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Effective Social Entrepreneurs Use Technology to Multiply Their Impact

January 3, 2012 - 0 Comments

Forbes Magazine is famous for its lists — think “The World’s Most Powerful Celebrities” or “America’s Best Small Companies.”

Recently, the magazine issued a new list that is particularly relevant to Cisco’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts: “The Impact 30,” a list of the world’s top social entrepreneurs.

Forbes defines a social entrepreneur as “a person who uses business to solve social issues.” Here in Cisco CSR, we encounter social entrepreneurs every day. In fact, a few people on the Impact 30 list work for educational organizations we’ve partnered with over the years.

Transforming education is a CSR priority for Cisco: We want to use our core networking technologies and expertise to transform the way education is delivered around the world. So partnering with organizations like Teach for America, whose CEO and founder Wendy Kopp was named to the Impact 30, is a natural fit.

Teach for America is a national nonprofit that recruits prospective teachers from top colleges, trains them, and places them in the nation’s highest-need public schools. Under Kopp’s leadership, the organization has trained 33,000 teachers who have taught more than 3 million students in 34 states.

Since 2008, Cisco has contributed more than US$6 million in products and solutions to Teach for America, helping the organization build and expand its network infrastructure, use video conferencing to connect staff and teachers around the world, and capture success stories on video.

Cisco also invested more than US$1 million in New Leaders (CEO Jean Desravines is on the inaugural Impact 30) to help the organization maximize online technology and develop technology-enabled training programs.

Social entrepreneurship works in fields other than education. Cisco also supports social organizations that address problems related to critical human needs, healthcare, and economic empowerment. A great example of an organization working to empower people in poverty is Samasource, whose CEO and founder Leila Janah has been profiled in Forbes and seems a likely candidate for next year’s Impact 30.

Samasource trains and employs impoverished women, youth, and refugees in developing countries to do Internet-based outsourced work for clients like LinkedIn, Intuit, and GoodGuide. These workers are typically well educated and technology proficient, but lack job opportunities that pay a decent wage.

With Cisco support, Samasource expanded its SamaHub technology platform to incorporate training, testing, and performance assessment tools for workers around the world. The enhancement helped workers become more productive and knowledgeable and increased the amount of work Samasource could take on.

Combining human and technology networks is the formula that drives Cisco’s CSR efforts. We are proud to support visionaries like Wendy, Jean, and Leila who recognize that technology can greatly multiply their impact on people and communities.

Which “social entrepreneurs” do you think should be recognized on next year’s Impact 30 list?

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