Take Your Social Enterprise To The Peak of Success By Challenging The Business Model Canvas

Every successful venture has a strategic plan behind it just as a successful enterprise has a well-mapped business model canvas behind its success. Today, it’s all about innovation, breaking the stereotypes, and challenging the established norms. And having an innovative business model canvas can reach your enterprise to new heights of achievement and success.

So What Is A Business Model Canvas (BMC)?

The business model canvas( BMC) was born out of the work of Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, Business Model Generation in 2009. Essentially the BMC is a visual representation of the current or new business models, comprising of the nine components: Customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships, and cost structure.

The BMC offers a holistic view of the business and allows individuals to evaluate traditional processes and bring innovation into their business models. It is a very common thing for startups to fail if they put in all their faith and attention in the idea of the product or service the organization wishes to create. In doing so they fail to extend in-depth consideration in developing a business model that their organizations should follow.

Rachel Griner,  a strategy and innovation expert based in Dubai, UAE, provides some insightful tips on developing the right kind of BMC for social enterprises. Let’s break down the nine segments of the BMC to understand it better.

No. 1 : Customer Segment

Any organization must identify which customer segment it will try to serve, for the satisfaction of customers is the topmost priority. To effectively categorize customers, an organization must first know its customers, keeping in mind both their current and future needs. The customer segments are categorized as: Mass Market; Niche Market; Segmented; Diversify, and, Multi-Sided Platform / Market.


Who are your customers? How will you define them? Does your identification of their needs go with the theory of change you’ve expressed in your organization’s mission?


No. 2 : Value Proposition

Value proposition essentially points to the combination of products and services you wish to provide to your customer segments. Rachel Griner says that “For a social enterprise or for-purpose organization, the value proposition extends beyond what consumers are willing to pay for; it becomes a point of view on what consumers should pay for.”

When creating the value proposition of your product/service, the first question that you need to answer is, ‘what problem are you solving through your product/service’? You then need to deliberate on how the overall experience of what you are delivering can be improved so that it provides a much greater value to your customers.


Are you extending value on the “right” areas in how you position your products/ services?


No. 3 : Customer Relationships

It is very important for an organization to choose the kind of relationship it wishes to develop with its customer segments in order to promote financial growth and stability. It’s best to cultivate a customer relationship that grows until it reaps profits for the enterprise. For a social enterprise, a customer relationship needs to grow until it results in the impact you wished to bring.

Customer relationships can be classified as Dedicated Personal Assistance;  Self-Service; Automated Services; Communities, and, Co-creation. You must look for investors who stay involved until your business becomes sustainable while they receive returns on their investments.  A loyal customer base is what your organization must invest in as it ensures steady revenue throughout the year.


Are your customer relationships designed for the long run and dedicated enough to meet the aims of your mission?


No. 4 : Channels

The medium through which you seek to extend your value proposition to your customers is known as channels, such as media, social networks, and distributors. According to Rachel, “The medium is the message”.

Channel options available to you are many and it is essential that you choose it according to your customer segments- something that will be the quickest, most efficient and cost effective for you. You can reach your clients either through your company owned channels (store fronts), or through your partner channels, or a fusion of both.


As a social entrepreneur are you leveraging such channels as can propagate the social values related to your mission, to your customers?


No. 5 : Revenue Streams

Funding and capital are of prime importance to any organization. Every entrepreneur needs to keep track of his finances and areas from where the money is coming in. A revenue stream is a strategy that a company follows to get its customer segments to buy its product or service. It is important that you cater to the requirements of your biggest buyers while ensuring the quality of your best-selling offerings.

Since a social enterprise has more than one bottom line, you need to identify the segments and offerings that contribute to making the greatest impact. Furthermore, it would be of great advantage to have an investment group willing to pay for programs that’ll help in the growth of your organization.


Are your biggest customers and best offerings to them, maximizing the impact your organization seeks to create?


No. 6 : Key Resources

Key resources consist of the main inputs that your organization employs in order to create a value proposition for your product/service, to serve the customers and to deliver the product/service to them. Resources can be classified as human, financial, physical and intellectual.

Achieving social goals is possible only by mobilizing a variety of assets within a particular community, and a single organization can’t do it all alone. Thus, cooperation is a prime necessity of social enterprise.

As a social entrepreneur, you need to list your resources and potential cooperation sectors. This’ll help you to get a better idea as to the kind of product/service you need to create for your customers.


What are the assets existing within your community? How can you learn from people making a change and collaborate with them?


No. 7 : Key Activities

A social enterprise has to perform varied functions and activities. In fact, it’s mission is upheld by its work culture, that breathes in the everyday activities. These activities are vital processes that need to be carried out efficiently for the success of the business model.

According to Rachel Griner, successful transformative organizations ask themselves: “How can we become what we seek?” If you wanna see the change elsewhere, first you have to be that change yourself. Efforts should be put in to create such a work environment that infuses the mission into every aspect of language, space, and process, ranging from creative placemaking to the powerful odds of your enterprise.


How can you bring your mission to life by the three-course interactions in one week?


No. 8 : Key Partners

Partnerships result in efficient, refined operations while also reducing financial risks of any organization.  Having a few key partners who complement one another, helps the company in creating its value proposition. Partnerships can be categorized as:  Strategic alliance between competitors (A.K.A. ‘coopetition’), joint ventures, and relationships between buyers and suppliers.

Social enterprises, too, can collaborate with such organizations that harbor similar views on a particular issue and develop joint ventures. This not only reduces the social risks but also makes the achievement of a social goal easier.


Do your partnerships foster mutual accountability toward your social goal? Are they diversified and inclusive enough to create grounds for the growth of your organization? Are you prepared to overcome the challenges in your way and inspire other organizations around you?


No. 9 : Cost Structure

Cost structures point to the most important financial consequences while operating under a particular business model. Businesses can either be focused on minimizing investment into the business or focused on providing maximum value to the customer. But for a social enterprise, the cost of operating exceeds just the financial ground. It needs social reserves: authenticity, integrity, and transference.

A Social enterprise is a commitment to a social cause. You should be able to understand how to integrate finances with your purposes. You should work to achieve the desired goal as well as sustain your organization.


Have you gathered the sufficient social, intellectual and ethical capital to carry out your mission? Are you working on your organization and being transparent about that? Are you being holistic in your approach?

Social entrepreneurs start their ventures with a social goal in mind. They want to change the world, they want to be the change. As the venture starts going, it is important not to lose sight of the goal with which you started out in the first place. You have to constantly innovate and challenge your business model on a regular basis so that your enterprise can encompass all aspects of your social mission. This, in turn, will ensure the growth of your enterprise and develop grounds for generating maximum impact.