By Maanoj Shah, Social Entrepreneur & Founder, GiftCHANGE.org
A social enterprise is a business that works towards a social objective while attaining profitability. They play an extremely crucial role in our society. In a country like India which has so many challenges that demand solutions, it might seem to be an ideal situation for a thriving ecosystem for social enterprises but in reality, there are as many challenges for an enterprise as there are problems in the society.
The biggest challenge for any social enterprise is to make it scalable. Though, various examples have shown us that it is now possible to build a business that is both scalable and also economically feasible. Yet many enterprises show limited growth and fail to scale up to the level they want.
We highlight 5 tips that can help social enterprises to scale up while at the same time keeping in mind the primary purpose.
1. Focus on a challenge that affects the masses
Today when we look all around we are faced with many challenges, some are minor and some are major that affect people at large, and most of the time we tend to get lost in this huge maze looking for solutions. Many social enterprises are also faced with the same jeopardy. Since there are so many issues to solve, it can be difficult to keep in mind the primary purpose. Key for any social enterprise is to have FOCUS, take up one big issue and build an entire Impact Model around the same. Taking up a major challenge that can help a large number of people ensures scope for long term scaling up. You mustn’t drift and try not to solve many problems at a time as it will dilute the capability of your Social Enterprise to focus and deliver on your key challenge. Stick to one challenge and create the desired impact. For growth and scale, you will have to tell NO to a lot of things as compared to YES and that will become the first step to Scaling.
2. Sharp eye on Real Impact
In the process of scaling up and achieving the numbers, a lot of times people forget the primary purpose of why they started their Social Enterprise. Scaling-up in a true sense would mean when you also create a larger and real impact on the real people who are “needy”. If there is one single process that needs to be sharpened in Social Enterprise is the one that identifies the REAL NEEDY BENEFICIARIES. Next is to implement the Theory of Change Model which helps you to identify Input > Activity > Output > Long Term Outcomes > Impact. This helps you to evaluate and sharpen your Impact Model.
3. Have a stable cash flow or get funding
The world needs more problem solvers but problem solvers will need cash to function. Having a stable cash flow is the major issue of any social enterprise. Whether you are For-Profit Social Enterprise or Not For Profit Social Enterprise one thing that needs to be extremely clear is stability in cash flow. While managing cash flow the word “Sustain” should always come before “Scale”. To keep a stable cash flow funding is the best option and there are various proven ways of funding a social enterprise right from incubators, impact funds, grants to crowdfunding. The ideal way for a social enterprise is to keep cross funding every social initiative with the sponsors and de-risk the scale. For a social enterprise, they need to realize that while PROFITS may not be large but need to be enough to scale and keep growing your Enterprise while IMPACT needs to be large enough that justifies your “being” in the space.
4. Scaling System
Why most social enterprises remain small and do not scale is due to the lack of what I call is “Scaling Systems”. There are 4 key components to the Scaling Systems – Strategy, Execution, Rhythms & Reviews, and People Alignment. When all these 4 components are integrated Scale becomes possible. The strategy brings you clarity in the plan, setting goals & targets gives you precision in execution, discipline in reviews provides a time frame for growth and fixing roles & accountability of people provides you the right alignment.
5. Take Tech Support to scale up
There are 560 million internet users and 502 million Smartphone users in India and the best way to scale your social enterprise is to bring technology into the forefront of your business. Today technology is just not about ensuring systems and processes run seamlessly but in many ways, technology is a great enabler to your business. Whether it’s funding, reaching to beneficiaries, investors, or setting up processes, marketing, or PR, technology has many roles to play. Also, many large tech companies give access to their products and services either free or by way of technology grants or at a subsidized rate which social enterprises should leverage.
For any social enterprise, the most important aspect is to have the right balance between profitability and making a social impact. It’s a very fine line and while scaling up treading this fine line becomes even more difficult. Following these tips will make your journey smooth and help you make the desired impact you always dreamt of.
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