SAN FRANCISCO — At the annual Big Bang Philanthropy happy hour at the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, social entrepreneurs working in areas such as conservation, education, and health care perform limericks. They are asked to capture the work they do in five-line stanzas that following the strict rhyming scheme of AABBA, and the crowd goes wild with laughter and applause. While this group of funders and entrepreneurs are serious about poverty, they do not take themselves too seriously.
“I have the attention span of a gnat and I think it gets very boring for people to get presentation after presentation,” said Kevin Starr, managing director of the Mulago Foundation, a private foundation based in Silicon Valley that finds and funds organizations focused on the basic needs of the very poor, and is also a member organization of Big Bang Philanthropy. Social entrepreneurship should be fun, he said.
Yet Starr still has his eyes set on “impact at scale,” something he mentions often in his writing and speaking. Asked by Devex what he means by that, Starr stuck out his finger and swiped it upward in the shape of a steep curve, explaining he is referring to a kind of dramatic growth.
Starr also spoke to Devex about how he chooses his investments, and the Mulago Foundation’s support of Bridge International Academies, a network of private schools that began in Kenya, has expanded to Liberia, and is at the center of a debate over the role of private education in developing countries.