Global Social Business Incubator: Supporting Social Entrepreneurs


16 social entrepreneurs had a chance to make their pitch in front of venture capitalists, CEOs, investors, faculty and foundation representatives earlier this month as part of Santa Clara University's Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI) initiative.  The 16 social entrepreneurs representing ten developing countries including Nepal, India, Haiti, Philippines, and Nicaragua, asked for investments ranging from $100,000 to half a million to scale their programs.  The business plan pitch was the culmination of a two-week residential 'boot camp' training. 

While the results are out as to who received funding, we learned about new programs and found potential partners for our work in Asia.  Like us, others sitting in the audience were scribbling away as each social entrepreneur made their presentation.  When each presentation reached the excel spreadsheet with the budget on it, everyone sat up and squinted at the screen…wondering what the amount would be.  Afterwards, a panelist of leaders and investors provided feedback to each social entrepreneur.


This capacity building program provides social entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to develop and execute strategies for achieving sustainability at scale.  This program appeals to me because it is about supporting the work of indigenous social entrepreneurs.  These passionate individuals are closely tied to the beneficiaries they serve and are familiar with the needs and issues of their local community.  Through capacity building programs that support their work, we can help them achieve their goals and design breakthrough solutions; not only locally but globally, as well.

Supported by the Social Edge network, the GSBI conducts an open application process that consists of three business planning exercises.  The application process is 'mentored' in that the applicants receive feedback from others on the exercises.  Only 100 of the hundreds of applicants expressing interest complete the exercises.  30 are then interviewed and 15 to 20 are selected to participate in the two-week in-residence program (valued at $25,000).   The Skoll Foundation recently announced a new, three year grant of $1.08 million to help the program focus on a selected vertical sector each year, expand geographic coverage, and better disseminate the lessons learned from the program.

Below are excerpts from two projects that I liked:

Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness; Nepal

ECCA povides an alternative to kerosene-based lighting through a solar photo voltaic lighting system called "solar tuki" which also has a 3 volt outlet for connecting an AM/FM radio.  ECCA uses micro-finance as its conduit for delivering lighting systems to its beneficiaries.  ECCA holds regular training progams focusing on community leaders, youth, and groups to reach its target market.  From July 2005 to mid-June 2008, 2,000 solar tuki sets have been distributed.  This allows children living in rural areas to have light when doing their schoolwork and provides more time for villagers to do their daily work.  In the future, ECCA intends to target its technology to the roughly 2.4 million households in Nepal without electricity. 

Industree Crafts; India

Industree Crafts enhances rural livelihoods giving artisans equitable access to urban Indian markets and a retail brand which delivers health food products, garments, and other lifestyle products.  Employing a cluster model, IC members are able to specialize, thereby increasing productivity and income.  IC has an annual turnover of $1 million.  It has four stores in India employing 200 people and sources from over 100 producer groups, working with over 3,000 artisans.  IC will scale to 40 stores in the next five years, increasing revenues by 30 times by distributing merchandice produced by 20,000 rural producers and increasing producer's current income by at least three times.

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