Last week, the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies(known as Seed) received a delegation led by Mahamudu Bawumia, vice president of Ghana. The delegation included leaders from that country’s information technology industry, and among the group were eight entrepreneurs who have completed the Seed Transformation Program(STP). Vice President Bawumia discussed a broad range of technology initiatives that the government of Ghana is now undertaking, and Seed executive director Darius Teeter spoke to the delegation about STP. (Accra, Ghana, is the site of the Seed Transformation Program in West Africa.) About 40 students from Stanford Graduate School of Business attended the gathering.
To illuminate the achievements of business leaders who have engaged with the Seed Transformation Program (STP)—and to inspire prospective STP applicants—Stanford Seed has produced a series of video portraits that feature STP participants. The series is called Profiles in Purpose, it includes an introductory episode (“The Problem Solvers”), which is embedded here, along with eight episodes that cover individual entrepreneurs. “Seed, for me, actually is the number-one game changer,” says Afolabi Abiodun, founder of SB Telecoms in Nigeria, in the introductory video.
You can access all videos in the Profiles in Purpose series here.
The cover story in the January/February 2017 issue of Stanfordmagazine presents a long and wide-ranging survey of some of the people and companies that are benefiting from the Stanford Seed initiative. The article, for example, quotes O.T. Aderinwale, CEO of a discount retail chain in Nigeria. “My brain just opened. . . . I became a changed person,” she says, referring to the impact of a module on design thinking that she took as part of the Seed Transformation Program, a yearlong course that combines MBA-style executive education with intensive coaching support.
The article also elaborates on the origin and motivation of the $150 million gift by Bob and Dottie King that led to the creation of Stanford Seed. “When I think about how incredibly fortunate we have been over our adult lives, . . . we feel we are called to be a blessing to others,” says Bob King. His and Dottie’s goal in making the gift, he adds, is nothing less than “to solve poverty by job creation.” Another goal of Stanford Seed is equally ambitious: According to Jesper B. Sørensen, faculty director and executive director, he and his colleagues aim to make Stanford University “the leading research university for thinking about the challenges of poverty in the developing world.”
In the Winter 2016 issue of Philanthropy magazine, William Foster and Gail Perrault contribute a report on research conducted by the Bridgespan Group that highlights a notable shortcoming in U.S. philanthropy. According to Foster and Perrault, there is an “aspiration gap” between donors’ stated interest in tackling major social problems and their actual willingness to make “big bets” on solutions to those problems.
To inform this analysis, the Bridespan team created a database of gifts made from 2000 to 2012 that totaled $10 million or more. The gifts had to come from U.S. donors, and they had to be designed not to provide “institutional support,” but rather to achieve “social change.” Foster and Perrault specifically cite the donation that led to the founding of Stanford Seed. “We [included] big university gifts that specifically focused on social change, such as Robert and Dorothy King’s gift of $150 million to found the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, which aims to fight poverty in the poorest parts of the world,” they write.
In 2012, The New York Times announced a donation of $150 million by Bob and Dottie King to Stanford University to create the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economics (also known as Stanford Seed), a center based at Stanford Graduate School of Business that aims to reduce poverty by promoting entrepreneurship and job creation.
The Times quoted Bob King on the core motivation behind the gift: “More than a billion people live on less than $1.25 a day. That’s just not right.” In addition, the newspaper quoted Dottie King on the reason for making the gift to Stanford: “The relationships the university has in Silicon Valley, the range of expertise it has among its professors—it can’t be replicated. The university can make our money more fruitful than we could on our own.”