The Ripple Effect of Replication

20 July 2017


Founded in 1997, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University. The centers embody the University’s mission to unite students and faculty with Silicon Valley leaders to address significant public issues. Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity.

(Image courtesy of Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship)

How do we define replication at Miller Center? An analogy for social enterprise replication is to imagine a rock thrown into a pond. Where the rock hits the water is the splash of a pioneering social enterprise technology or business model tackling a social problem. The growth of the original social enterprise or the adoption of the enterprise model are the ripples in the water. Replication, to us, supports the ripple-effect by making these innovations diffuse further and more quickly. This is where we see huge development opportunities for the social impact sector.

Miller Center’s Replication Initiative was launched in 2016. Over the past year we approached the problem of how to replicate tested and proven business models through a series of experiments. We wanted to better understand the challenges of replication and where to best position our future work.

The first set of experiments focused on services for GSBI Alumni social enterprises looking to expand internationally. For example, we teamed up with the International Center for Social Franchising (ICSF) to support Sistema Biobolsa (GSBI Alumni 2014) and their efforts to scale their biodigester technology and business model from Mexico to Kenya. We worked with Sistema Biobolsa to design their replication model to afford control over their business functions. Therefore, they decided to open up a new branch in Kenya and leverage strategic partners to offset some of their business costs such as marketing and technical services.

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