ACT Project Helps Kick Off Stanford’s SEED Initiative

ACT suggested several models for how Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED) could structure alumni volunteers to coach and mentor local executives in the field.

March 15, 2014


African entrepreneurs gather together to celebrate the work they have done with SEED.

When Bob King, MBA ’60 and his wife Dottie made an extraordinary gift to Stanford to set up what became the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), SEED’s Director of Education Gina Jorasch, MBA ’89, didn’t have to leave The Farm to get help on crafting SEED’s alumni engagement strategy. She turned to Stanford GSB’s own Alumni Consulting Team.

GSB Alumni helping SEED

SEED’s mission is to stimulate the creation of economic opportunities through innovation, entrepreneurship, and the growth of businesses that change the lives of people who live in poverty around the world.

Creating and expanding enterprises is among the most effective sustainable vehicles in addressing poverty - if not the most effective.

SEED knew it had a unique asset in leveraging Stanford’s resources and culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, including its alumni base. Volunteering to coach African executives would be crucial to SEED’s success in scaling local and regional businesses.

Tapping ACT’s Expertise at Involving Alumni

Building on the ACT organization’s own experience in rallying alumni for nonprofit consulting projects and interviews of comparable organizations, the team suggested several models for how SEED could structure alumni volunteers to coach and mentor local executives in the field. SEED decided to offer volunteers an extended in-country engagement of 6-12 months in length for most effective collaboration.

Off to Africa for One ACT Volunteer

After the ACT project finished at the end of 2012, one of the volunteers on the project, Terry Duryea, MBA ’71, applied and was accepted to be part of the second team of volunteers to head to SEED’s first regional innovation center in West Africa in early 2014. The first team of five volunteers in 2013 coached 29 companies across a range of industries based in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

On his decision to join SEED as a coach, Terry said “the ACT project opened my eyes to an opportunity I had been seeking for over a decade. It combines my experience as an executive, a coach and a mentor during my career in the technology field with my interest in encouraging prosperity in the developing world.” Terry had looked at microfinance and other options over the years, but determined that SEED, with an approach that will scale well, was the best fit for him.

ACT Consultants

  • Bret Andersen, MBA ’89
  • Himanshu Choksi, MBA ’89
  • Vince Forte, MBA ’75, co-lead
  • Jason Friedrichs, MBA ’08
  • Nancy Kamei, MBA ’88
  • Tony Ramsden, MBA ’70, co-lead
  • Terry Duryea, MBA ’71

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