Monday, May 19, 2014

And you may contribute a verse...

Last night, the Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) at Santa Clara University held their first MAGIS Dinner to celebrate leaders in social enterprise development.  The two awards were presented to Graham Macmillan of VisionSpring and the Citi Foundation and Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation.  Founders and employees of other social enterprises were also in attendance, as well as dozens of supporters and sponsors.  Some of the amazing social enterprises on hand were Angaza Design, Anudip Foundation, Artisan Connect, Givve Collection, Global Women’s Water Initiative, Good World Solutions, Not for Sale Campaign, Nokero, Sankara, Smart Voter, Twothirds Water, World Wide Hearing, and Nazava Water Filters.

What is social enterprise?  People argue about the definition all the time, but it basically comes down to organizations using traditional business practices to solve problems of social welfare.  That means that social enterprises and the people in them are changing the world to be a better place. 

Seeing the work that these people do is both inspiring and humbling.  Most of the time, I sit at my desk overwhelmed by the evil in the world.  Reading the paper and online news gets more difficult each day with the sheer volume of violence and cruelty reported both locally and worldwide.  Heck, I can’t even drive down the street without getting cut off by someone who must be more important than me and is in a very big hurry (I picture that he has to go to the bathroom… and hope that he doesn't make it).  I admit that I vacillate between feeling helpless to why bother.

So, sitting in a room of people who make it their life’s work to make a difference is astonishing. It reminds me that there are good people and the world need more of them.  And when I think that one person can’t make a difference, I can think about this – if Dr. Stanley Zlotkin hadn't started Sprinkles Global Health Initiative, millions of children would be malnourished. If Joseph Adelegan hadn't started Cows to Kilowatts, thousands would be suffering the ill effects of water contamination by slaughterhouse waste.  If Jordan Kassalow and Scott Berrie hadn't started VisionSpring, there would be almost 2 million people who can’t see.  One person matters.

I couldn't help but reflect on my own contribution to society when listening to the stories and feeling rather guilty.  But then, my husband reminded me, we all can contribute in our own ways.  And no, we might not be the next contender for the Nobel Peace Prize or MAGIS Award, but that isn't the point. 

As Ol’ Walt said, “the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”   

FYI - The CSTS has the Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) that helps social enterprises develop and grow.  They estimate that the over 200 organizations that have completed the program in the last 11 years have reached over 100 million people at the base of the pyramid.  The GSBI is the cornerstone of the CSTS.  Graham Macmillan is a graduate of the GSBI.  Other exemplary organizations in his cohort include Kiva, Sprinkles Global Health, Cows to Kilowatts, and Whirlwind Wheelchair.  Sally Osberg is the President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, which invests directly in social enterprises such as Girls Not Brides, B-Labs, Global Witness, Medic Mobil, Kiva, One World Health and VisionSpring. They also support organizational development through programs and partnerships.  They have a new film that summarizes their mission at

Shout out to TestaRossa Wines, REBBL Tonic, and Pisco Porton for their generous donation of terrific libations.