Social Impact at Scale: How to Build Business Models for Profit and Purpose

Christmas might be just around the corner but we’ve got our sights on something a little sooner. We’re very excited to announce that Spark Strategy will be partnering with the Purpose 2016 conference! Come December 5th and 6th, the Paddington Town Hall in Sydney will be filled with purpose-driven business leaders and change-makers from Australia and around the globe. All our Christmases have come at once!Purpose exists to help connect, inspire and enable the people who believe in better business for the 21st Century. Can business be done better? We think so. We believe the success of an organisation is no longer measured in dollars. Ethical accountability is becoming ingrained into business practice and the more this expands the better the world will become.

We call this Profit for Purpose. It is the key to unlocking scale for an organisation and can mean the difference between a bright idea and large scale social impact.

I’ll be there at Purpose running a workshop on just this – how to get your business model right for profit AND purpose to scale social impact. Whether you’re from the Not for Profit, Corporate, Government or Philanthropic sectors, identifying and pulling the right levers in your business model can provide both financial sustainability and also increase social impact.

Yet scale is often elusive and many social innovations fail to reach their potential.

Scaling can shake the very foundations of an organisation’s mission, structure and culture. Here’s what you need to know to set your foundations right for social impact at scale and get you ready Purpose.

What are your social goals?

Developing a theory of change, which articulates long–term goals and intermediate outcomes as well as assumptions about how they will be achieved, is a good way of setting a focus. Determining your ‘addressable market’ may also help goal setting. This means thinking about the number of people who could benefit from your social impact and working out what is realistically possible to achieve.

What’s important to you and your organisation?

Being clear about personal and organisational values will help in deciding if and how your social impact will be scaled. Could teaming up with particular brands go against your company’s values? Does your method of delivery not quite align with your organisational goals? The social entrepreneurship model of developing and scaling up social innovation relies on and celebrates tenacious, visionary individuals. Leaders need to be able to manage and delegate; to handle longer term horizons; and to cope with greater complexity in finance, logistics or marketing.

What to Scale Up?

Now that you’ve established your goals in relation to scaling your social impact, it should be more clear as to what you can and cannot scale. At the centre of any scaling decision is the interaction of demand and supply. Who has the ideas/services vs who will pay for and use them. Scale will only be achieved if there is a sufficient amount of both. In turn, your social impact must be distinguishably superior to the competition and must have a significant enough market.

This framework also helps in thinking about sequencing. If demand is strong, then social innovators need to work out how to ‘ride the wave’ – using their scarce time and resources to really show that their innovation works. If the supply is adequate but there is little demand, then advocacy becomes a higher priority.

Developing Supply and Demand Together

Generating both effective supply and effective demand will be fundamental to success. Getting supply right means iterating and testing in order to find a model that’s feasible to deliver at scale and that’s effective in creating social impact. But unlocking demand can really change the game.

In order to supply the correct quantity of a desired service, it is highly important to engage with stakeholder communities and finding out what they want. Co-design is one way to do this. We believe that a strong element of co–production, where social innovators collaborate with participants, deliverers and funders to evolve their innovation is key to success and assimilation into the market.This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scaling social impact. Once you have set your foundations, there are many different levers an organisation can pull on to get its business model right for financial sustainability and large scale social impact. We will see you at Purpose to continue talking social impact at scale. We can’t wait!

We would love to see you at Purpose. Please email and we will happily pass on our discount code for you to receive $100 off the ticket price. You can buy tickets here.

Partnerships are one lever to pull on to scale social impact. To learn more, download our whitepaper, Partnering for Purpose.