Santa Clara University is known in social entrepreneurial circles for its work helping to organize and judge the Tech MuseumAwards – a showcase for social entrepreneurs, mostly from developing countries. Less well-known about the school is the Global SocialBenefit Incubator, run by SCU's Center for Science, Technology, and Society and a host of Silicon Valley volunteers.
The GSBI, under the guidance of Professor J im Koch, selects 15-20 enterprises from developing countries and provides an 8-month mentoring process. The mentoring culminates with an intensive 10-day process in Santa Clara, where entrepreneurs work with their mentors, other experts, and each other to prepare themselves to succeed upon their return home. Applications for the fully-funded 2008 class of entrepreneurs are available now over at Social Edge.
This year, SCU has invited World Resources Institute to work with them on the GSBI process and accepted my suggestion that we focus a sub-group of the available slots on enterprises in the water sector.
The idea is to promote cross-learning among water entrepreneurs, and also to analyze the sector as a whole more deeply. This includes looking at geographic differences in the treatment challenge, the range of available and prospective technologies, business models, financing strategies, etc. The goal is to stimulate the sector as a whole.
The SCU-WRI partnership is related to sector-specific research that WRI's New Ventures project has been working on, particularly in the areas of rural connectivity and healthcare, and about which you will hear more in coming months. For the water sector, we are particularly interested in community or village-level water treatment systems and the technologies and business models that can sustainably provide affordable and safe drinking water – which we began to explore in Chapter 4 of The Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid .
So, if you are a social entrepreneur or innovator addressing this problem, or know of promising enterprises we should consider, please contact either me at WRI or Jim Koch at SCU. We'll keep you posted during the year as we learn more about the sector, about the enterprises we'll be mentoring, and about the formal findings from the sector analysis.