What do the head of one of the world’s largest NGOs, Chevron executives, and the prime minister of Kosovo have in common? Believe it or not, they all came to visit us at Miller Center over the course of about 5 days earlier this month.
As Executive Director of BRAC Bangladesh, Asif Saleh runs the biggest among the BRAC family of organizations. Founded in 1972 in Bangladesh, BRAC is the largest southern-based non-profit in the world, reaching over 100 million people across Asia and Africa. In my view, BRAC is the OG social enterprise, having designed proven, scalable, multifaceted solutions that equip people with the support, skills, and confidence they need to lift themselves out of poverty and achieve their potential. As the only organization of its size both from and headquartered in the Southern hemisphere, BRAC is a singular leader in locally-led development and adaptation — working hand-in-hand with communities as co-creators of its programs, centering women and girls at the heart of its work; prioritizing high-quality research, monitoring, and evaluation; and designing, piloting, and scaling integrated poverty alleviation programming — all with unparalleled business acumen. During Asif’s visit, we discussed the amazing complementarity of what Miller Center can offer to the “missing middle” — those entrepreneurs whose capacity and aspirations reach beyond the microenterprise or early stage growth yet are much smaller than the gigantic social enterprises run by BRAC in Bangladesh and beyond.
That was on a Friday. The following Monday, we had the esteemed pleasure of hosting Prime Minister Albin Kurti of the Republic of Kosovo. As part of his official visit to the United State to meet with state officials, business and nonprofit leaders, and members of the Albanian-American community, the prime minister spent time at Santa Clara University and Miller Center. Miller Center’s relationship with Kosovo began in 2020, when we launched an accelerator for 20 Kosovan women-led enterprises in partnership with the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation. Drawn by the university’s social justice mission and Miller Center’s work, Prime Minister Kurti sees the potential of social entrepreneurship to stimulate innovation and growth while fostering social good. With Kosovo’s young workforce and a high degree of training in information and communications technology (ICT), the country is investing heavily in innovation and entrepreneurship while also caring deeply about development and social impact. The prime minister also noted the considerable interest among Kosovo’s diaspora, which contributes significantly to the country’s GDP, to invest in innovative solutions to pressing problems. I was incredibly impressed by the prime minister’s progressive vision for how to balance growth and equity in his country.
Then the very next day, on Tuesday, Kurt Glaubitz, Chevron’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Asia Pacific, Dee Bourbon, Senior Advisor of Global Social Investment, and Jennifer Liebeler Michael, Manager of Social Investment, visited to announce our 3-year partnership to advance climate resilience through climate-smart agriculture, access to safe water, and reliable, low-carbon energy among vulnerable Asia Pacific communities. As Kurt shared, “The Miller Center – Chevron climate resilience initiative strives to help reduce poverty, drive economic and social opportunity, and develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Asia Pacific region.” By investing in Miller Center, Chevron is demonstrating not only its commitment to social entrepreneurship as a solution, but the benefits of working with an accelerator to aggregate and amplify its impact through a trusted intermediary. Corporations and philanthropic organizations can benefit from Miller Center’s experience in selecting the most promising social enterprises and helping them scale, enabling funders to take a portfolio approach. Kurt, Dee, and Jennifer reinforced their commitment to exploring the potential of social entrepreneurship and partnership with Miller Center as a way to drive toward a more sustainable future.
Meeting with these extraordinary people — representing the world’s largest NGO, #16 of the Fortune 500, and a European nation — over several days in May was a bit of a whirlwind, but also exhilarating. I truly believe that social entrepreneurship presents a unique model for harnessing the power of the marketplace to achieve what capitalism currently struggles to do: reduce global poverty, promote widespread human flourishing, and protect the natural world that sustains us all. It’s incredibly inspiring and empowering to meet global leaders pursuing this path.
Photos by Eli Latimerlo, Sr. Director of Development
Cover photo: Prime Minister Albin Kurti of Kosovo
Photo: Prime Minister Kurti with Elaine Scott, Dean of Santa Clara University’s School of Engineering
Photo: Dee Bourbon and Kurt Glaubitz of Chevron
Photo: Jennifer Liebeler Michael, Dee, and Kurt of Chevron met Lisa Kloppenberg, Acting President of Santa Clara University