Written Articles


7 Dimensions of a Fellowship Journey, from Bouregreg Valley to Silicon Valley

If you are reading this post, I want you to know that it will not be addressing strategy, analysis, or projections. It’s more about a life experience that I am delighted to share. So, have a seat, bring your favorite drink, and enjoy the flight…

Seventeen months ago, I flew to the United States taking part in the Atlas Corps Program, serving as a Fellow with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and being dedicated to Women’s Economic Empowerment initiative. This experience was so interesting and rich in many dimensions, taking into consideration all the areas that I had to discover, work on, be engaged in, but also all the changes, challenges and the unforeseen.

It’s not an easy exercise to summarize this experience in a blog post, or even words. However, I did my best to aggregate the different dimensions of this journey, not only on a professional level, but also personal and human.

Silicon Valley or Impact Seeds

As many of my peers in developing countries (Computer Science and Information System Engineers), we all dream of visiting or living in Silicon Valley, the land that seeds and grows most of the successful and impactful ventures in the world. Living in Silicon Valley was a great opportunity to understand the history and the culture, embrace part of it and also bring a piece of my heritage as well.

One of the key learnings from here is that Silicon Valley has so many secret sauces that lead to multiple success stories, but it also needs some local spices to succeed elsewhere in the world. A deep look into its journey, and you figure out that so many historical events and circumstances were the inputs to its success.

Social Innovation and Impact

I am grateful that my turning point in 2015 from the corporate world to the social innovation field drove my journey to serve with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and be in daily interactions with social agents and leaders from all around the world.

The world is changing, the global issues as well. Social innovation remains a great solution if well adopted and shaped to lead to a tangible impact. I do believe that social innovation and a simplified theory of change should be taught even in elementary schools. Doing so, we can build a new generation of social leaders and agents, aware and active.

Women’s Economic Empowerment and a He for She

During my fellowship, I had the opportunities to collaborate with some incredible women, support some amazing women entrepreneurs, and meet true role models of women in many leadership roles and positions.

One of the main reasons that made me onboard in this program and especially working on Women’s Economic Empowerment is I do believe that advocating for women’s rights and women’s empowerment is not necessarily giving more to women or just led by women. It is about being just and equal by giving access to the same opportunities, resources, and leadership positions to all genders, while building a common ground and safe spaces for everyone, whether you are a woman or man.

As part of my mission, I had to gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data, while interviewing women-led and men-led social enterprises. I will never forget a woman entrepreneur who shared with me during an interview: “When it comes to women’s economic empowerment, it’s the other who should be empowered.” It happened to me very often that I was the only man in the room (or Zoom) in many meetings and events, and I do believe that an effort should be made to engage more men and raise more awareness.

At the end of the day, It’s not women vs. men. It’s women and men for ALL, because the benefits, proved by numbers, are for all!

California and the United Diversity

Being born and raised in a very sunny and beautiful country called Morocco, I am used to beautiful weather, stunning hiking trails, and long beaches, and I need “solar energy” as a human. On the other hand, California is such a diverse state that you can definitely meet all nationalities, ethnicities, and races. I do believe that the power of the United States is in its diversity, and the Founding Fathers of the United States of America well reflected it in the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

Now that said, the Black Lives Matter movement and many others show that a lot more work is still needed, and social justice should leave the strategy slides to be reflected on leadership positions, board members, access to opportunities and resources, and for sure not only in the US.

I have a deep feeling that it’s not my last visit or stay in California and the USA, and I still have a lot to learn and maybe to bring added value and contribute to an upcoming project or initiative.

Travel and Discover

The USA is such a diverse and multicultural country that makes you travel the world in the same city or county. That’s why I want to embrace the American culture and to understand what it means to be an American — its values, rights, obligations, mindset… My fellowship wasn’t only about professional experiences but certainly a human and humanitarian one. I had the opportunity to travel to many cities and states, meeting different people from all social and economic backgrounds and had many amazing discussions in some moments and places that I never expected.

As I am writing these lines I have visited eight states, and I’m pretty sure by the time you read this the list will be filled with more … more meetings, more experiences, more stories, more understanding.

Connect and Interact

In many ways, connecting the dots is how I usually define what I do in my life. Throughout the fellowship journey, I had the opportunity to bring to the table different perspectives given my background and roots, while I was at a meeting, interacting, and connecting with different stakeholders either as fellow, a participant, a moderator, or a representative: Atlas Corps Global Leadership Lab, Starting bloc 2020, SOCAP 2020 and 2021, Miller Center In-Residence 2021… and many others.

