Santa Clara University

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Global Social Benefit Incubator: Technology in the Service of Social Change

The Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI), presented by the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) and the Leavey School of Business, combines the leading resources of Silicon Valley with award-winning social enterprises, all within the unique context of a Jesuit university dedicated to social change. Silicon Valley mentors and GSBI staff (mostly from SCU) work with the leaders of the social enterprises to create sustainable plans to address urgent human needs throughout the world.

Geoffrey Moore addresses the GSBI class of 2006
Geoffrey Moore, a Silicon Valley consultant and venture capitalist with Mohr Davidow Ventures, adresses the GSBI Class of 2006. Moore, a best-selling author whose work focuses on ways to span the “chasm” between innovation and adoption, has been a guest speaker at the GSBI program for the past three years.

Seventeen social entrepreneurs representing 12 countries and five continents participated in GSBI’s 2007 “boot camp,” a two-week summer residence program. This year’s ventures included a project to build earthquake-resistant houses in developing countries, an electricity-free refrigeration system for African villages, and an emergency medical services system for the poor in large cities in India.

No matter what their business ventures might be, the social entrepreneurs work with Silicon Valley mentors to take their creative innovations to the next level in terms of sustaining the social venture financially, and enabling it to serve a substantially greater number of beneficiaries. The business leaders continue to share their expertise with the entrepreneurs after they return home.

Mentors benefit from the GSBI learning community as well. “It’s not a one-way learning by any means,” says Geoffrey Bowker, executive director of the CSTS. From the start-ups, the advisors acquire both an awareness and an appreciation of local context, local culture, and local barriers in the developing world.

The GSBI program embodies the University’s mission of forging connections that merge practice, research theory, and insight to help fashion a more humane world. Mentors, entrepreneurs, and the MBA students who examine the projects as part of a social benefit entrepreneurship course learn that it takes competence, conscience, and compassion to make a truly sustainable difference. “This is the fundamental strength of the program, bridging Silicon Valley expertise to help find sustainable ways of solving the problems of the poor using the values of Santa Clara University,” says Eric Carlson, GSBI associate director.

Silicon Valley Mentors

Vicky Mattson ’84 (B.S. psychology), a University ambassador, and Brad Mattson MBA ’89, chairman of the board at Zoom, led the 2007 GSBI mentor team. The two alumni have a combined 50 years experience in Silicon Valley at major corporations, including Applied Materials, Mattson Technologies, Novellus, Siliconix, and Daimler Benz.

Twenty other area business leaders rounded out the mentor team. Included were current and former executives, partners, and entrepreneurs from Iter Domus Inc., Verity, BDNA Corp., The Clarity Group, GreenMountain Engineering, Redpoint Ventures, Sun Microsystems Inc., Social Impact International, Redleaf Venture Management, SolFocus Inc., Santur Corp., Silicon Prairie Partners, Agilent Central Research Lab, Intel Corp., Accenture, and Sylvan Source.