Written Articles


Mining Alternatives Project

The 2002 mining code in the Democratic Republic of Congo galvanized industrial investment and raised high hopes among local communities. However, “locals have seen few benefits. Congo remains one of the world’s least developed countries, plagued by corruption and poor governance”1 — creating disillusionment among the population.

Indeed, some local mining communities believe that they have lost everything with the advent of industrial mining. To survive, communities illegally occupy unused land and extract minerals from mining parcels granted to industrial companies by the Congolese state. A parallel economy of survival through artisanal mining — small-scale, unlawful, and dangerous subsistent mining — is therefore underway.

The Mining Alternatives Project (MAP) research study was conducted by DRC-based Centre Arrupe Pour La Recherche et La Formation (CARF) in partnership with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.

  • Phase I: Identify viable and effective alternatives to remove vulnerable women and children from industrial and artisanal mines and to improve family livelihoods in local mining communities in the DRC.
  • Phase II: Assess the social, economic, and environmental impact of industrial and artisanal mining on these key mining communities, as well as local perceptions of the effectiveness of responsible sourcing initiatives for cobalt, such as traceability and certification.
  • Phase III: Investigate and analyze existing and planned programs with similar goals in DRC mining regions.

Download the Mining Alternatives Whitepaper

Guest Blog

A New Direction for Retirement: My Journey to Finding Purpose as a Miller Center Mentor

The idea of redirecting your retirement may come from a surprising source. You may be exposed to a new idea, a new person, or a new set of facts, all of which might cause you to rethink your direction. Retirement gives you the freedom to try new things, and then easily back away from anything that is not working for you.

Here’s a story of how my retirement took on a new direction.

I had been retired for a few years from my career as a life sciences executive and had a nice blend of family, learning, leisure, and volunteering. Doing after school tutoring was a good way to give back to disadvantaged kids. Over time, however, it became apparent that my tutoring skills were just average. Some days I connected to the kids and felt like they got a lot from our session. Other days, we were more like two ships passing in the night.

Muhammad Yunus changed my thinking. He won the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking work in microfinance in Bangladesh. He is a social entrepreneur, economist, banker, and civil society leader. My wife and I went to hear him speak.

His social impact message was a personal wake up call. He changed my life. He caused me to think about volunteering in a whole new way. He broke me out of my comfort zone.

His talk had multiple messages, but one part of that talk lives on in my memory. He challenged all of us to think about our best skills. He asked the audience to consider if we were volunteering in a field where we had expertise and are able to have maximum social impact. His message was about the efficiency of our efforts to give back.

Yunus went on to describe social entrepreneurs at the intersection of caring and capitalism. These young, passionate, smart people are working on important social problems all over the world, and using business models to achieve their impact. Their dedication is not enough; they need wisdom from others whose business backgrounds can contribute. Making a big difference by mentoring social entrepreneurs was an opportunity to consider.

At this point, I turned to my wife and said, “There are 500 people in this room hearing this speech, but this guy is talking to me.”

Being an average tutor could be replaced by being a mentor to a social entrepreneur. I’d been a business mentor all of my working life, and I knew I was good at it. Watching people grow through mentoring gave me immense pleasure. Wasn’t this mentoring role where I belonged? Wasn’t it worth spending time to learn more?

The next six weeks were an intense investigation to learn about mentoring social entrepreneurs. What were their needs? Were my skills a good fit for their needs? Would mentoring be any fun? Would it fit with the other activities in my retirement? How do I connect to the right opportunity?

Networking sounded like a good way to find the answers. Friends gave me suggestions of people that they thought would provide insights. Introductions followed, and face to face meetings were held with fifty people. These meetings included leaders of local social impact organizations, foundations, board members, universities, and mentoring organizations. The first result was overwhelming. The menu of appealing choices was simply too long. Over time, however, a fit began to emerge. I decided to become a mentor at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.

My retirement was redirected.

