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Miller Center and Chevron Welcome Latest Cohort of Social Entrepreneur Graduates

Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is excited to welcome the latest cohort of social entrepreneurs to our alumni community. These ten extraordinary entrepreneurs, with direct impact in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam participated in the 2021 Climate Resilience Asia Pacific Accelerator program, a collaboration between Miller Center and Chevron. This is the second program supporting Chevron’s contribution to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Asia Pacific region.

According to the World Bank, climate change has not slowed down and its connection with human wellbeing and poverty is increasingly visible. Unchecked, it will push 132 million people into poverty over the next 10 years, undoing hard-won development gains. The Climate Resilience Asia Pacific cohort directly addressed the most significant barriers for the region’s highest potential social entrepreneurs — those solving for reliable, affordable, low-carbon solutions that scale — with high-touch support from our mentor network, local Asia Pacific leaders, and Chevron staff. All of the social entrepreneurs focused on one or more of the following:

  • Energy, by providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy
  • Water, ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation
  • Climate-smart agriculture, implementing sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices to increase productivity and production

After working through six-months of business and impact model curriculum with assigned Miller Center mentors, the program culminated in December with rigorous feedback panel sessions. These sessions, designed to simulate investor diligence meetings, gave participants an opportunity to receive feedback in real-time on their business and fundraising plans. In addition to the assigned curriculum, the program also included special webinars hosted by Chevron experts on the topics of human resources, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), governance, and board management. There was also an opportunity for participants to work with the Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) to be featured on their Deal Share Platform.

Miller Center and Chevron worked together to conduct a robust marketing campaign that leveraged social media especially, through a series of videos and here are three examples:


Following a successful pilot program partnership supporting mini-grids in Myanmar and now this Climate Resilience Asia Pacific cohort, Miller Center is excited to continue collaborating with Chevron in further supporting social entrepreneurs who are directly addressing the nexus between the climate crisis and people living in poverty.

Congratulations and welcome to Miller Center’s newest social entrepreneur graduates!

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Expanding the Journey: Introducing Miller Center’s Alumni Solutions

Miller Center has come a long way in the past year and a half since embarking on the strategic visioning process led by Executive Director Brigit Helms. As I reflect on where we started and where we are headed, the words of C.S. Lewis comes to mind: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Miller Center Journey

As part of Miller Center’s 2025 strategy, we envisioned a future that continued to build on previous years’ success to scale our impact. We even gave ourselves the ambitious goal to achieve the same depth of impact over the next five years that we have attained over our 17-year history and continue to make our center the foremost accelerator for sustainable social enterprises in the world.

But how do we plan to execute this strategy exactly? The world and the social enterprises that work in it have evolved and grown so much in the 17 years since we first began the journey of accelerating social entrepreneurs. To continue to operate as we previously have in years past no longer makes sense. The answer is that Miller Center must evolve too, and the best way to achieve a greater depth of impact is to focus our energy and resources on a particular subset of social enterprises with strong scalable and replicable models. Our goal is to help these organizations in building their capacity to more effectively fight poverty, improve lives, and transform markets.

With the goal of focusing our efforts on social entrepreneurs with the highest potential, Miller Center has made an intentional pivot in our alumni strategy. Historically, alumni engagement was managed in a light-touch, one-size-fits-all manner, attempting to serve all alumni social entrepreneurs in the same way and resulting in a minimal value exchange. We believe that focusing alumni resources on targeted, bespoke interventions for the highest potential alumni, especially in investment facilitation and value-add impact measurement and management tools, will help us achieve our 2025 vision.

My Journey and the Social Enterprise Journey

With an intentional focus on alumni of our programs, we have grown and expanded the Miller Center journey for our social entrepreneurs, so that even after they complete an accelerator program, they will continue to receive support. In parallel with Miller Center’s strategy, my journey at the Center has also evolved. This past summer, I transitioned from program managing accelerators for new social entrepreneurs to supporting and directing the Miller Center alumni community. What initially felt like a daunting challenge, with many different approaches to consider, turned into an exciting opportunity as our team outlined a social enterprise roadmap that helped identify customized solutions for the most scalable social entrepreneurs to grow their business and impact.

