How to Build a Business Model as a Social Enterprise Ecosystem Part I

Hey, social change agents!

You might be wondering why it matters to build a business model as an ecosystem. It matters because juggling your double bottom line of both profitability and social good by definition is not a linear process. Traditional business models don't take into account the interconnectivity of your double bottom lines and don't capture the intention of social entrepreneurship. In fact, they will likely lead to your dropping the ball on one bottom line or another. Your stakeholders and your cause don't deserve a half-baked plan. The ecosystem approach I'll be detailing in this post will help you weave together both bottom lines into a seamless business model that stays true to your stakeholders and yourself. Let's get interconnected!

Step 1: Have your mission and vision and core values at the ready.

In How to Craft Your Social Enterprise Mission and Vision and How to Discover Your Social Enterprise Core Values, I walked you through how to look within yourself and your cause to get to your mission and vision and core values. If you haven't done these steps, so reading right now and do the exercises! A social enterprise business model won't work unless you know what change you're trying to make in the world, what a better world will look like, and how you can authentically take steps to get there. Mission and vision and core values in hand, you're ready to take the next step in building your business ecosystem.

Step 2: Write out your potential products, services, and initiatives.

This might seem like a big task, but I'm going to break it down into something much less daunting. Take a look at your vision, and pay particular attention to the structures you identified as preventing you from getting to that vision on the individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy levels. These are the categories by which you will sort your potential solutions, i.e. products, services, and initiatives. It is important to look at ALL of these areas because they affect each other and, therefore, the societal challenge(s) you're trying to solve. Mirroring a solution to the structure of the problem is the only way to truly address all facets of that problem. With that in mind, divide your paper, your Evernote, your word doc, whatever you use into the five categories of individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and public policy. Write out some ideas to move society toward your vision within the context of each category. Remember that you must be moving toward your vision AND doing it in a way that stays true to your core values.


Step 3: Calm down.

If you're like me, and you get overwhelmed by all of the systems in place preventing you from getting to your vision, just take a minute to calm down. You don't have to tackle all the problems when you first start. In fact, if you did, you would not only be unsuccessful, but you'd burn yourself out, and that's not helpful for anyone.

Step 4: Choose a category and the accompanying products, services, and initiatives, but keep the rest for the future.

So, you've got your products, services, and initiatives divided into socio-ecological categories. Choose ONE category to get started. You probably had some idea of how you were going to solve the social problem using one of the socio-ecological categories, so you might go with that one first and move out from there. The exercise of considering the other categories helps you understand the ecosystem in which your cause exists so that you can eventually provide a solution in all categories. You know by now that I love to overdetermine for success, so just having these solutions associated with categories helps you overdetermine for overall success because you are recognizing the complexity of the social issue. Later on down the line, you can refer to this magnificent document as a cheatsheet for where and how you should expand, but right now, just focus on one category.

Blog Ending

Social entrepreneurship means keeping your mission, vision, and core values at the heart of everything you do. By using this method of recognizing the scale of the problem and strategically focusing on one thing at a time, you can ensure you always keep your eye on the ultimate prize: social good. In Part II, I'll teach you how to dive deeper into that one category to make an actionable plan for social change.

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