Business Models for Social Impact

Build a business model to launch your social enterprise

Course Details

  • Price: FREE
  • Start Date: Sep 12, 2017
  • Time: 2 hours/week
  • Duration: 5 weeks
  • Partner: Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute

What You’ll Learn:

  • The four social enterprise models that Acumen has seen effectively create value
  • Start a business model canvas to map out components of your potential company
  • Understand how to develop a business model that can drive financial sustainability and social impact
  • Create and test hypotheses about a social enterprise’s target market size, cost structure, revenue streams, and value chain partnerships

Uncover revenue engines to power businesses serving customers living in bottom of the pyramid markets


You’ve come up with an amazing idea for a new product or service. Now how do you figure out if there is a sustainable business model to get this innovation into the hands of your customers? 

This five-week course from +Acumen & Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship will help you think through how you can create financial value while creating social impact. The course draws from content taught by the Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) curriculum and combines it with Acumen’s insights from 15 years of investing in social enterprises.

While this course will not delve into the intricacies of financial modeling, you’ll emerge with a big-picture understanding of the key components to consider if you are building a business that prioritizes social impact and strives for financial sustainability.


Project-Based Course

Course Syllabus

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  • 4 reading guides highlighting case studies and examples
  • 4 workshop guides to structure your own business model development
  • Instructional videos produced by Strategyzer
Section 1: Introduction to Business Models
  • Reading: Acumen and GSBI’s Take on Social Enterprise Models
  • Case Study: BURN Manufacturing
  • Reading: What is a Social Enterprise?
  • Reading: What is a Business Model?
  • Reading: Introduction to the Business Model Canvas
  • Reading: 9 Building Blocks of the Business Model
  • Reading: Integrating Your Impact Model and Business Model
  • Activity: Write a Mission Statement
  • Reading: 4 Types of Business Models
  • Reading: Innovations in Social Enterprise Models
  • Reading: Business Models Tips from Amon Anderson and Karuna Jain, Acumen Portfolio Managers
  • Activity: Social Enterprise Model Scavenger Hunt
Section 2: Create Value: Customers and Value Propositions
  • Reading: Who are my customers?
  • Case Study: BURN Manufacturing
  • Activity: Identify your mission, metric and target customer
  • Activity: Size Your Market
  • Reading: Who Will Pay?
  • Reflection: Market Analysis
  • Activity: Market Segmentation
  • Activity: Building a Value Proposition
  • Reading: How Will I Reach My Customers?
  • Reading: Building Channels to Your Customers
  • Activity: Business Model Canvas Stage 1
Section 3: Deliver Value: Value Chains and Partnerships
  • Reading: Understanding Your Value Chain
  • Case Study: BURN Manufacturing
  • Reading: Operating in Emerging Markets
  • Reading: Understanding Your Value Chain
  • Reading: Building a Value Chain, Building Relationships
  • Reading: Value Chains in Service Companies
  • Reading: Partnering Best Practices
  • Activity: Business Model Canvas Stage 2
Section 4: Capture Value: Revenue Engines, Cost Structures and Pricing
  • Reading: Building a Revenue Engine
  • Case Study: BURN Manufacturing
  • Reading: How Will You Capture Value?
  • Reading: Types of Revenue Engines by Impact Model
  • Reading: Revenue Engines When Users Can Pay
  • Reading: Determining Affordability for the Poor
  • Reading: Revenue Engines When Users Can’t Pay
  • Reading: Risks of Cross-Subsidization
  • Reading: Revenue Engines when Users Need Free/Subsidized Access
  • Reading: Revenue Engines for Other Impact Models
  • Reading: Revenue Engines for Marketplace Models
  • Reading: Determining Cost Structure
  • Reading: Setting Prices
  • Activity: Business Model Canvas Stage 3

Course Partners

The Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute serves social entrepreneurs around the world who are developing innovative solutions that provide a sustainable path out of poverty. The programs use Silicon Valley principles of innovation and entrepreneurship to train and mentor entrepreneurs addressing problems of poverty.

What People Are Saying

Sabeteshi Minassie

"The Business canvas was really interesting, because it simplifies the concept of business planning, it is very visual and i think it make the different analysis very easy."

Sabeteshi Minassie is a Development Policy Evaluation Specialist