Inspiration           Ideation           Creation           Implementation

If you make your business about helping others, you'll always have plenty of work.

Successful social business is built on passion and purpose.  And the first step of social business is to develop an idea that you are passionate about, that fills a need for the World.


Now unfortunately, not everything that you're passionate about or skilled in is interesting to the rest of the world, and not everything is marketable.

So what it's important to do is to  look at the point of convergence (basically where the key elements overlap) to tell us; what we are going to do, how you are going to do it, and how you will make money from it.

We use the theories from IDEO's Human Centred Design, to ensure that you are first and foremost having an impact, but are also financially and physically sustainble.


In this stage we look at the 3 essentials of any social business idea:






Essentially, whether your social business is actually helping to solve a problem, whether its physically and technologically possible, and whether people are interested in being your customer.


It is important that you have all 3 of these elements, because without one of them, you don’t have a successful social business.

The first step of developing your social business idea is to determine ‘what value do you provide?’ Value means ‘helping people’. So the question is: how are you helping people? This may sound simple, but it is perhaps the most difficult and critical parts of the whole process. Many well-intentioned social initiatives fail because they fail to understand the problem they are trying to solve, and more importantly the people they are trying to help.


There are 2 key processes to take you through that you can use to make sure your idea is needed and effective:


Research enables you to develop an understanding of the problem and the people you are helping. It enables you to quickly question assumptions, and to inspire new solutions. And with the accessibility of modern technology, no longer to we think of market research as highly sophisticated, expensive and complicated.


Below are the key initial questions you should look to answer to determine whether your idea is desirable:

  • Do people care? – You need to care about the problem you are trying to solve, and there has to be a sizable number of other people who also care.

  • Does your social business address a need, for the people you are helping AND your customer? – People do things for 2 reasons: because either they need to or want to. But just because you think people need your solution, may not mean they think the same.

  • What makes your social business different? – Being different isn’t always enough, you need to be better. Making your product cheaper is not different nor better.

  • Is the market big enough? Ultimately you are trying to also operate a business as well as make impact, so you need to make sure it is


Market research is something you will find you will constantly need to do over the course of starting up, and running, your social business. So check out the Instant Market Testing sheet to give you an idea of some of the questions you need to be asking people now and in the future.




A Needs Analysis is simply a technical way of confirming: Are you really giving people what they need?

The process is as complex or simply as you want it to be, but it's aimed at making you think hard and rationally about what value your social business is providing and what need it is fulfilling, and how it is making a difference.


The first step is to Map the problem your social business is solving, or the need it is meeting, and determine what are the other factors that also contribute to this problem? Are there other needs your social business could meet? Are you actually addressing the right need? Use the Needs Analysis Worksheet and the video module to help you through this process.


The second step of the Needs Analysis is to get out and talk to the people you are providing value for. It’s important to review your Needs Analysis to see if you really were providing value in the way you thought you were. You may find you now have a new idea, or a different approach, the main thing is to confirm your purpose and value.

Feasibility is about determining whether your idea is technically, physically and organisationally feasible. Can it be done? By you? Sustainably?


The Value Effort Grid is a simple diagramming technique that helps you choose which social business ideas you should pursue (and which ones you should drop) if you want to make the most of your time and opportunities, and have the biggest impact.


The principle behind using the tool is that you score each activity you want to complete on two scales – firstly on the impact the activity will have, and secondly on the effort involved.


By plotting each activity on the Action Priority Matrix using these scores, you can quickly see the projects that give you the greatest returns on your efforts; and adopt the most appropriate approach for that type of activity.

In Desireability, you identified the need your social business will solve, and in Feasibility you looked at whether it could actually be done. Now we need to concentrate on those people who will buy the solution (product/service) that you are proposing to sustain your impact.


Not everything that your passionate about or skilled in is interesting to the rest of the world, and not everything is marketable.

So Is your impact generating money? Is your end-product or service something customers would pay for? You want to identify who your customers and markets are, and you have, but you now want to size the market, look at competitors, and figure out whether this market could grow.


A key to survival in business is knowing what income streams are available and being open to new approaches. Understanding the types of income you can get will help your organisation be sustainable by reducing its dependence on one income stream.

There is also the Income Diversification Tool that you can use to list the different possible streams of revenue and money your business could make.

Needs Analysis