As highlighted in the roadmap below, the journey with Miller Center really begins after completing an accelerator program.

Alumni Suite of Solutions

Our new strategy builds on sustained support with a robust set of offerings that include continuing resources, extra levels of customized support, and fostered

and facilitated relationships such as specialized mentoring, peer-to-peer engagement, external partnerships, and more opportunities to engage directly with Santa Clara University faculty and students.

Programs and Short Courses

Among alumni solutions, we launched an Alumni Leadership Coaching Program and a Bespoke Mentoring Program which provide one-on-one leadership coaching and mentorship to tackle leadership and business challenges unique to the social entrepreneur and their enterprise. Also initiated this year was the inaugural cohort for the  Investment Readiness Program which provides self-guided access to the Duke CASE Smart Impact Capital curriculum. Additionally, we developed an Impact Model Short Course to help alumni further refine their impact model and metrics.

Peer-to-Peer

We also launched our Africa, Asia, and Latin America Leadership Circles. Facilitated by experienced Miller Center mentors, this 6-month program is a peer-to-peer forum that provides a support system for CEOs to work through challenges, get impartial feedback, and become more confident decision-makers.

Webinars

This fall we hosted a webinar in partnership with our friends at FairTrade to offer guidance on their certification process, as well as a webinar on Investor Outreach Tactics to provide further support on how best to leverage the CASE Smart Impact Capital content.

Santa Clara University Engagement

After a successful pilot, Miller Center is expanding our new Internship program as well as the Fellowship for SCU students to support greater numbers of high-potential social enterprise alumni. This summer we also began a partnership with the Leavey School of Business to launch an eMBA Marketing class in which Miller Center alumni receive marketing support from MBA students. Miller Center also extended grants to two SCU faculty in which they will be paired with select alumni to conduct research on impact evaluation and supply chain challenges.

Integral to our alumni strategy planning was the creation of our new Social Enterprise Advisory Council. The Council is composed of eight outstanding Miller Center social entrepreneur alumni who range widely in sector and location. Their perspectives bring the voice of the customer and have helped inform our decisions around the type of support that is most needed by social entrepreneurs.

Alumni Landing Page

Tying all of these solutions together is Miller Center’s brand new Alumni Landing Page which is accessible via our Community Platform. For the first time ever, social enterprise alumni will have access to a one-stop-shop resource with all of the current and upcoming opportunities available to them.

More Alumni Opportunities in 2022

Miller Center is just getting started on this journey, and we are very excited to continue to offer more opportunities for alumni in the new year. Among those are the ScaleOut program set to launch in February 2022 and a week-long in-person In-Residence in April 2022 which will be hosted at Miller Center’s new office in the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation at Santa Clara University.

As one can clearly see, Miller Center is doing a heck of a lot for our social entrepreneur alumni. Our center is committed to accompanying social enterprises on their journeys, and we are in it for the long haul!

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Miller Center Expands Commitment to Women’s Economic Empowerment with New Accelerator

When we think about what achievement looks like for Miller Center in the year 2025, we picture our center as one of the most successful accelerators in the world for scalable social enterprises. In order to achieve this, Miller Center has made the intentional decision to focus on social enterprises who incorporate these two key areas — Climate Resilience and Women’s Economic Empowerment. Focusing on social entrepreneurs within these areas will enable Miller Center to produce more scalable and replicable models with the capacity to more effectively fight poverty and transform markets. With our upcoming accelerator, Miller Center is supporting social enterprises that are taking a robust and holistic approach to supporting women in all aspects of business. We are very excited to announce the launch of our first Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) cohort. In addition to including women-led businesses, this cohort also encompasses organizations that incorporate other important WEE dimensions: women as employees, value chain participants, and customers.

Miller Center’s Learning Journey to Better Support WEE

An overwhelming number of studies and research prove that empowering women economically goes beyond the success of the individual woman or business; it is a global good. If women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, the global GDP would rise by approximately 3% to 6%, adding $2.5 trillion to $5 trillion to the global economy. This strengthens Miller Center’s decision to take a 360 degree approach in supporting women in all facets of business. By valuing the needs and perspectives of the social enterprises we accompany and by paying attention to gender lens research released by ecosystem partners, our center continues to be on a learning journey so that we are best equipped to be part of the solution in creating systems that are inclusive and rid of long standing biases.

