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New GSB Institute Will Tackle Poverty

$150 million gift backs an enterprising approach.

The starkest economic facts have produced an extraordinarily generous initiative based at Stanford: an institute that launches with a $150 million gift and will grapple with the world's worst poverty.

The funding comes from Dorothy and Robert King, MBA '60, for the establishment of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies at the Graduate School of Business. The vision—the result of years of thought and examination about ways to tackle the planet's most desperate living conditions—offers a scenario that combines education and research with feet-on-the-ground entrepreneurship and employment goals in impoverished communities.

"The big issue for us is there are a billion people living on $1.25 a day. That's not right," says Robert King. "We need to change that. . . . When we know we've changed 200 million lives, we'll know we're on our way."

The Kings have given $100 million to get SIIDE—dubbed "SEED"—under way. They've also committed another $50 million in matching funds to inspire other potential donors. The gift is among the largest ever received by Stanford, and President John Hennessy took note of the "foresight and compassion" that underpins an effort "that leverages Stanford's knowledge, resources and human capital."

GSB professor and supply-chain expert Hau Lee will lead the institute. Professor Jesper Sorensen, faculty director of the Center for Social Innovation at the GSB, will spearhead the education and dissemination endeavors. Professor Jim Patell, along with Bill Meehan, a lecturer in strategic management and director emeritus of McKinsey & Co., will direct the on-the-ground activities. Nobel laureate and GSB dean emeritus A. Michael Spence will chair the advisory board.

"We don't want to be naïve—it's hugely complicated," Robert King says. "But I really believe the status and significance of Stanford is going to make a lot of these things happen."

The institute will strive to stimulate innovations and research that foster leadership, problem solving and business operations with the help of in-the-field managers who can explore improvements in management, infrastructure and academic course development. The issue might be transportation and supply logistics, health care needs or mobile communications, all served by supporting local action with multidisciplinary research and training.

Much of the inspiration for the institute was spurred by decades of homestays by international students with the Kings, who became close observers of the far-reaching impact made by education and entrepreneurship. In the initial announcement of the institute, Dorothy King described the power of dinner conversation with a student from Zimbabwe who was visiting along with peers from her global study trip to Africa.

"We heard how those first-hand experiences compelled some of the MBAs to return for internships in Africa," she notes. "We saw the direct connection between the learning experience and the motivation to make change."

The institute plans partnership activities with a variety of organizations that have operations abroad, including Endeavor, which mentors the work of high-impact entrepreneurs; Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm; the Skoll Foundation, which invests in social entrepreneurs; and global social enterprise investor Acumen Fund.

Comments (1)

  • Mr. James Chappell

    how can one donate directly to this institute?

    Posted by Mr. James Chappell on Jan 5, 2012 2:12 PM


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