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When I had accepted to run a Business Model workshop at the Social Impact Lab in Berlin a couple questions came to my mind:

Will the tools and techniques work as well for Social Business as for traditional companies?

Do I have to adapt my language and coaching style?

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The workshop was delivered early this week and I have to say that my early concerns were not valid. I was able to run the workshop quite successfully using the same approach we applied at our consulting engagements.

But it is more interesting for sharing what I have learned at the experience working with Social Start-ups with names like “Ugly Fruits”, “Ayra”,” Hotel Utopia” or “One Week Student” instead of big global corporations.


Diversity: one of the first task at a business workshop if to bring some diversity to the room, in the mix of participants or leveraging some constrains. Here was exactly the opposite: the topics and the teams were diverse by nature, not extra effort were needed. On the contrary the challenge was somehow to find a path to keep them working aligned while keeping the focus in their own project.


Motivation: you cannot ask for more. They were not there because the boss told to or because looks good on the CV. They were there because they have a business to make successful and, not a minor task, make the world a better place to live in.


Impact: since they have bigger social good to achieve, their company is not a goal but a medium, and probably their ultimate measure of success if their organization were not needed anymore because the social impact was reached and became mainstream. A quite different dimension what a successful business model means.


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I liked very much working with these Social Start-ups and grateful for their warm reception. Please add you own impressions and experiences about the “clash” between Social and Business

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7 Comments

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  1. Florian Doerr

    Well I guess the two worlds are already mingeling driven by the pace of todays innovation and cultural evolution.

    Besides being profitable companys need to reinvent themselfes over and over again.
    They need to find new ways of making meaningful impact improving our lives and designing our future to remain attractive to young talents.
    On the other hand social endavours besides of making the world a better place need to fund/finance their ideas and make their living.
    So if you meet in the middle both flavors look somehow similar.

    Question is what Business and Social can learn from each other today striving for a harmonic future synthesis.

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  2. lisa c

    I am not opposed to making profit. Even social businesses are allowed to make profit with the condition that profit stays with the company; the owners will not take profit beyond the amount equivalent to investment. Social business is a new category of business. It does not stipulate the end of the existing type of profit-making business. It widens the market by giving a new option to consumers. It does not intend to monopolise the market and take the existing option away. It adds to the competition. It brings a new dimension to the business world, and a new feeling of social awareness among the business community.

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  3. Glenn Svensson

    In a Design Thinking workshop we hosted recently, one of the outcome assumptions was that retail banks would benefit financially from taking on more social responsibilities. So I agree that being social can bring both brand and financial rewards.

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