By Alan J Gardiner
What do Fastlaners, an employability programme for unemployed graduates; Saheli, a health and fitness service for Asian women and Start Again, a sports and social development programme for young people with mental health issues have in common? They are all social ventures and have benefited from the support of the Young Foundation in its role as a Social Venture Intermediary (SVI).
Helping ventures take the next step
As one of the 100-plus British SVIs, the Foundation provides business support to social ventures allowing them to operate more efficiently and increase the scale of their impact. This is of crucial importance as how social ventures are conceived and the support they receive at the beginning of their journey has a significant bearing on their final destination, as a successful national project or an unsuccessful pilot.
The Young Foundation’s Growing Social Ventures publication, commissioned by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) outlines the key role SVIs play in the initial stages of venture development. It also explains how SVIs need to be on a constant search for innovative ways to aid Britain’s 65,000 plus social entrepreneurs in their aims of shaping better societies.
To this end the Venture Support team at the Young Foundation use the Business Model Canvas (BMC). Designed by Alexander Osterwalder and explained in his book Business Model Generation, the BMC allows organisations to create new or radically rethink existing business strategies in a way that is not only concise but also strips the process of jargon.
The Business Model Canvas (BMC)
We use the BMC to assist individual ventures and we train groups of prospective social entrepreneurs to help them to formalise their ideas into structured plans. Internal Young Foundation ventures are also encouraged to re-evaluate their business models using the BMC adjusting their plans if improvements are identified.
Below is an example of a BMC that was made for the Young Foundation’s Social Entrepreneur in Residence (SEiR) program. The SEiR program involves a social entrepreneur being placed in area to find, help and encourage people with social business ideas in that area to create their own ventures and apply for funding. The example shows how the use of graphics can substantially reduce the need for long text statements and make a business plan far more engaging to the eye.
The application of the BMC identifies planning flaws and encourages new business practices that better address the venture’s goals. So the BMC has the exciting potential to fundamentally change a venture’s approach to business whilst maintaining its core beliefs.
The BMC also reduces the need for ‘industry shorthand’ minimising the time it takes people to get up to speed within an organisation. This is also of benefit in discussions between people from different sectors or organisations in which multiple sets of shorthand compete against each other, causing at best, an increase in time spent mutually deciphering and, at worst, is responsible for widespread confusion and business failure.
The de-jargoning effect of the BMC on communication between ventures and their associates allows for an increase in accessibility without a decrease in professionalism, reducing costs for the venture and potentially increasing revenues.
So the BMC doesn’t achieve miracles but does put ventures on the right path and helps them take their first steps towards success.
In the next few weeks we will be hosting many BMC sessions with different ventures, organisations and entrepreneurs including the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and the FARM:shop in Dalston, London.