Business Models for Social Enterprise

Build a business model to launch your social enterprise

Course Details

  • Price: FREE
  • Start Date: June 9, 2020
  • 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.


  • Team-Based Course: We strongly encourage (but do not require) that you form a team of 2-8 people to take the course with. It works best to find friends or coworkers who can meet in person. Need to find team members? You can post to the discussion forums a month before the course starts.
  • Platform: NovoEd (+Acumen developed the course. We host this course on the NovoEd platform.)
  • Timing: This course will be open for 5 weeks. You can work through the materials at your own pace during the time the course is open. There are no required times for you to log in. There will be suggested deadlines for you to complete each assignment. The final deadline is the final day of the 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: Aravind
  • 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: The Need for a Lean Startup Approach
  • Reading: Where Social Entrepreneurs Go Wrong
  • Reading: Social Enterprise Model Catalog
  • Activity: Three Business Model Canvas Sprints
Section 2: Create Value: Customers and Value Propositions
  • Reading: Who are my customers?
  • Case Study: Aravind
  • Activity: Identify your mission, metric and target customer
  • Reading: Sizing Your Market
  • Examples: Market Sizing
  • Reading: Analyzing Your Market
  • Reading: Segmenting Your Market
  • Examples: Market Segmentation
  • Reading: Building a Value Proposition
  • Reading: How Will I Reach My Customers?
  • Reading: Building Channels to Your Customers
  • Activity: Market Size Analysis
Section 3: Deliver Value: Value Chains and Partnerships
  • Reading: Understanding Your Value Chain
  • Reading: Operating in Emerging Markets
  • Reading: Building a Value Chain, Building Relationships
  • Reading: Value Chains in Service Companies
  • Reading: Partnering Best Practices
  • Case Study: Aravind
  • Activity: Value Chain Mapping
Section 4: Capture Value: Revenue Engines, Cost Structures and Pricing
  • Reading: Building a Revenue Engine
  • Case Study: Aravind
  • Case Study: Vision Spring
  • 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: Determining Cost Structure
  • Reading: Revenue Engines for Marketplace Models
  • Reading: Setting Prices
  • Activity: Business Model Canvas
  • Activity: Summary Deck
The course already started. Can I still enroll?
You can enroll up to 2 weeks after the start date of the course.
When will the next course be offered?
We offer our courses a few times a year. Sign up for our emails to be notified of the next time the course will be offered.
Do I get a certificate for this course?
You will earn a Statement of Accomplishment if you complete 5 of 6 assignments, including the final assignment, by the last day of the course.
How do teams work?
We recommend you find friends or colleagues for your team that you can meet with in person each week. Each team member should register for the course individually. You’ll then be able to form your team on the NovoEd platform once the course begins.
Do I have to complete the course with a team?
While we believe taking the course with a team will give you the best experience and chance of completing the course, it is possible to complete the course individually if you wish.
What should I expect from the assignments?
You will create a Life Map, develop your own personal story, integrate it into a larger presentation, and record your presentation for feedback from your classmates. You should allocate at least one hour a week to complete each assignment.

Supported By

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