Those connections and interactions helped me to have a better understanding of social issues and global challenges from different perspectives, but also, on how to be a social agent and a better performer. I consider Social Innovation and Impact an art that we perform with passion — on what’s next, especially for my country Morocco and my continent Africa.

Mission and Purpose

When I started my fellowship, I shared my intention that I want to enhance my skills in strategic partnerships and strategic planning. At that time, I didn’t see any ongoing programs where I could be engaged. But life had a better plan for me. I had the opportunity to meet, discuss, and receive amazing advice from Thane Kreiner, an incredible leader who is the former Executive Director of Miller Center. In the same way, my fellowship coincided with a transition period and the onboarding of another amazing leader Brigit Helms, Miller Center’s new Executive Director. (If you are still reading this post, you definitely understand that I am an advocate for more women in leadership for many reasons.)

Two main take-aways from this phase: First, led by the new Executive Director, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship engaged in a very interesting strategic planning process to build the new five-year strategy, codenamed Athena. Combining my theoretical learning about strategic planning and serving as a fellow during this process was a great opportunity to assimilate and enhance my skills, while learning from this exercise as a case study.

Second, the HBDI assessment, used to evaluate individual thinking preferences, is one of the exercises that supported shaping the Athena strategy. For me, it was “a just in time reminder” that if six years ago I jumped for the corporate world to start a new journey in the social innovation field, it was certainly to be more aligned with my “yellow mind”, my mission and purpose and to do what I am more passionate about. Technology and data are great enablers that built my career baseline, but human empowerment, social innovation and impact are what give it meaning.

2020 was a turning point for many individuals and organizations on many levels, forcing organizations to pivot and individuals to be resilient. An outsider looking into this fellowship experience could assume that COVID-19 was a break to thrive. I would say that it was simply the opposite in my perspective. It was a great introspection period that helped me have a better understanding of what really matters professionally and personally, better absorb what really works or not, especially what could lead to tangible impact.

Last but certainly not least, I am so grateful to Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Atlas Corps, the US Department of State, and the US Embassy in Morocco, for the opportunity to serve, learn and grow as an emerging global leader. And I am looking forward to what’s next.

I have no idea what is going to be my next chapter. What I am sure about is I am ready to make it again to the Next Level!


Pioneering Women-Led Cohort Supports Women Leaders in Creating Social Impact

For the first time in Miller Center’s 17-year history of delivering accelerator programs for social enterprises globally,  we have launched a 100% women-led cohort to help advance women leaders and women’s economic growth.

227 women social entrepreneurs from all around the world applied to this new cohort and went through a rigorous selection process. Of those, 17 women entrepreneurs were selected to participate in a 6-month GSBI® online program, combining our world-class curriculum with weekly mentoring sessions with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and C-level managers. Each social entrepreneur will be coached by two executive mentors, including at least one woman.

In addition, this year’s program will be enhanced with customized content and activities that take into consideration the specific challenges faced by women leaders. The program will also address the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses and recommend best practices for crisis management through the pandemic.

The 17 selected women-led enterprises are from 11 countries and are dedicated to improving lives and making an impact in nine social fields — Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Water, Infrastructure, Information Technology, Financial Services, Culture, and Artisanal Goods.

Discover the 17 social enterprises selected for the 2020 GSBI Women-led Cohort:

“When I look back at the initial drafts of our investment pitch deck and compare them to the final product that we created through GSBI, I am absolutely stunned by the transformation. While we always had an incredible impact story to share and amazing achievements in terms of revenue and milestones, before GSBI we had no idea how to succinctly communicate a snapshot to investors. GSBI made me a better storyteller to the benefit of every element of my business.”

—Rachel Connors, Co-founder & Chief Enthusiasm Officer, Yellow Leaf Hammocks, Miller Center GSBI 2017 participant

Women’s Economic Empowerment, a Strategic Initiative with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

In support of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, Miller Center is focused on supporting women’s economic growth. Investing in women’s economic empowerment globally sets a direct path toward gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. We are supporting more women in becoming successful social entrepreneurs by offering an all-women cohort that provides a space for collaboration among women and a focus on women’s leadership in addition to building a sustainable and scalable business.