About Richard Haiduck

dick haiduckRichard Haiduck is a former life science executive, now enjoying an active and productive retirement. He is currently immersed in writing the upcoming Tales of Retirement, a book about the generational cultural shift led by active retirees, which chronicles the experiences of fellow Baby Boomers as they actively reinvent themselves in this stage of their lives. Richard has been volunteering as an executive mentor with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship since 2018. He is currently mentoring his fifth social enterprise — Every Shelter, which utilizes the power of design to provide dignified temporary housing solutions for displaced communities — and will next mentor Sun Power, the first solar company in Myanmar. You can visit Richard’s website and find him on Twitter at @richardhaiduck.

Learn more about becoming a Miller Center mentor and sharing your expertise to create impact.

Guest Blog

Babies and Bicycles: How Neopenda and Cycle Connect Are Pivoting to Fight COVID-19

There’s a saying in East Africa, “You can’t turn the wind, so turn the sail.” Social enterprises Cycle Connect in Uganda and Neopenda, which operates in Uganda and the United States, are doing just that.

Neopenda Shifts Vital Signs Monitoring from Newborns to COVID Patients

Guest Blog by Sona Shah, CEO & Co-founder, Neopenda | 2017 GSBI Participant

Neopenda is an innovative technology company focused on underserved and emerging markets. We’re also a group of passionate problem solvers committed to improving healthcare where it’s needed most.

Our neoGuard™ technology is a vital signs monitoring (VSM) system that has been carefully designed and tested in accordance with international standards for safety and efficacy, and with feedback from more than 400 health workers in Uganda and the United States. Our affordable, wearable neoGuard device continuously measures four key vital signs: pulse rate, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, and temperature. Data is wirelessly transmitted to our application on a phone or a tablet where a patient can be monitored remotely or within a clinical setting.

While neoGuard was initially designed to serve critically ill newborns, the Neopenda team sensed an urgent need to modify our solution for pediatric and adult patients as COVID-19 spread rapidly among communities where health systems are not prepared to deal with a pandemic of this scale. Our team has swiftly pivoted on a number of fronts to meet the challenge, including:

    • Adopting neoGuard’s hardware and software to shift from neonatal ICU monitoring to monitoring adults in the hospital and sheltering at home.
    • Designing clinical trials and building research collaborations to measure the impact of neoGuard in the unique context created by COVID-19.
    • Ensuring the accuracy of our VSM algorithms both on a wide variety of patients and at different locations on the body.
    • Forming new partnerships and opportunities to meet the demand for critical medical equipment.
    • Building higher volumes of products faster and setting up secondary supply chains to make Neopenda resilient in the face of emergencies.

Neopenda has already deployed neoGuard at one American hospital for the monitoring of COVID-19-positive patients. And we’re working tirelessly toward equipping many more healthcare workers in the US and Uganda with this vital tool in the fight against the virus.

From our team at Neopenda, stay healthy and safe!


Cycle Connect Provides Emergency Loans and Bicycles to Support Last-Mile Communities During Lockdown

Guest Blog by Molly Burke, CEO & Co-founder, Cycle Connect | 2019 GSBI participant

Cycle Connect is a social enterprise in Uganda that is entirely focused on increasing income and improving livelihoods for rural households living in the last mile. In July 2019, our team began our fiscal year excited for the new year and the journey to come. We were eager to reach more rural families with our products, anticipating all the ways our team would grow, and hopeful for the ways our existence would improve livelihoods in the last mile. We are still committed to all of these things, though we recognize that COVID-19 has rapidly changed what the rest of 2020 and beyond will look like.

The adaptive, agile, and responsive culture of our team allowed us to act fast in the face of COVID-19. We adapted our operations to launch a call center that communicates critical Coronavirus information, began donating bicycles to healthcare workers, and started developing a new loan to ensure food security for rural families.

The adaptive and responsive nature of our team is not new but can be seen through the journey our enterprise has taken. Cycle Connect originally began when we saw a huge void in transportation for people living in Uganda’s most rural areas and so we set out as a lease-to-own bicycle distributor for rural Ugandans. However, we soon realized that we could do more to empower the smallholder farmers who were our customers. We discovered that the financing of income-generating assets was a powerful tool that could unlock access and opportunity. Today, our portfolio includes oxen and plow, ag-processors, and motorcycles in addition to bicycles to further help farmers mechanize.

