Collective Impact, explained

“Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” John Kania & Mark Kramer

When we’re thinking about building enterprises that tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges, it can and should be overwhelming. These problems are complex, entrenched, and long-lasting, otherwise someone would have solved them already.

And yet, despite widespread knowledge of the complexity of these problems, many of us—including funders, social enterprises, governments and non-profits—continue to seek solutions in individual programs or organizations. It took much more than a single or even a few organizations to create these problems, and it’s going to take more to solve them.

Scaling up single, albeit innovative, programs and replicating them won’t be enough. Neither will short-term public-private partnerships or collaborations. What we need is something more powerful, adaptive, and sustained.

Collective Impact is a concept that began spreading with an article by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. David Bornstein covered the topic shortly after in several New York Times articles. It’s a method through which a group of key players from different sectors commit to a common agenda in order to solve a specific social problem. But it’s no ordinary collaboration.

Collective Impact initiatives are long-term commitments marked by:

  1. A common agenda
  2. A shared measurement system
  3. Mutually reinforcing activities
  4. Ongoing communication
  5. An independent backbone organization

Here’s a video by FSG that explains the movement:

In short, it’s a method by which the whole can become more than the sum of its parts. Best practices of Collective Impact include:

  • Strive, an initiative that has brought together 300 education-related organizations in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region to develop common goals, evidence-based strategies, and shared metrics for regional impact.
  • The 100,000 Homes Campaign, which coordinates efforts to place the chronically homeless in permanent supportive housing.
  • Shape Up Somerville, a community-wide effort to reduce weight gain among children in Somerville, MA.
  • The Elizabeth River Project, a cross-sector initiative to restore the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, VA.
  • The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, which connects 16 conservation organizations in the U.S. and Canada to build a sustainable seafood industry.

Continue reading Collective Impact, explained

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The. Business. Model.

Hi friends.

Now that you’ve had a chance to take a look at Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas, it’s time to dive into the main meal: The. Business. Model.

Here’s the Business Model Canvas. You’ll notice that all that work you did on the Value Proposition Canvas can plug into the “value proposition” section of the business model.

Here’s an overview of how to use this handy tool:

“Okay, this is great,” you may be thinking, “but how does a social enterprise’s business model differ from that of a non-mission based business?”

Strategyzer created the the Mission Model Canvas for that. Unfortunately, the Mission Model Canvas makes it look like you can just replace the “revenue streams” section with the “mission achievement” section. A social enterprise – and nowadays even non-profits – really shouldn’t do that. You need to come up with a way to both accomplish your mission and earn revenue streams, because the likelihood of your organization surviving on mission alone is kind of slim.

So here’s my recommendation: if you have a social enterprise, use the normal business model, but add social and environmental costs to the “costs” section and add social and environmental benefits to the “revenue” section. By doing this, you’ll start to account for the true costs and benefits of what you create.

What if you have a non-profit, you ask? Do you need a business model?

Continue reading The. Business. Model.

The Value Proposition Canvas

To create products and services that meet the needs of people, it’s important to keep track of your target market’s pains, gains, and to-do’s – which are all opportunities for providing value to them.

Strategyzer has created a great canvas for this, which they call the Value Proposition Canvas:

And here is the tool itself:

The Value Proposition Canvas

Enjoy!

Non-profit, For-profit, or Hybrid?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been researching possible structures for social enterprises, and writing about how to pick the right one for your organization. The post grew and grew, so I’ve decided to turn it into a short ebook, which I’ll be releasing here soon!

In the meantime, here’s a quick preview:

For years, the delineation between non-profits and for-profits has been dissolving. Social enterprises are testimony to this societal transformation—they demonstrate how profit and mission need not be mutually exclusive.

But each social entrepreneur is faced with a critical decision point along their journey: to be (or not to be) legally designated as a non-profit, a for-profit, or potentially a hybrid of the two.

How do you decide?

An organization’s legal structure refers to its governance, legal form, and ownership. It influences how an organization can make money, the kinds of activities it can undertake, and how the government will tax the organization. The wrong structure can put the organization at financial and legal risk, so it should be considered and chosen carefully to fit the organization’s needs.

The chart above provides some basic guidance on the advantages and challenges of for-profit and non-profit structures. More information on each, as well as guidance on a third option—a hybrid between the two—are included in the ebook that will be coming soon!

Free Online Courses & Videos on Entrepreneurship

I, for one, love free learning opportunities. Especially when conventional arenas for learning about entrepreneurship, such as MBA programs, can be prohibitively expensive. Here are some free online courses and content on entrepreneurship that I found especially helpful:

Philanthropy University

UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and Novo Ed education, an education technology company, have come together to build Philanthropy University, which provides a free online education on social entrepreneurship and innovation to anyone in the world.

The program offers participants the opportunity to earn a certificate in social sector leadership from Berkeley-Haas. So far, over 100,000 students from all over the world have signed up for the courses. You can find more information and sign up for Philanthropy University online classes here. Continue reading Free Online Courses & Videos on Entrepreneurship