Step Two: Building your social enterprise: the mission statement, product and solution
April 2, 2014
Yesterday (in our week-long series on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship) we dealt with the important first steps of developing a social enterprise – understanding the market and making sure you knew where your idea, product or service fits.
Today we are going to focus on two topics: The mission statementYour proposed product or solution We will dedicate an entire article to building the right team around you in tomorrows article!
The mission statement While we covered the basics in the very first article dealing with the mission statement I just want to make sure we are clear. There are four things you need to ensure you have clearly articulated in your mission statement:
Resplendent (by resplendent I mean make it stick out in the readers mind)
You need to make sure that you are setting a realistic but also resplendent scene at the same time.
Why? On the one hand you want to leave the room with your investors clearly understanding what the greater goal of the cause is at the same time inspiring them to know it is achievable. That’s of course where realistic comes in. By reasonable I mean making sure that its, well, a reasonable expectation to have for the market you propose entering of the impact you intend on having; and by reportable I mean making sure that, at the end of the day, the statement made can in fact be measured.
A mission statement should always include one part inspiration, 1 part aspiration and 1 part fact. For example:
Inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs they can make a difference in the worldTo provide women in Indonesia with the tools necessary to sustain, manage and grow their way out of dependence through small business development
Provide access to universal healthcare to all of those aged between 1 and 15 years of age
In each of those three examples we see them clearly associated with the four “R’s” but more specifically they are short, clear and focussed on the area in which they will have real meaning. Don’t over complicate it or overthink it – sometimes the best mission statements in the world are always the best.
This is backed up by Canadian group SOJO who’s advice goes a little further: The mission statement is the heart of your social enterprise. It describes the central purpose and basic principles that guide the actions of employees, partners, and management. It also articulates the strategy you will use to accomplish your goals and objectives. A mission statement defines your target population and embodies the organizational values of your social enterprise.
The mission statement also provides direction to your social enterprise. Your business plan must be consistent with your mission statement, so use it as an anchoring guide in each step of the planning process.
Be careful not to confuse the mission statement of your social enterprise with the mission statement of the parent organization or implementing partner you have identified. The purpose, principles, and strategies employed by the other institutions involved will not be the same as yours.
This is especially true with regard to multisector organizations, which may serve several missions simultaneously—ranging from health to education to business services. The mission statement of your social enterprise complements those of the organizations you are working with, yet it stands alone. Your proposed product solution
The first question you need to ask yourself is why is there need for a product, service or idea like mine? Is there gap in the market or is there a social problem with a clear need. Again, this is no different to making sure that if were to start-up a non-social enterprise business you know there is demand. Just because a certain section of the community in a developing country may be impoverished, or another section is un-empowered (women and indigenous people) you need to be clear that whatever you have to offer has a place.
That means, that a good idea needs to have its foundation in the reality of the market. This is especially the case if your social enterprise is in the business of selling a particular product – the question is – are there customers willing to buy what you have? By asking yourself these questions it also gives you a critical out of the current idea with the ability for it to evolve into something that may have more demand – I call this the evolutionary arc of a social enterprise concept – where out of your constant initial questioning or market assessment you will invariably evolve your idea with a greater degree of sophistication about it.
Social Solutions in the UK also suggest you ask similar questions:
Will It Sell?
A common mistake is for a group to decide that because they want something, everyone does. Or that because a service is needed, there are enough people able to afford it. Or that a service is needed and it will be able to capture 100% of the market from existing competitors. These assumptions must be tested. Inevitably, this means market research, and not just ’desk research’ in libraries, business centres or via the net but actually talking to people, investigating potential competitors, digging deeply into why people buy things, how much they are willing to spend, how much it costs to provide a service or make and sell particular goods and so on. Remember, you are not the customer and may not know what the customer will buy.
Will It Pay?
You may be able to sell your product or service but will you make any money doing it? What will people pay compared to all the costs involved in making the product: do you know? How many products will you need to produce a year or how often will the service be bought? What income will that generate? You need to work out how much it will cost to do a thing and then find out if the price you plan to charge (or that people are willing to pay) will cover your costs. Don’t be put off if the sums don’t add up at first. You may need to change your product or who you are selling it to or how and where you market it. Planning a business is a kind of back-and-forth discussion between the business (you) and the market/your customers.
Does It Deliver A Real Benefit?
Things that do are likely to last longer and be supported politically and financially and by the community when it counts. You may need that support and sometimes its better to, say, plan to create more employment and less social profit (because that’s what people value) rather than employing fewer people but making more money. It's not just what you would like to do, but also what works out there.
Come back tomorrow when we deal with another important pre-development step – the right team!
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