7 Reasons to Apply to Our Women-Led GSBI Online Program

Are You a Woman Social Entrepreneur, Leading a Social Organization, Impact Driven, and Engaged to End Poverty?

Miller Center is the largest and most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world. Founded in 1997, Miller Center is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Here we leverage this entrepreneurial spirit with the University’s Jesuit heritage of service to the poor and protection of the planet.

More than half of the world’s people live in poverty. Social entrepreneurship addresses the root problems of poverty through the power of business and innovation to provide sustainable economic and social impact.

Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) helps social entrepreneurs help more people. We deliver world-class accelerator programs that connect global social enterprise leaders with Silicon Valley business executives to develop more sustainable, scalable market-based solutions to the problems of those living in poverty around the world.

In support of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, Miller Center is focused on supporting women’s economic growth. Investing in women’s economic empowerment globally sets a direct path toward gender equality, poverty eradication, and inclusive economic growth. We want to support more women to become successful social entrepreneurs by offering an all-women cohort that provides a space for collaboration among women and a focus on women’s leadership, in addition to building a sustainable and scalable business.

Looking to take your woman-led company to the next level?

Here are 7 reasons to apply to our first-ever women-led cohort:


    Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship has accelerated over 1,000 social enterprises to achieve operational excellence and prepare for investment. Impact driven, our social entrepreneurs come from all around the world. GSBI has developed a methodology that revolves around three dynamic, interactive aspects: social enterprise accelerator readiness, stage-specific programs, and executive-level mentoring.


    From blueprint to scale, we walk with you every step of the way. The expected outcome of our GSBI Accelerator programs is to move enterprises from the “Validate” stage to the “Prepare” stage. This means that our social entrepreneurs will have a strategy for growing their enterprises in a financially sustainable manner through a validated business model and be able to secure the funding necessary to do so.


    All Miller Center GSBI Accelerator programs are offered at no charge to selected social enterprises.


    Executive mentors are your personal advisors. They will accompany you with expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the program, focusing on strengthening your impact and business model, and presenting your value proposition in a compelling manner. We believe that Silicon Valley acumen, with its tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship, can boost the social enterprise movement.

    GSBI mentors are successful Silicon Valley business executives with decades of experience and connections who volunteer to work intensively with our social entrepreneurs in an in-depth relationship. Many are founders of successful startups, venture capitalists, or executives at Fortune 500 companies. All are chosen for their experience in startup enterprises and/or profit and loss (P&L) responsibility in larger organizations. Most mentors find the GSBI mentoring process to be personally fulfilling, and they return year after year.


    Our online community platform will help you better engage with peers, mentors, and Miller Center staff for advice and fellowship. Benefit from program management and regular communications to support you and keep you on track. Utilize templates, tools, and resources tailored to your business needs.


    Accepted enterprises will have an opportunity to be invited to an In-Residence in the Bay Area and present at SOCAP 2020 in San Francisco. SOCAP is the largest and most diverse impact investing community in the world. It convenes a global ecosystem and marketplace—social entrepreneurs, investors, foundation and nonprofit leaders, government and policy leaders, creators, corporations, academics, and beyond—through live and digital content experiences that educate, spur conversation, and inspire investment in positive impact.


    Some may question the need for a female-specific accelerator. When compared to the whole venture capital market, this kind of focused support critically impacts investment in women-owned businesses. For example, based on Goldman Sachs All In: Women in VC Ecosystem 2019 Report, we notice that “among entrepreneurs, women receive far less venture capital funding than men do.” But at the same time, investing in women is the best way to end poverty for everyone:

      • Focusing on gender equity can lead to transformative, positive impacts for entire communities because the money that is made by women is much more likely to be spent on things like school fees for their children and correcting social ills in their communities.
      • Women social entrepreneurs, more than their men counterparts, tend to take on more complex societal challenges, such as human trafficking and education, in more comprehensive ways.

“The biggest value the program provided to me was a clear plan for scaling. My mentors were attentive, encouraging, and took time to learn in-depth about our work and this made it easier to work with them.”
—Wawira Njiru, Founder and Executive Director at Food for Education Foundation, GSBI Alumni 2017

Since participating in our 2017 GSBI Accelerator program, Food for Education has increased their investment raised by over 5x and tripled the number of students served with nutritious meals.

Applications for our Online program are due March 2, 2020.  Learn more and apply here.