The GSBF is truly the centerpiece of my educational journey and narrative. Although the action research that I undertook is quite far removed from what I am doing now, the lessons I learned and the perspective I gained have been invaluable.

Global Social Benefit Fellowship – 2017 Awardee

Best of “Academic Learning”


Global Social Benefit Fellowship is a comprehensive 9-month, field-based action research program at Santa Clara University that provides a transformative experience for undergraduate students and helpful research deliverables to social entrepreneurs in developing countries.

The action research model of the Global Social Benefit Fellowship (GSBF) was developed by Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University to simultaneously support rigorous, transformative undergraduate student learning and the scaling of social enterprises in developing countries that participate in our world-class Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) accelerator program.

After intense classroom preparation and faculty mentorship during the spring semester, interdisciplinary student teams spend the summer working in the field and conducting 8 weeks of action research, an innovative research methodology, created by Dr. Keith Warner, Senior Director of Education and Action Research at Miller Center. Students then return to campus in the fall semester to finish their projects.

Action research is a practice-led approach that emphasizes learning by working directly with social enterprises rather than merely learning about social enterprises in a classroom. This model is adapted from Participatory Action Research (PAR), in which communities are not only intended beneficiaries of the research, but also are authentic partners in all aspects of the research process. Since most social enterprises can benefit from practical research projects such as social impact assessment, profiles of beneficiaries, training manuals, or videography, action research is an important value exchange between students and social enterprises.

Program Design

How long did it take to launch the first iteration of this program?
• 9-12 months

How much annual funding do you receive for the program?
• More than $15,000

The key players, strategists and supporters involved in creation and implementation include:
• Staff
• Faculty
• Social Entrepreneurs

The program is designed to impact:
• Students
• Social Entrepreneurs
• Community Members


Miller Center’s bold vision is to positively impact the lives of 1 billion people by 2020.. As part of their efforts to achieve this goal, Global Social Benefit Fellows conduct research of genuine value that helps social enterprises scale and attract investment. GSBI has a growing evidence base that proves Fellows help social enterprises scale through documentation of operating procedures, creation of marketing materials, and measurement/evaluation of impact.

In five years, 75 students (14% first-generation college students), representing 19 different majors, have completed 32 action research projects assisting 26 GSBI social enterprises in 13 developing countries. All 26 social enterprises received an identifiable benefit, and four received funding as a result of the research. 34 faculty members from 15 academic departments have mentored or are mentoring Fellows.

The experience also transforms student lives. A member of the class of 2013, who worked in Zambia during his fellowship and now works for LinkedIn, stated, “The GSBF is truly the centerpiece of my educational journey and narrative. Although the action research that I undertook is quite far removed from what I am doing now, the lessons I learned and the perspective I gained have been invaluable.” A Fellow from the class of 2014 remarked that her experience “highlighted my passion for humanitarian engineering by allowing me to work on a technical project for an enterprise, made me dig deeper about my vocation through the hardships onsite and critical essays in class, and displayed my ability to adapt in unknown environments.”

For more information, please contact: 
Keith Warner OFM
Senior Director, Education & Action Research
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Santa Clara University

Cordes Innovation Awards

In partnership with Cordes Foundation, Ashoka U seeks to recognize globally relevant teaching, learning, and partnership practices that may be adapted and replicated across the field.


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