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How the Impact Space is Meeting the Moment and Embracing Anti-Racism

The Derek Chauvin trial currently underway for the murder of George Floyd, and too many other horrifying recent headlines underscore the ingrained racism in the US: the police shootings of Daunte Wright and 13-year-old Adam Toledo, last month’s Atlanta spa shootings and the resulting spotlight on anti-Asian acts of violence, continuing anti-immigrant and anti-Latino policies and violence, and widespread voter suppression measures targeting people of color.
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Social Enterprise Advisory Council

Miller Center is doubling down on our efforts to accelerate social entrepreneurship to end global poverty for the next generation. Our new Social Enterprise Advisory Council is a key part of our strategy — helping to inform our decisions and bring about our most ambitious outcomes. The eight amazing entrepreneurs on our council are all partners and alumni of our accelerator programs. They hail from Cameroon, India, Kenya, Mexico, Uganda, and the US, with their impact also extending to Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, and Tanzania.

Each enterprise is working in the areas of women’s economic empowerment or climate resilience (often both), with businesses focused on sustainable farming, women’s health, water and sanitation, food security and nutrition, empowering artisans, and energy access. All of them are having tremendous impact in improving lives and lifting people out of poverty.

Please watch my video introducing our inaugural Social Enterprise Advisory Council.

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Social Entrepreneurship Can Move the Needle on Women’s Economic Empowerment

As the month of International Women’s Day on the 8th and Women’s History Month in the US, March is a time to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments, strength, and resilience of women. It is an opportunity to honor the women who are our heroes, mentors, and role models, both the famous and the personal. For me, some of those notable women include the “notorious” Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Rosa Parks, and my mom, Val Ellis.

But while we commemorate how far we’ve come, it’s impossible to ignore how far we still have to go. Data compiled by UN Women shows that women are paid less than men globally, are more likely to be unemployed, and are disproportionately responsible for unpaid work, spending approximately “2.5 times more time on unpaid care and domestic work than men.” And we’re witnessing how COVID is only widening these gaps. A January article in Fortune dropped this bombshell: “Women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 jobs shed by the U.S. economy in December”, with the pandemic largely to blame.

Even though the social enterprise movement is at the forefront of innovation and sustainable change on so many levels, women entrepreneurs still must overcome far greater hurdles for recognition and investment compared to their male counterparts. My February Op-Ed in Times of Entrepreneurship: The Real Reason Women Entrepreneurs Struggle to Raise Funding highlights that women-led enterprises are drastically underfunded despite the fact that their businesses, on average, significantly outperform those founded by men. A Santa Clara University study led by Professor Maya Ackerman and cited in Forbes found that gender is the primary determining factor in funding, with women “65% less likely to get funded at early stages…and 35% less likely to be funded at later stages.”

Yet social entrepreneurship still offers some of the most compelling hope for women’s economic empowerment — as founders and leaders, customers, employees, and value chain contributors. My two Op-Eds published this month in Times of Entrepreneurship, Good Jobs For Women Are In Reach Through Social Enterprises and These 10 Social Enterprises Help Women Navigate The Grey Economy, focus on the ways social enterprises are providing both formal and semi-formal work opportunities for women.

We know that raising women’s economic status works! According to a Boston Consulting Group analysis, if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, global GDP would rise by approximately 3% to 6%, adding $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion to the global economy. And as women earn money, they are significantly more likely to invest in their children’s education and their communities than men.

Miller Center is working tirelessly to be part of the solution in changing the narrative for women, especially those living in poverty. One way we’re doing this is through our recently launched Women’s Economic Empowerment Accelerator for enterprises taking a robust and holistic approach to elevating women in all aspects of their businesses.

Our mission is to accelerate social entrepreneurship to eliminate global poverty for the next generation. To deliver on this ambitious goal, the evidence is clear — we must move the needle on women’s economic empowerment.

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Action Research With A Mission

Last week, our 2020 Global Social Benefit Fellows (GSBF) presented their projects working with Miller Center alumni social enterprises over the past 10 months. When I exited their Action Research with a Mission Virtual Open House I thought to myself, “I just might have the best job in the world!” I trust you’ll be equally inspired by our video.

The fellows’ presentations highlighted not only their resilience but also their ability to pivot and to provide meaningful contributions while working in an ambiguous environment. They also learned that they could, even from thousands of miles away, create a value exchange with their assigned social enterprises, have an impact, and be part of the solution to end poverty and protect the planet.

Miller Center has launched the GSBF Endowment to drive our vision of providing action research with a mission to Santa Clara University students. We are almost halfway to our $10M goal for this award-winning program from which 12 fellows have been awarded Fulbrights and 3 have been selected as SCU valedictorians. Support for the GSBF Endowment will continue our tradition of excellence as we round the corner on the GSBF 10th anniversary.

Thank you to our remarkable student fellows! We are tremendously proud and look forward to watching all you accomplish from here! Thanks also to the inspiring social enterprises who hosted our fellows, and to the families and friends who encouraged the students on this exciting, albeit virtual, journey.