With the release of the 2016 white paper, Turning on the Lights, Miller Center first recognized the power of women entrepreneurs. But it wasn’t until 2019 that we really prioritized women in business and acknowledged the unique needs of women leaders by introducing a women-led affinity group within a cohort. Learning from the needs of the women in this affinity group   prompted Miller Center to focus an entire cohort the following year on women leaders. One of the learnings applied to this particular cohort included greater emphasis on leadership coaching as a means to increase confidence and level the playing field.

Building New Ecosystems and Partnerships to Achieve WEE

As Miller Center’s Executive Director Brigit Helms recently wrote in this “Times of Entrepreneurship” Op-Ed piece, in order for women entrepreneurs to succeed, new networks and ecosystems need to be cultivated, especially when it comes to fundraising. In addition to providing executive mentorship combined with a structured curriculum to help them become stronger fundraisers, the WEE program will also offer one-on-one leadership coaching, gender inclusion trainings hosted by Value For Women, and an invitation from Santa Clara University’s Silicon Valley Executive Center to access its online leadership and management certificate course, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. As part of Miller Center’s own journey in helping make WEE the norm and not the exception, building partnerships across Santa Clara University with centers like the Silicon Valley Executive Center and externally with thought leaders such as Value For Women will continue to play an important role in our learning journey narrative.

Welcome Miller Center’s Largest Cohort to Date

Of the 250 applicants, 31 selected enterprises were invited to participate in this year’s WEE cohort. These enterprises were selected based on their stage of development and the fact that they are addressing one or more of the four dimensions of our WEE strategy. Their collective impact spans multiple countries including South Africa, Angola, Botswana,Ghana, Guatemala, Kenya, Vietnam, Spain, Malawi, USA, Uganda, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and the Philippines.

The cohort officially launched on February 23, 2021 and will culminate in August 2021 with intensive feedback panel presentations. Miller Center is excited to announce its latest and largest cohort to date of social enterprises who are creating models of success and addressing women’s economic empowerment in their mission to provide a pathway out of poverty for the communities they support. Read more about each enterprise below.

 

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Giving a Jumpstart to 15 Women-Led Enterprises

In May of this year, Miller Center launched it’s first 100% women-led cohort to help advance women leaders and women’s economic growth. Of the 227 applicants, 17 women entrepreneurs were selected to participate in our 6-month GSBI® Online program. Today I am also very excited to announce that another 15 were selected to participate in our 4-month GSBI JumpStart program, which officially launched on June 30.

Originally piloted in 2017, the JumpStart program was initiated as a way to support early-stage but high potential social entrepreneurs, in particular, women-led and locally-led organizations. The format of JumpStart differs from other GSBI accelerator programs in that it is delivered in a shorter period of time and with a less structured format. The goal is to help give these enterprises a “jumpstart” to be prepared to apply for future stage-specific accelerators like GSBI online as well as to develop strategies to grow their enterprises in a financially sustainable manner.

Since JumpStart is geared toward supporting early-stage enterprises, the organizations in this cohort on average have been in operation 1-4 years and are a mix of for-profit, non-profit, and hybrid businesses. They are creating impact across 7 countries — Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, India, and the US, and working across 7 impact sectors — Education, Energy, Agriculture, Health, Artisanal, Environment, and Housing/Community Development.

Discover the 15 social enterprises selected for our 2020 GSBI JumpStart Women-Led Cohort:

Agriculture

Health

Education

Energy

Artisanal

Environment

Housing/Community Development

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Eleven / Eleven: Watch 11 Social Enterprises from Cohort 11

More than three-quarters of Ugandans depend on agriculture for their livelihood, but only 31% of the arable land in Uganda is in use. Smallholder farmers make up over 80% of the farming community in Uganda, but it’s nearly impossible for them to get loans: only 1% of commercial lending in Uganda goes to farmers. In addition to lacking credit, these farmers face a number of issues that threaten their survival.
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