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Continuing the Journey

Leading Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship over the last decade has been an amazing journey to impact and a deeply formative experience for me. After a lengthy period of discernment, I am writing today to share my decision to step down from the role of Executive Director, effective April 30, 2020.

What we have accomplished together in the last 10 years is incredible by any measure. Our successes far transcend even the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) I articulated in 2010:  accompany a sufficient number and diversity of social enterprises in scaling their impact to authentically impact the lives of 1 billion people.

Among our many accomplishments on this journey so far:

    • Together, we’ve accelerated more than 1,000 social enterprises in 100 countries that have collectively improved, transformed, or saved the lives of over 400 million people living in poverty. Miller Center is globally regarded as the leading social enterprise accelerator.
    • We co-created the GSBI® Online program with the World Bank in 2011 and GSBI Boost in partnership with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves in 2014. And we launched the ambitious Scaling and Replication Initiative in 2015, which is now integrated into our core curriculum.
    • Through this portfolio of accelerator programs, we currently accompany well over 150 social entrepreneurs per year as they discern pathways to scale their impact — an order of magnitude increase in throughput since 2010.
    • To offer social entrepreneurs accompaniment by trusted advisors, we’ve grown our mentor network to over 250 executives with increased diversity in every dimension.
    • In 2012, we piloted our pioneering Global Social Benefit Fellowship to provide high potential undergraduates with transformative social justice learning experiences that provide real value to GSBI Alumni social enterprises.
    • Of the 144 fellows who have completed our award-winning 9-month Global Social Benefit Fellowship, 10 have won Fulbrights (so far!) and 3 have been named SCU valedictorians.
    • We pioneered our Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins accelerator for social enterprises serving or led by refugees, migrants, and human trafficking survivors in 2018 and will showcase a second cohort in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2020.
    • We created an integrated Catholic Action for Social Entrepreneurship initiative to accompany social ministries as they embrace entrepreneurial principles to scale their impact and make their congregations and organizations more financially sustainable.
    • We introduced a Pathways Out of Poverty program for social enterprises serving poor and other vulnerable populations in an increasingly divided United States.
    • We piloted our Line of Sight podcast in partnership with the Markkula Center of Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University to offer distinctive perspectives of technology, entrepreneurship, innovation, and social justice through provocative conversations on topical issues with visionary leaders. Many of you know that it is through the Markkula Center that I first fell in love with Santa Clara.
    • And, we have a clear line of sight to achieving the BHAG!

I am grateful to many companions on this journey: social entrepreneurs, mentors, students, Advisory Board members, donors, partners, and other actors in the broader impact ecosystem. Some Santa Clara University colleagues will remain friends forever, a gift that transcends time. The opportunity to forge a world-class team that has shaped many of my ideas into authentic impact is a special joy. I have seen further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants — the founders and first mentors of our pioneering accelerator program in 2003. I carry our work and all of you in my heart, changed in ways that make me a better human being. Miller Center, Santa Clara, and Ignatian spiritual tradition are part of my DNA. Thank you!

Although it is sad to leave work and people I love, it’s a remarkably good time for a new leader to take the helm of Miller Center’s ship. We are in the best financial health ever. Our annual operating budget has more than tripled since FY10-11 to $4.2M. Then we had uncertainty on revenue sources for 25% of our annual operating budget. Today, Miller Center’s operating budget (net incremental expenses associated with new initiatives) is fully funded for FY19-20 and more than 98% funded for FY20-21.

Miller Center’s long-term financial sustainability is dependent on funding two endowments: one for our gold-standard GSBI Accelerator ($25M target); and the other for our transformative Global Social Benefit Fellowship ($10M target). I am grateful for the generosity of our donors and partners, and their belief in our ability to make strategy happen.

Inspiring new leadership at Santa Clara University creates emergent opportunities for Miller Center’s next Executive Director to leverage the distinctive assets we have generated and further distinguish the university. Miller Center’s high-performance team is developing a clear execution plan for a compelling vision to authentically accompany any social entrepreneur anywhere in the world to help them scale their impact serving the poor and protecting the planet.

As a trusted member of Miller Center’s family, I ask for your support of the big, beautiful community that Miller Center has built across 6 continents. I also invite you to imagine who might lead us to our next level of impact as we commence a national search for my successor. Further information for applicants can be accessed here. Thank you for helping us build a terrific pipeline of candidates!

The most significant factors animating my decision to step down are interrelated: a strong desire to spend more time at home with my family in Sebastopol; and, the essential fundraising responsibility of the Executive Director, which demands more presence in Silicon Valley than I can devote. A decade is a long time, though they go quickly as one ages.

I am continuing my journey to impact as a founding team member of a nascent impact enterprise with a mission to discover and harness transformative technologies to address the world’s most challenging problems. I anticipate greater flexibility to work virtually from home, and also imagine opportunities to work in partnership with Santa Clara.

Thank you again for your ambition, authenticity, accompaniment, and excellence on this journey to impact as we leverage Ignatian spirituality and entrepreneurship to end poverty and protect the planet.

Onward!

Thane Kreiner, PhD.

We are collecting well wishes for Thane as he prepares to continue his journey. Submit them using the form linked here.

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