By Youhee Choi, edited by Maya RectorYouhee Choi is a current UC Berkeley Master of Engineering student studying IEOR in the class of 2018. Youhee is interested in project/product management and the startup accelerating industry. Her long-term goal is to build a technology-based social startup accelerator. She has always been interested in social enterprises, but her passion grew in her previous job as a Founding Program Coordinator, where she spearheaded social innovation programs that included research projects and global innovation tours in coordination with companies such as Google, Intel, Facebook, Survey Monkey, etc. Recently, Uber’s sexism and Airbnb’s racism scandals have led people to ponder: what is Silicon Valley doing right besides developing new technologies? This birthplace of world-changing technologies “has been unkind to traditional middlemen”(Gunther 2017). Such incidents and increasing awareness of diversity have now resulted in the so-called social innovation industry, where technology and the public sector aim to create synergy for the general public. By introducing three potential solutions to this issue, my suggestion to Silicon Valley is to create technology based social startup accelerators. First, Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) plays a major role in charity at Silicon Valley. This corporate foundation that is “funded by a company as a separate legal entity” serves as a mediator between the public sector and Silicon Valley (Kesley 2017). Founded more than 10 years ago, SVCF “has rapidly grown into one of the world’s biggest foundations” with its extensive support base from companies in Silicon Valley (Gunther 2017). However, despite its expertise in helping out the local community, SVCF has still not realized its full potential to see how technology can be instrumental in the contribution of Silicon Valley on a larger scale. The technical expertise of Silicon Valley provides a perfect ground for skill-based volunteering that could contribute to society. Similar to pro bono work where “essential free legal service” is given to “advance [social enterprises’] social missions” by professionals in the legal industry, software engineers can utilize their own expertise for the public sector (Kapoor et.al 2017). This can be beneficial to businesses as it is easier to “manage their partnerships with nonprofits” compared to traditional partnerships with little lasting effects (Letts et.al 2017). However, this solution also does not have a concrete plan to utilize technical skills with the right resources.
The technical expertise of Silicon Valley provides a perfect ground for skill-based volunteering that could contribute to society.As the “dominant global ecosystem” of startup acceleration in the world, Silicon Valley can expand its societal potential as a startup accelerator (Startup Genome 2017). For instance, my previous job as a program coordinator at Yonsei Center for Social Innovation played a major role in expanding societal potential as a startup accelerator. Funded by the Ministry of Education in Korea, this center funded undergraduate students’ research on social innovation and facilitated relevant programs such as social innovation consulting competition, Global Innovation Tours to Shanghai and Silicon Valley, and many more. This provided opportunities to students to interact with mentors from McKinsey&Company, Google and more to learn about major components of a successful startup. Rather than simply relying upon donations or using volunteer based expertise as is outlined in the previous options, the center showed a clear vision on synergetic combination of both private and public sectors. (More details on this amazing institution can be found here: uic.yonsei.ac.kr/ycsi)
Social startups can be accelerated with the synergetic combination of both private and public sectors.Throughout this research, I reviewed three possible, not necessarily mutually exclusive options for Silicon Valley to lead social innovation in the area. Although charity foundation and skill-based volunteering have been the trend up until now, I believe that startup accelerators based on both technical expertise and adequate funding can be game-changers for Silicon Valley.
- Gunther Mark (2017). The Charity That Big Tech Built. On Stanford Social Innovation Review Fall 2017 Vol 15. №4: 18–25.
- Kesley Oliver (2017). IBIS World Industry Report 81321 Donations,Grants & Endowment in the US. IBIS World.
- Kapoor D. and Sossin L. (2017). Social Enterprise, Law and Legal Education. On Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Osgoode Digital Commons.
- Letts C. and Holly D. (2017). The Promise of Skills-Based Volunteering. On Stanford Social Innovation Review Fall 2017 Vol 15. №4: 41–47.
- Startup Genome (2017). Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017
Op-Ed: How can social innovation develop in Silicon Valley? was originally published in Berkeley Master of Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.