When enough people, especially those not otherwise connected with each other, recommend something, it can do wonders to capture your imagination and fascination. That happened with Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Incubator program.

Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI)

Though I learned about GSBI while researching social innovation startup accelerator and incubator programs, over the past few months I have heard it mentioned in various conversations with social innovators and entrepreneurs in the space.

Then, at the Womens’ Social Entrepreneurs’ Panel hosted by GABA at the Kiva offices in SF, a few panelists were also graduates of the program—and were doing absolutely fascinating work. My interest was building, and every subsequent mention of GSBI was akin to a “Klout” moment on my personal interest pique-o-meter.

Attending a GSBI Accelerator Showcase

GSBI accelerator showcase

More recently, SCU hosted a GSBI Accelerator Showcase on campus. The pitch event featured over a dozen social entrepreneurs, hailing from around the globe, who presented pitches and status updates on their endeavors directly to impact investors and the broader philanthropic community.

These driven problem-solvers were educators, artisans, farmers, and engineers—but took on the role of social innovators in the face of deep-rooted issues in their communities.

VentureBeat covered the event noting that “of the 202 enterprises that have completed GSBI programs since its inception in 2003, 90 percent are still in business and can boast of having positively impacted nearly 100 million lives around the globe and raising $89 million in funding.”

Thane Kreiner, Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, at Santa Clara University, which is home of the Global Social Benefit Incubator also published a recap of the event on NextBillion.

The pitches were direct asks for funds to help social enterprises cross the proverbial chasm in scaling to the next level.  Here is a sample of a few of the asks:

  • Clinicas de Azucar requested $3.3M to scale low-cost diabetes solutions to reach 200 clinics in Mexico.
  • Avani requested $500K to scale sustainable textile production by women to 101 villages in northern India
  • Nishant Bioenergy requested $600K to scale production and distribution of energy-efficient, sustainable, cookstoves.
  • Literacy Bridge requested $500K to scale their accessible (non-literacy dependent) audio solution for teaching agricultural practices to rural farmers in Africa
  • Drishtee requested $3M to scale their solution to extend last-mile distribution of products to remote regions in India.
  • Iluméxico requested $250K to scale solar grid electricity solutions to open 30 branches in 10 states in Mexico.
  • Husk Power requested $5M to scale mini powerplants and provide electricity as a service from 5K to over 25K households in India and East Africa.

(Note: videos of the pitch event can be seen here and will be posted on YouTube here.)

The Courage to Try

The pitches represented more than a singular idea. In social innovation, as in entrepreneurship, ideas often come “into vogue”concurrently—i.e. if you are thinking of a new innovation or improvement, there’s a good chance someone is thinking along the same lines too.

This simple realization humanizes the social entrepreneur’s experience and also takes it out of the abstract. These entrepreneurs who venture into the dimly lit space of creating value and impact aren’t necessarily the first, they are the the ones courageous enough to grab the torch and stumble into the darkness to test out their potential solution.

In the coming weeks I look forward to interviewing a few of the leaders of GSBI to learn more about the program, the selection process, how the institute has evolved, and what the organizers have learned from hosting an annual accelerator/incubator program for social innovation.

 

Apply to GSBI by October 31

Applications for the 2014 class of GSBI are available now and you can apply until October 31, 2013.

Application for GSBI are here.

 

GSBI accelerator showcase
GSBI accelerator showcase

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