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The need for a holistic approach when building a social enterprise

March 19, 2013

Last updated on March 16, 2021

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In previous articles on this network, I have shared our creative thinking and planning and persistence while pursuing our dream of building a successful organisation with true social purpose: our website tells the story of RunAClub was set up to answser the need for more facilities for young people.

This time I will discuss the necessity for a holistic view of the process, essential to drive and inspire you – and frankly scare the hell out of you at all times!


RunAClub has taken a significant amount of commitment and teamwork and I have identified nine stages to its success:

  • Begin the creative process or find the idea.
  • Build business model. And re-build and re-build).
  • Gain funding. (Oh, that sounds so easy!).
  • Build product and organisation to project plan – to time and budget.
  • Create interest even on a shoestring (PR and marketing).
  • Sell service and build next steps infrastructure (where we as an organisation are are right now).
  • Launch and operate.
  • Scale successfully and profitably to ensure sustainability.
  • Work on new developments for RunAClub system.

It looks so simple doesn’t it? But, in fact, this has been in the making for at least three to four years. We have learnt several things during this process. The first is that we have successfully achieved six of these steps (or at least half of the sixth step) and that we have the capability to achieve the next three.

I have already talked about the creative process in my first blog, but the boring mechanics of building a business model (step 2) that really works, is critical. I have had umpteen conversations with people who have a fantastic idea, motivation and skills, but they are convinced they don’t have the skills to write a business model. But it’s really not that difficult once you start as long as you work with the simplest of outlines. Then prepare yourself to add and re-write very regularly.


Here are the headings we used when we started out – and it worked for us when we went for funding. Feel free to add or change them:

Your vision

Your organisational or project values and long term goals.


On you, your team and the origin of your project.

Executive summary

Many people will only read this – so make sure it tells the whole story very clearly and simply.


The result/s you want and a timeframe to achieve it/them.

The social need

Assuming you have an organisation with social purpose.

Unique selling points

And the competition. Know what you’re up against.

The product/or service

Describe what you do and make sure you have a very, very short version of it. This is called an “elevator pitch”, meaning you can tell someone about your project in the short time you go up in a lift!

Marketing and communications

Get help if you need to. We did. You must be able to tell everyone else out there about what you do – simply and compellingly.

What brings people back

What makes your provision so compelling that people come back for more?


Who do you need to make this work? Commitment and belief help!


Get someone on board who really knows how to put together budgets, cash flows and projections.

Conclusion (different to executive summary)

Summarise where you are in the process when you finish the plan – but keep it short.


Useful extra documents that should be relevant.


Don’t forget to note anyone’s stuff you found on the internet or from a book. This shows you are open about where you found useful information that you may have used.


We have also learnt that people are integral to the success of an ambitious project – not just any people, but people with the right mix of skills, motivation and commitment. But remember that one of the benefits of a tough economic climate is that there are loads of people with excellent skills out there and that people are working far more flexibly than before. Try to buy those skills in, as and when you need them.

And, finally, we know that we must never take our foot off the pedal. And that particularly applies to the main driver. There simply isn’t time to stop and re-fuel for too long at this stage of the development. The leader – whoever that is – must hold that complete vision at all times – with those nine steps imprinted on their brain and constantly pushing the team to achieve their deadlines, while delivering to the best of their ability. The leader can’t let it slide, feel unable to bother or be lazy; that holistic view must remain integral to their daily life.

Sounds impossible? Not really. Not if you really believe in your end goal. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying: “Be courageous! Have faith! Go forward!” My personal lifelong mantra has always been, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”


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