there has been no formal evaluation of the program’s impact on the entrepreneurs’ skill development. 

Evaluating the Impact: A Collaborative Project

In Spring 2023, we embarked on an evaluative study in collaboration with Miller Center. Our goal was to assess how well the accelerator program helps entrepreneurs develop key competencies and skills in creating viable business plans. We identified 24 key components of business plans, including clear articulation of product or service, value chain, unit economics, financial model, and impact return on investment, among others. We defined competencies as whether the entrepreneur acknowledged this concept in their materials (e.g., was it present or not). Then, each concept was broken down into 4 levels (for most concepts) of how well the entrepreneur demonstrated it, signaling their skill level on the concept.

The study focused on the 2021 Asia Pacific Climate Resilience Accelerator, a cohort made possible by a Chevron grant, comprising ten social enterprises from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. We reviewed and compared the cohort’s pre- and post-program business plans to assess entrepreneurs’ competencies and skills.

Methodology: A Five-Phase Content Analysis

With support from Andy Lieberman, Miller Center’s Senior Director of Programs, we conducted a structured five-phase content analysis — a social scientific research technique used to make replicable and valid inferences by systematically interpreting and coding textual material. 


  1. Identified key concepts and definitions from the accelerator curriculum to establish a framework for evaluation
  2. Developed initial draft of the codebook to create preliminary coding guidelines
  3. Revised the codebook to refine the guidelines based on initial testing
  4. Coded the full sample of materials to analyze the data systematically
  5. Computed final descriptions and reliabilities to summarize the findings

Key Findings: Improved Competencies and Skills

The findings revealed significant improvements in the entrepreneurs’ competencies post-accelerator program. Of the 24 key concepts identified, 87.5%  saw at least a 10% increase in their inclusion in post-program materials, while average scores for 91.67% of the 24 concepts increased from pre-program to post-program. Elements showing the greatest gains, both in competency and skills, also track with the curriculum components most heavily emphasized by mentors and staff, such as a growth plan, strategic initiatives, and value propositions. These results provide empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the curriculum components and mentoring provided by the program. 

The study concluded that Miller Center’s accelerator program successfully improves participating social enterprises’ understanding of key competencies and skills needed for crafting business plans and pitch decks. This positive impact bolsters the entrepreneurs’ confidence and increases their chances of securing the necessary funding to further their social missions. 

Looking Ahead to Future Studies

Encouraged by this project’s success, we plan to conduct a follow-up study in Summer 2024. This next phase will extend the research to a broader pool of accelerator program participants, aiming to further validate and expand on our initial findings. Our collaboration with Miller Center highlights the importance of continued evaluation to ensure the accelerator program remains effective and impactful and furthers the Center’s commitment to fostering innovation and service in social entrepreneurship.


Photo Credits:

  1. The Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc. (AIDFI) provides solutions for pumping water uphill to change the lives of waterless communities in the Philippines. AIDFI participated in Miller Center’s 2021 Asia Pacific Climate Resilience Accelerator.
  2. Gravity Water, which also participated in the 2021 accelerator, provides schools with innovative rainwater harvesting and treatment technologies to support climate resilience and clean water access.