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Program on Social Entrepreneurship

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Kathryn Stoner
Co-principle Investigator
Senior Fellow
Deborah Rhode
Co-principle Investigator
Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law
Stanford Law School
Kavita N. Ramdas
Executive Director
Program on Social Entrepreneurship

"Transforming ripples into waves of transformational change across the world"


The Program on Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law seeks to actively integrate the on-the-ground experience of social entrepreneurs from around the world with cutting-edge academic research at Stanford University. Building a tangible bridge between academia and practice, the Program exposes students to new models of social change through innovative courses and provides practitioners the opportunity to build their individual and personal capacities as social change leaders.


Launched in July 2011, the program recognized the need to bring a practitioner’s perspective into the classroom at Stanford University and infuse the research agenda of Stanford's scholars with a first-hand account of the challenges confronting the increasingly interdependent and connected world. Faculty and researchers at Stanford are eager to access the valuable experience of global practitioners whose insights into the reality of democracy and development on the ground can enrich and deepen their scholarship and theoretical work. Similarly, the creativity of these social entrepreneurs can inspire, provoke, and mobilize the immensely talented young people who study at Stanford and help them to engage even more purposefully with the world.

Social entrepreneurship is an emerging field of practice and few studies have been commissioned to rigorously examine this new development framework and its potential to drive social, political and economic change both at home and abroad. Furthermore, few of these grassroots projects have been documented in research or case studies to serve as a testimony to the success and failure entrepreneurs face when pushing at the boundaries of social change. Bringing social entrepreneurs into the academic setting will allow researchers to frame their challenges in a broader context to assess the institutional and systemic challenges they confront. Ultimately, the program aspires to generate a deeper knowledge of this growing field, provide capacity building opportunities for social entrepreneurs and create an eco-system more conducive to the development of this emerging sector.

I am delighted to join the Advisory Leadership Council of the Program on Social Entrepreneurship at CDDRL. Having served as a Draper Hills Summer Fellow some years ago, I know the benefits of taking time out of my intense schedule as a social entrepreneur and activist for change. I have known Kavita Ramdas since 1997 when the Global Fund for Women made a seed grant to the Afghan Institute of Learning, and am delighted that she can bring her global experience and knowledge of social change, development and human rights to this new initiative.                         
-Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, President and Executive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning

The Social Entrepreneurs:                                                  

The pilot for the program began in April 2012, bringing three innovative change-makers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Palestine and the San Francisco Bay Area to Stanford University for a ten-week residency program. This group was composed of leaders working on the frontlines of gender justice and social reform in societies that have experienced civil war, ethnic division, and continued economic and social injustice.

In fall 2012, the program welcomed its second class of Social Entrepreneurs in Residence at Stanford (SEERS) who hail from Malaysia, South Africa and the San Francisco Bay Area. Using the law as a vehicle for social change, this group is collaboratively working to advance the rights of women, minority groups and refugees around the world.

You can read about our SEERS here. 

The Program:

The residency program set in the beautiful surroundings of the California Bay Area provides  practitioners with a unique opportunity to reflect on their work with some distance from their daily challenges. The program creates both time and space for them to share their perspectives on critical issues of economic and political change, reflect and refine strategies, document lessons-learned and develop new campaigns or ventures. The entepreneurs participate in a course offered at the undergraduate level in the spring quarter and at the graduate level in the fall quarter. The course examines the emerging field of social entrepreneurship and how it interacts with the disciples of democracy, development and the rule of law. SEERS will actively participate in the course, interact with students and share their experiences to provide a practitioner's based perspective. SEERS will be exposed to a stimulating university environment in the heart of the Silicon Valley that has long been an incubator for entrepreneurial ideas and successful business ventures. 

The Program on Social Entrepreneurship is unique in its effort to connect both U.S.-based and international social entrepreneurs to cross-fertilize ideas, foster an exchange of strategies and tactics and explore joint solutions to critical problems. Entrepreneurs will have a chance to live and work with a small peer group engaged in similar efforts. They can sharpen and focus aspects of their own work as they in turn engage with young people at Stanford who represent the next generation of social change leaders.

Entrepreneurs will also be linked to the local private sector and philanthropic community where they will be encouraged to present their ideas and emerging projects to new audiences and potential investors. A global network of peers, researchers and supporters will emerge from this program to strengthen the capacity of entrepreneurs to create waves of transformational change across the world.


Kavita N. Ramdas