Fast forward to the global pandemic we all face today… 

In March, before the government of Uganda even imposed remote work, we led our team to be repurposed from a field-based one to that of a remote support call center providing vital and timely information. Within 48 hours, our officers were ready to go with call scripts and our research team auditing the process. 

Hearing hundreds of our clients share the same challenge of being unable to access seeds, we knew we had to act. This led to our team rapidly designing a seed loan to help farmers plant and provide for their families through the lockdown. This is new to us, but we adapted.

cycle connect infographicBy interviewing medical clinics in our community, we discovered transport is a top challenge amidst lockdown and is causing first responders to not make it to the front-lines. This led our team to donate 110 bicycles to healthcare clinics in our community. Bicycles are quite literally one of the only ways for nurses to get to health centers to treat vulnerable patients.

I am a firm believer that our network has made us — and the communities we work with — ever more resilient, and now is when I feel that most. And I am grateful for our partners, like Miller Center, who are helping us ensure that distance is not a barrier to access and opportunity, even through these trying times.

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Action is needed today, tomorrow, and into the future.

In a letter Fr Kevin O’Brien, S.J., President of Santa Clara University, sent to students, faculty and staff he wrote, “Violence in any form has no place in the beloved community we want to build. Nor does silence in the face of injustice.” As a University Center of Distinction focused on social entrepreneurship, a form of social justice, Miller Center is committed to a more just and sustainable world.

Structural injustice must be exposed and eradicated. Our vision is a world where all people can be architects of their own future. This means tearing down systems of oppression and dismantling the inequities preventing the freedom to live freely and thrive.  Racism has no place in the world.

Action is needed today, tomorrow, and into the future. We pledge to continue to support social entrepreneurs and our community globally, who are overcoming systems of injustice by fostering a more inclusive society. “So, roll up your sleeves and don’t be a prisoner of ignorance,” says Guy Johnson, son of Maya Angelou. Miller Center re-commits to listen more, talk less, and support the building of a better future.

In solidarity,
Miller Center Team


Access Afya Innovates for Patient Safety and Education During Outbreak

We hope that everyone is keeping well during this global pandemic. As a primary health innovation company providing end-to-end primary care for informal, urban settlements in Kenya, COVID-19 is impacting our business in unprecedented ways. We are responding on three levels: keeping our clinicians and patients safe, launching a telemedicine platform to support remote care, and spreading scientifically accurate information to patients and providers.

Because we are on the frontlines, fighting for the safety of some of the most vulnerable communities in Kenya, all of our 17 sites are remaining open to serve patients during this time.

Keeping Patients and Providers Safe

We put the safety of our team first. Our headquarters team is on a 70% remote work strategy with only essential functions such as receiving stock and quality assurance visits to clinics happening on site. All clinics are equipped with protective equipment for our staff and much more hand sanitizer than usual.

We are also providing hand sanitizer to our patients, who are not able to wash their hands as they do not have running water. We are doubling down on cleaning and disinfecting our clinics and keeping them safe for the approximately 8,000 people who depend on them every single month. Because of the outbreak, our patients need additional support, so we are forging partnerships with groups that are offering food aid and basic goods for Kenyans living in informal settlements who cannot afford to just stay home.

Scalable Telemedicine

We are excited to launch mDaktari ConnectMed. This is our telemedicine platform which we have recently opened up to the general public. All of our patients will get codes to use it for free so that they do not need to come to crowded clinics. Online, people can buy consultations for $3. ConnectMed is compliant, approved for use, and able to provide people with e-prescriptions and sick notes. Patients with telemedicine prescriptions and with chronic conditions are getting their medications pre-packed, so that they can get in and out of the clinics quickly.

Meaningful Education

We have already created a course on Access Afya Academy with WHO and Ministry of Health guidelines, and all of our health workers are enrolled. We are also updating our team regularly with reliable, vetted information from one of our physicians, on our newly created #covidhotline slack channel.

