Miller Center – Strategy Planning Facilitation


One of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University, the Miller Center is the largest and most successful university-based social enterprise accelerator in the world. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Miller Center harnesses the region’s entrepreneurial spirit in service of its mission to accelerate entrepreneurship to end poverty.

Business Problem

In July 2020, the Miller Center made Brigit Helms its new executive director, with one of her first orders of business to develop a five-year strategy to scale the Center’s impact. She mapped out a multiple-month effort, featuring a number of sessions to gather input from Miller Center staff and other stakeholders. And while Brigit was capable of running these sessions herself, she preferred to use an outside facilitator so she could approach the sessions as a participant observer.


In his ongoing capacity as a mentor at the Miller Center, Ed Callan met Brigit and offered his facilitation services. Ed developed session plans for and facilitated five separate work sessions featuring key staff members, mentors, partners, and alumni. Each session was two hours in length, and participants were assigned homework to perform ahead of time, which formed the basis for the sessions. And consistent with the fact that the sessions took place in September of 2020, all were conducted remotely using virtual collaboration and facilitation tools.


Miller Center was so happy with the five input sessions that it asked Ed to facilitate two later sessions in the strategy development process: an operations review and an advisory board meeting. The resulting five-year plan clearly articulates the Miller Center’s sharpened focus in terms of sector, geography, and social entrepreneurs’ stage of development, and reflects the Center’s core strengths and differentiated value proposition. The Miller Center was very pleased both with the outcome of the process and the manner in which the sessions were run. And as a tangible sign of its appreciation, the Miller Center chose to recognize Ed’s contributions by offering him an executive fellow position.