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.
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.
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!