A Visual Approach for Developing Social Enterprises

Some years ago I had the honor to meet Muhammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his social enterprise the Grameen Bank. In the workshop organized by Social Business Earth, the Business Model Canvas was used to brainstorm and ideate social businesses. A visual template! And not really a fitting one for ideating…

Since studying the effectiveness of templates for business purposes is my research area, I talked to Prof. Yunus and asked what he thought of utilizing specific visuals for facilitating the process of creating and growing a social business. He encouraged me to carry on with the idea, and here we are few years later… with the framework developed and utilized for MBA courses on social entrepreneurship, and finally, published!

In our article you can find lots of examples of visual techniques to be used not only for ideating a social innovation, but also for acquiring resources, scaling the social impact and monitoring the impact! The framework can also be used as a teaching guide for courses and workshops in social entrepreneurship.

Reference: Bresciani S, Eppler M.J. (2020). A Visual Approach for Developing Social Enterprises. Multidisciplinary Business Review, 13 (2), 91-104. ISSN 0718-400X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.35692/07183992.13.2.7


The emerging interest in social entrepreneurship is challenged in practice by the complexity of balancing economic and social aspects, and by the difficulties of getting the public to understand the very concept of social enterprising. How can we support social entrepreneurs in developing and growing their organizations? The cognitive advantages of thinking and working visually are well established in the literature, but not yet applied to guide the entire social enterprising process. Mapping and communicating ideas visually can provide several benefits, not only in the ideation phase, but also for managing, optimizing, and growing a social enterprise. We present a framework with visual formats that can be utilized by social entrepreneurs in each specific phase of the social enterprise development: (1) idea generation, (2) social enterprise model refinement, (3) idea promotion and resources acquisition, (4) planning, (5) sales and instructions, (6) scaling impact, and (7) measuring and monitoring. At a theoretical level, the framework aims to structure and summarize the benefits of visual representations of knowledge for the field of social entrepreneurship. This visual approach has practical applications for social entrepreneurs who can utilize it as an overarching tool, for an informed selection and use of visualizations to support the development of their social ventures.
Keywords: Social entrepreneurship, visualization, visual maps, social business, canvas, visual techniques, Peru.

El interés emergente por el emprendimiento social se ve desafiado en la práctica por la complejidad de equilibrar los aspectos económicos y sociales, y por las dificultades para lograr que el público comprenda el concepto mismo de emprendimiento social. ¿Cómo podemos ayudar a los emprendedores sociales a desarrollar y hacer crecer sus organizaciones? Las ventajas cognitivas de pensar y trabajar visualmente están bien establecidas en la literatura, pero aún no se aplican para guiar todo el proceso emprendedor social. El mapeo y la comunicación de ideas visualmente pueden proporcionar varios beneficios no solo en la fase de ideación, sino también para administrar, optimizar y hacer crecer una empresa social. Presentamos un marco con formatos visuales que pueden ser utilizados por emprendedores sociales en cada fase específica del desarrollo de la empresa social: (1) generación de ideas, (2) refinamiento del modelo de empresa social, (3) promoción de ideas y adquisición de recursos, (4) planificación, (5) ventas e instrucciones, (6) ampliación del impacto y (7) medición y seguimiento. A nivel teórico, el marco tiene como objetivo estructurar y resumir los beneficios de las representaciones visuales del conocimiento para el campo del emprendimiento social. Este enfoque visual tiene aplicaciones prácticas para los emprendedores sociales que pueden utilizarlo como una herramienta general, para una selección informada y el uso de visualizaciones para apoyar el desarrollo de sus empresas sociales.
Palabras clave: emprendimiento social, visualización, mapas visuales, social business, modelo visual, Perù

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