Our staff is counseling our patients who come in nervous. We are helping our patients understand what is happening and dispelling common myths and misperceptions. We have also created a COVID-19 Risk Self Assessment, designed for people living in Kenya, and launched the #UnitedAgainstCorona initiative in partnership with other healthcare providers to bring relevant, useful content and services to the East African community.

Stronger Together

We are at the beginning of this and believe it will make us rethink how we work as a team and as part of a health system permanently. We are nervous. The challenges that the United States and European health systems are facing — lack of testing kits, rising prices of essential commodities, and shortages of masks, sanitizer, and ventilators — are all magnified here. Our clinics’ operating costs are going up.

But we are optimistic. Our remote work strategy has us discovering new ways to create transparency and accountability that will certainly come back to the office with us. Our tech team is using Google Hangouts to exercise together every single morning to stay close to each other, even while spread out over the city. Two weeks ago, a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) driver who runs errands for us helped us rescue a patient with a severe assault wound. And we recently traded our normal clinic anniversary presents at our Reuben Gatoto clinic for thermometers for every patient to take home.

We are updating our operations constantly, and preparing for further spread in Kenya. Through this unprecedented crisis, we remain diligent in providing access to affordable, quality healthcare for every patient, every time.

Guest blog by Melissa Menke | Access Afya Founder and CEO, Miller Center GSBI 2016 participant


PichaEats Pivots Business Model in Response to Crisis

PichaEats, a social enterprise based in Kuala Lumpur, grew out of a desire to empower and provide a sustainable living to refugees and asylum seekers living in Malaysia. The organization 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 their clients. Their goals are to provide dignified livelihoods for refugee families and enable their children to receive an education. Since January 2016, PichaEats has partnered with 25 chefs originally from Syria, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, and Pakistan, served over 160,000 meals, and given back MYR 2 million (over $450,000 — including cost of ingredients and cost of living) to refugee families. With the COVID-19 response in Malaysia, CEO and co-founder Kim Lim knew she had to pivot the business to survive. 

“When we knew that the partial lockdown was about to happen two days after the announcement, we immediately got our team together the next day. The point of the meeting was to address three things. The first was to assure everyone that there won’t be a pay cut and that we’re focused on their safety, which gave everyone relief. The second was to have everyone abandon our old business model as we expect zero catering orders throughout the crisis. The last thing was to help everyone prepare their mindset for constant changes, at least for the first 2–3 weeks.

As a result, in a span of less than a month, the team managed to reactivate The Zaza Movement — an initiative named in honor of our late chef — to have people contribute money that enables refugees to cook from home and deliver meals to front-liners and people who have lost their jobs. So far, we have distributed nearly 15,000 meals in almost 20 communities. Next, we worked on small family packages and brought our prices down to break-even, enabling more people to order food from us during this lockdown. Finally, half of the team that consists of creatives put together a new business named Zucchini & Co. to help brands or companies shape their storytelling and marketing materials in the future. We’ve even acquired our first customer during this period. By assessing our strengths, we incubated a new business in less than three weeks. The team is really moving fast.”

By Kim Lim, CEO and Co-Founder, PichaEats

Published Research

Sisters’ Blended Value Project Field Report

The Association of Consecrated Women in Eastern and Central Africa (ACWECA) has partnered with Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship to transform social ministries into social enterprises in Eastern and Central Africa where more than 30,000 Catholic Sisters serve some of the most marginalized people on the planet.

The Sisters’ Blended Values Project (SBVP) will provide practical, hands-on learning experiences, apprenticeships, and start-up skills in social entrepreneurship for Catholic Sisters, enabling congregations to more effectively lead social enterprise initiatives. The end goals are for congregations to become self-sufficient and scale their own enterprises, for community members to improve their finances and their lives, and to spread entrepreneurial solutions to poverty with a special focus on women and youth.

“Catholic Sisters are uniquely positioned to unleash the potential of African women and youth in particular; they are trusted community-based leaders who solve complex social problems and have been at the forefront of building healthcare systems and social services in underserved areas,” according to Thane Kreiner, PhD, Executive Director of Miller Center.

What follows are reports from the field from four congregations participating in the Sisters’ Blended Value Project.

More results