Leading social entrepreneurs join Stanford community


seers 2016 banner photo 3
From left to right, the 2016 SEERS Fellows: Josefina Alvarado Mena, Tomás Alvarez, Rajasvini Bhansali, and Jered Lawson.

Stanford’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship welcomes four social entrepreneurs to campus this year to engage students and the Stanford community with leaders in the social sector. The four will serve as Social Entrepreneurs in Residence at Stanford (SEERS) Fellows at the Haas Center for Public Service through June, and will be teaching a service-learning course (IR142) in the spring quarter. 

The SEERS Fellows lead organizations using entrepreneurial models to advance social justice and pioneer new approaches to public service delivery for marginalized communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally. They have all been recognized for their path-breaking work in the field of social entrepreneurship with awards and prestigious fellowships for their contributions to their sector. 

The 2016 cohort will join 15 other SEERS alumni who have been part of the program since its launch in 2011. 

Hip Hop Therapy Goes Global 

Trained as a social worker, Tomás Alvarez quickly realized that there was little diversity amongst clinicians in the field, which created a cultural mismatch and barrier to those accessing services. He set off to transform mental health service delivery for communities of color by pioneering “Hip Hop Therapy,” which uses the art of creating rap music to connect to troubled teens. In 2011, Alvarez launched Beats Rhymes and Life (BRL) in Oakland, California to offer trainings to local schools and mental health providers to share their culturally responsive approach to working with marginalized youth. In January, Alvarez stepped down from his role as executive director of BRL to launch a new platform to connect Hip Hop Therapy providers across the globe to each other and the resources they need to grow and sustain their models. 

View Tomás' profile here.

Photo Caption: The program's co-founder Sarina Beges poses with Tomás Alvarez (right) at Beats Rhymes and Life’s Oakland headquarters.


From Farm to Firm to Family: Advancing the Food Justice Movement 

Jered Lawson is making food systems change and reform a reality through his work as the co-founder of Pie Ranch, a farm located along Northern California’s coastline. Pie Ranch’s mission is not just to grow delicious and organic agriculture, but to educate, train, and form regional partnerships to realize their vision of cultivating a just food system. Lawson leads many of their education programs, which bring Bay Area high school students to farm the land, learn more about locally grown food, and maybe even inspire a new generation of farmers. Lawson has worked with local government and community organizations on policy reform to secure more land for small farming. He has also partnered with Silicon Valley technology firms – and Stanford Dining – to provide sustainably grown and sourced food for employees and students to enjoy. 

View Jered's profile here.


Re-envisioning Just Development 

Rajasvini (Vini) Bhansali brings an international lens to the SEERS program this year as the executive director of the International Development Exchange (IDEX), an organization based in San Francisco, California that works globally in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Growing up in Rajasthan, India, Vini developed a strong sense of social justice from an early age and has translated that wisdom into her work at IDEX. The organization provides flexible funding to local organizations led by women, youth, and indigenous leaders with innovative solutions based on local knowledge and customs. Vini has helped lead IDEX’s work to challenge traditional patterns of philanthropy and international development that favor top-down externally driven solutions to local problems.

View Vini's profile here.


Breaking the Cycle of Poverty 

Josefina Alvarado-Mena is the 2016 Echoing Green-SEERS Fellow, her fellowship made possible through a partnership with Echoing Green, an organization that funds early-stage social entrepreneurs. Each year, Echoing Green selects a member of their alumni community to participate in the SEERS fellowship. Mena, a 1996 Echoing Green fellow, is the executive director of Safe Passages, an organization based in Oakland, California that works to create a better future for Oakland’s children and youth. Through an integrated model that works with children and their families from the cradle through adulthood, Safe Passages helps to interrupt the cycle of poverty and put children on a track towards college and career. Their innovative programs provide early childhood education to new parents, work with schools to integrate education and social services, provide career development opportunities for youth, and build strong family partnerships with community members. 

View Josefina's profile here.

Stanford students will have the opportunity to work on service learning-based projects with SEERS fellows through a course (INTNLREL 142) offered in the spring quarter. Service-learning allows students to gain experience working alongside non-profit leaders to tackle real organizational challenges. From designing new policy reform to developing fundraising strategies, students come away from the experience with new insight into the field of social change and concrete skills. 

The SEERS fellows will be on campus through June to teach the service-learning course, participate in events, and engage with student groups. To learn more about the Program on Social Entrepreneurship visit (pse.stanford.edu) or to connect with the SEERS Fellows, please contact Sarina Beges (sbeges@stanford.edu).