Santa Clara University has named Brigit Helms as the new executive director of the University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.
A 1983 Santa Clara University alumna, Helms is a veteran leader in global development, financial and economic inclusion, economic policy, and social entrepreneurship.
In her new role, Helms is responsible for the vision, strategy, fundraising, and leadership of the Center, one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara. She will report to Provost Lisa Kloppenberg and begin her term this month.
"Brigit is an established global thought leader working on innovative, inclusive ways to lift people out of poverty," said Kloppenberg. "We are delighted to welcome her back to Santa Clara, where her impressive background, expertise and international experience will greatly benefit Miller Center, its social entrepreneur partners, and the wider Santa Clara University community."
Helms brings over 30 years of diverse experience creating and delivering innovative solutions to social and environmental challenges in more than 45 developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, in both the private and public sectors.
As vice president for the global development company DAI, Helms most recently led a team of experts in economic growth, governance, environment and results management to help design and implement solutions to complex development problems around the world. Previously, she led the Multilateral Investment Fund (now IDB Invest), the innovation lab of the Inter-American Development Bank that invests $85 million annually in social enterprises across Latin America and the Caribbean. At McKinsey & Company, she helped build a global financial inclusion practice, providing mobile financial services for the underserved, and supporting the development of a smart card-based agent banking network.
"Brigit brings tremendous global connections, knowledge, and experience in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem that is vital to our mission," said Jeff Miller ’73, MBA ’76, Santa Clara University trustee, Miller Center advisory board member, and the Center’s eponymous donor. "She will be a true asset in further elevating Miller Center’s impact and visibility."
Helms spent around 14 years with the World Bank Group, where she helped launch banking, agriculture, and forestry programs to benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises in Indonesia through its International Finance Corp (IFC). She also served as sector leader for IFC’s East Asia and the Pacific region, leading the Access to Finance program from her base in Cambodia. She was a founding member of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a global center of excellence for financial inclusion, where she supported microfinance institutions and their ecosystems across the globe.
"As a Santa Clara University alumna, I’ve admired Miller Center for many years—its leadership in combining global social entrepreneurs with Silicon Valley mentors and approaches, the groundbreaking initiatives the center has pioneered, and its broader mission to bring people out of poverty," said Helms. "It will be a pleasure to collaborate with staff and the advisory board to build on those efforts, particularly now as underserved communities have been devastated by COVID-19, and Miller Center’s leadership is especially needed."
Helms is the author of Access for All: Building Inclusive Economic Systems (2018), and has published papers and bylined articles in publications including the MIT Technology Review, The Guardian, the Journal of Microfinance, and The Huffington Post. She is a board member at the AlphaMundi Foundation, which seeks to boost the social and environmental impact of portfolio companies of impact investor AlphaMundi Group. She is also on the board of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee USA, which works to empower the poor in 11 countries across South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
She received a Ph.D. and M.A. in development and agricultural economics from Stanford University; an M.A. in Latin American studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies; and a B.S. in political science, summa cum laude, from Santa Clara University.
About Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship has accelerated more than 1,000 social enterprises since 2003, leveraging our location in the heart of Silicon Valley and our Jesuit ambition to end poverty and protect the planet. These enterprises collectively have improved, transformed, or saved the lives of over 400 million people in 100 countries. We also help transform social ministries to more sustainable social enterprise models and engage Santa Clara University students in field research to support social entrepreneurs.
About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Assis. SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see www.scu.edu.