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Developing a Social Sector Business Plan

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The purpose of the business plan is to produce an overview document of your social innovation that you can leave with potential partners, investors, and team members. The business plan narrative should include an Executive Summary and an overview of the Opportunity that you are offering (including information on the social issue, its context, current best practices, gaps, and competition). Additionally, it should include a summary of your Innovation, Idea, or Model with corresponding information about its target market, model logistics (with a visual, if possible), and a unique value proposition. Your Organizational History, Team Competencies, Partnerships, and Financial Plan are also crucial elements of your business plan, and should include a three-year financial statement; financial statement narrative, social return on investment (if seeking philanthropic funding), and an Execution Strategy with milestones and benchmarks. Finally, many business plans incorporate target goals and dates, as well as a list of potential investors.

Before any social idea can be formulated, explored, or launched, it must take root in a fundamental belief. Successful social innovators are those who are driven by a thorough understanding of their personal passions and motivations. Without this vital understanding, the likelihood that their social idea will launch is significantly reduced.

Before your social innovation can be formulated, explored, or launched, you must perform a thorough analysis of the past and current strategies, models, and best practices used to address the social issue. Once you fully understand an issue’s context, you can develop a unique social innovation that meets current deficiencies or challenges existing models. This stage asks you to research the industry’s current way of conducting business in order to determine your differentiation points. It also asks you to clearly define your target population to better understand their actual versus perceived needs, and, based upon an empathetic understanding of the target population’s experience, to create a prototype to test on potential consumers. This testing phase will require adaptation and modification of the original prototype until you are comfortable with the product or service.

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