Tips for Social Entrepreneurs

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© Getty Images/Mananya Kaewthawee

Five experts, five questions: question 4

Which specific tips do you have for those who want to transfer their ideas and social innovations into business concepts?

Magdalena Parcheva

Although there are no universal recipes in the field of social entrepreneurship, in my opinion factors for successful transformation of ideas and social innovations are:

  • developing a social entrepreneurial business model in which the relationship between the components social problem/ challenge, value proposition, solution, key activities, key metrics, beneficiaries, channels, key partners, cost structure, revenue stream is carefully considered;
  • striving to ensure the sustainability of the social enterprise over time. The problem is the difficulty of combining business goals, performance indicators with social mission and social goals, which in many cases leads to the termination of the existence of the social enterprise;
  • involving various stakeholders in the cause of the social enterprise;
  • attracting funding through public programs as one of the possible but not the main source for the development of the social enterprise;
  • looking for opportunities to scale the impact of the social enterprise.

Tamara Ferreira Schmidt

According to John Kania and Mark Kramer, successful collective impact initiatives typically have five conditions that together produce proper alignment and lead to powerful results:

  • a common agenda: all participants need to have a shared vision for change, including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed-upon actions.
  • shared measurement systems: collecting data and measuring results consistently on a shortlist of indicators at the community level and across all participating organizations not only ensures that all efforts remain aligned, but it also enables the participants to hold each other accountable and learn from each other™s successes and failures.
  • mutually reinforcing activities: collective impact initiatives depend on a diverse group of stakeholders working together, not by requiring that all participants do the same thing, but by encouraging each participant to undertake the specific set of activities at which it excels in a way that supports and is coordinated with the actions of others.
  • continuous communication: developing trust among nonprofits, corporations, and government agencies is a monumental challenge. Participants need several years of regular meetings to build up enough experience with each other to recognize and appreciate the common motivation behind their different efforts.
  • backbone support organizations: creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization and staff with a particular set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative.

Our Experts

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Ingo Steffgen

From the businessman’s perspective I would still recommend to everyone to first identify sources of income or to at least design the idea in such a way that income and expenditure will cancel each other out so that you can break even. As much as I admire idealism, the world that we live in is realistically ruled by money. I am still happy to encourage people to just go for it, no matter how crazy an idea might seem. The time right after graduating from university seems to be a particularly good point to experiment with social entrepreneurship, but of course this is also possible without a bachelor's or master's degree.
You are very unlikely to be successful at the first attempt, but you can learn even more from failure. Be brave, take the time and talk about your ideas to as many people as possible, especially to those who don’t think it’s a good idea!

Evans Quartey Hammond

The best advice I can give to social innovators who want to turn their ideas into business concepts revolves around three major points: aspiring social entrepreneurs must concentrate on their value proposition and what they have to offer the market. This will force them to be focused and prevent them from becoming a master of none. While having a diverse portfolio of products is exciting, each new market segment and product line necessitates a significant investment of time and resources, which can be challenging. As a result, it is critical to focus one's energy on one thing at a time in order to scale up and become an expert in that specialty. Secondly, they should put together the right team and continue to build internal capacity. This entails bringing on board professionals with diverse skill sets to compensate for one's shortcomings. This can result in rapid growth and advancement of the business. Finally, embracing partnership can actually help the business progress. Most aspiring entrepreneurs want to do it on their own, believing that they can first prove themselves, which I believe is a completely premature assumption. Avoiding business partnerships can result in a company becoming stagnant at the start due to a lack of business establishment experience, or financial and technical resources.

Raju Gurung

  • It’s a great feeling when new ideas emerge. But ideas mean little without execution. Accordingly, try not to identify yourself with the idea and, instead, continually focus on the customer and their needs.
  • A company is built by people for people. By not identifying yourself with the idea, you become more open to sharing your ideas and getting the right co-founder on board.
  • During the idea stage, try to overcome your cognitive biases and try to jot down all the assumptions you hold within the problem space. Start testing them as soon as possible with a handful of potential customers and build your solution with them. Don’t spend too much time building and then going out to customers; you may be building what you like, and not what the customer needs.
  • I see so many start-ups trying to build start-ups by thinking about the technology or solution first. That may lead you somewhere, but you’ll soon hit a wall, because you have no idea what the customer needs. Start by focussing on the problem.

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