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Four ways to accelerate your Social Entrepreneurship

All acts of entrepreneurship start with the vision of an attractive opportunity. For social entrepreneurs, an ‘attractive’ opportunity is one that has sufficient potential for positive social impact to justify the investment of time, energy, and money required to pursue it seriously. …. (they) have to be conceived, developed, and refined in a dynamic, creative, and thoughtful process. –          Ayse Guclu, J. Gregory Dees, and Beth Battle Anderson

 

As we can understand from the above quote, entrepreneurship processes are ongoing and continuous, adapting to change and creating disruptions. Social Entrepreneurships are about bringing in change, hence a little more difficult to manage and communicate. While we are not going into the processes themselves, it may be worthwhile to look at some accelerators which can work for us.

 

I will talk about four ways to accelerate the social entrepreneurship process, and at the same time managing the change we want to bring out. While there will be more but I thought these four accelerators would be the most critical.

 

 

Collaboration

 

Change is the core of a social entrepreneurship.  According to Peter Drucker entrepreneurs “always search for change, respond to it and exploit it as an opportunity.” Therefore like all entrepreneurs, SEs also need to be aware and keep abreast of the changes around them, which in turn can create opportunities, new social  needs and social assets, prompting social entrepreneurs to generate new ideas. Since it is not possible to have personal knowledge of everything, we need to be open to working with others and taking help where available. What and who can help us is of critical importance. The question is not “can I do this” but “how can I do this and who can help me”.  Collaborating with well wishers or partners is a key attribute helping us leverage our assets of relationships and partnerships. Collaboration can leapfrog the phases of Ideation and Development. The SE will need to be ready to draw on his/her own personal experiences as well be open to working with others. This calls for a strong collaborative spirit and openness to opinions and suggestions.

 

A partner eco-system: Pillars of success

 

In today’s world we cannot expect to know everything that is required to be successful. For example, my domain expertise could be ‘education’ but rolling out a SE project in education also means I need to know technology, marketing, demographics, local politics of my target market, psyche of my target user etc. My domain was education. Not marketing, or psychology! Therefore to be able to address all required skills and knowledge, I can either learn slowly, or quickly and create partnerships to help me in my endeavor. The latter will obviously accelerate my project. Apart from this and, more importantly, my partners will allow me to focus on my core domain and business by taking care of the supporting pillars and processes. All I have to do is manage them. This aspect is extremely important. A partner eco-system will typically include incubators, technology partners, roll out partners, sales partners, mentors, advisers etc. A Partner ecosystem will accelerate every stage of a start-up process, from Ideation to Growth and replication. In addition, it will help me to reduce my own expenses and therefore increase my productivity.

 

The art of Business Modeling

 

A Business Model is not only about how we think we can achieve our goals – qualitative or quantitative. It is, about the changing markets we operate in, about our products, about our processes (internal and external), about our customers & their changing values, and about our vendors and suppliers and their changing plans. It’s about the consequences of our decisions. This is why a strong business model is critical for a social entrepreneur.

 

The ‘art’ comes into play because one needs to stitch this all together into a story; each part of that story synergizing with the other and together “creating a value greater than the sum of their parts.  The story should answer key questions like ‘what is your change vision’ and ‘what is your change adaptation plan’. Because an SE is about change at the bottom of the pyramid, they need innovative and disruptive models to address the new markets and create affordability, availability and accessibility.

 

A well woven business story, with proof points, as a strong business model, will not only define success but also convince partners, collaborators and investors of the viability of our business, opening doors and accelerating each phase of the process, including funding and execution.

 

Finance: Investments vs Spending

 

In my experience, organizing finance is one of the major delay factors. Finding and convincing an investor to support a project is a long and arduous exercise based on the confidence we have been able to generate.

 

One way to quickly gain confidence and to accelerate this process is to re-look at our financial plan from a little different perspective which is, to review each expense item and see if there is a Return on Investment on it. That is what makes it money wisely spent and productive which will create a lot of investor confidence.

 

Having a planned RoI for every budgeted expense will not only accelerate the funding process but also create a financial discipline.

The above accelerators are not only meant to do that, but create a secure plan as well, which can boost the probability of success manifold.

 

Rohit Shipstone is a Business Growth specialist, Innovator, Strategic Marketer and member of the Ennovent Pool. To access Rohit Shipstone’s expertise in product development for low-income markets, new business model evaluation, strategy, marketing and sales, write to aparna.bhat@ennovent.com

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