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March 1, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

22 Different Business Models for Social Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Here are 21 possible business models (I apologize in advance for any redundancy):
Education/Training/Consulting (especially if you don’t need real estate or if you can use a co-working space or low cost real estate for the classroom). Here is a list of top training companies. This amounts to create quality IP & scale it & brand it. Examples are here: This is one which you can do at K-8, high school, college, and test prep. On the other end, this can be more research based–driven by industry specific best practices (for instance the Corporate Board and Gartner come to mind).
E-commerce/Drop shipping (I know this is done in green baby products)
Any business can be turned into a double-bottom line business with CSR (ie giving to a high impact non-profit or using a buy one give one model like Tom Shoes)
Import/export (particularly in BRIC countries with art or fashion, if there is a demand in the US or whereever you life) Ten Thousand Villages is a decent example of this:
Sourcing Fair Trade Goods (example: Starbucks or your local coffee shop) I’m not incredibly well versed in this area, but you might start here:
Creating a more sustainable waste stream (ie reduce, reuse, recycle). Terra Cycle is a beast in this category:
Business process outsourcing (software, presentations, web design, animation, etc..). You could look at Somasource , although they are a more non-profit version than I was thinking. However, there are lots of these firms in India. Call centers and customer service outsourcing are very popular examples (market research or survey work might also be suitable).
B2B services in translation. (ie translating documents). Just google translation by language for examples of this type of company.
B2B services with reoccurring revenue (ie cleaning or ongoing access to creative services like design, etc). One example is . They train and hire the disabled to clean businesses (I’m not sure what else they might do).
Membership & trade associations (if there is demand this can work. It seems to work in conjunction with training/education and perhaps even over the longer term events.) ASTD, SHRM, AMA, etc.. TED isn’t an association, but works on a somewhat similar model as an event company (and of course they spread a great deal of value).
Facilitating shared access to goods. You can find companies like that here: (if you are working with poor people, this is particularly useful, given they might otherwise not have the ability to access these particular good or it frees up money to get health care or other needed services).
Provide soft skills training or professional services to non-profits or minority businesses.
Be a media publisher in a high value space (health care, education, psychology, etc..). is a fantastic example.
Recruiting. Sourcing great under-utilized talent (and training them for even higher order projects). This could be internally for your org or done on an outsourced basis.
Connecting the talented with people who can use their talent. Being a boundary spanner–connecting human capital with need (identification combined with marketing/sales). For instance, retired boomers have lots of expertise, but its probably being under-utilized and would probably love to give back.
Product based businesses–particularly in food products. This could obviously overlap with sourcing fair trade goods. This could involve connecting inventors/cooks/designers with distribution (Whole Foods, etc..).
Being an intermediary between parties (ie trust agent or translation agent, or cultural literacy agent). A sherpa for new countries.
Service innovation and/or design thinking
Coaching, Facilitation, Team Building and Brainstorming.
Tourism related industries (particularly in low income countries which have a large tourist). Translator & guide for businesses, groups, and individuals.
Anything sales oriented can probably be added to an organization. This is particularly the case in BRIC companies who will need “boots on the ground” for person to person sales.
Help individuals or businesses solve their problems with (or other problem solving methodologies such as design thinking or other thinking tools):

Ashoka has also done work on the Hybrid Value chain, which might be helpful to understanding other options:

You can also find a number of other examples here at B-Corporation.:

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask me.

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