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Social business models canvas

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Relative to...
Estimated effort
2 to 3 hours, 2 to 4 times
The tool in short

The canvas at the first level is a brainstorming tool. It can address all critical issues to launch a new project or a new organization / company.

Organized into nine blocks, the instrument is designed to be printed or drawn on large sheets of paper, or projected onto a whiteboard, and gradually completed with ideas or designs, written on small pieces of paper like post-its .

Attached tools facilitate the documentation of the results obtained during the exercise.

For who

This tool can be used by a large diversity of people like:

  • Persons carrying social projects, social field workers
  • Organizations with a strong societal impact, umbrella organizations
  • Academic field workers, teachers, facilitators, animators
  • Entrepreneurs aware of their social impact
  • Students...
Reasons to use

When an organization is created or is being reviewed, it is often necessary to take a step back to look at it as a whole.

It is crucial that the whole team supporting the organization may share the same views on her, about what it does, for who it does, and what it seeks as societal impact.

Expected results, impact

The canvas becomes the referential for a more detailed construction, constituting the backbone of other tools.

Its use allows to share a same vision of the organization and also promotes creativity.

Terms of use

The brainstorming exercise with the canvas is, in principle, unlimited, being easy and relatively quick to perform and document.

The definition of the blocks has to be shared by everyone prior to initiating a session. Depending on the group's degree of ease, the presence of a facilitator who already practiced the canvas can be useful.

Points of vigilance, risks

Warning: the assumptions made during the meetings are to be confronted with the field reality!.

A first canvas is rarely definitive. Several reflection cycles, alternating canvas and field validation are required, before moving to the next level.


Use examples
  1. Social Business Models
  2. Euforia
  3. The impact Hub Geneva
  4. LGBT Youth
  5. ...
  • Business Model Canvas: Osterwalder et Pigneur
  • Lean Canvas: Ash Maurya
  • Social Lean Canvas: Rowen
  • Logic Framework: World Bank
  • ...

003 / 30-01-2016 - Pré-publié


User manual

Diaporama du canevas - niveau 11. Introduction

Social business models canvas

The first level of the framework is intended to be used in a brainstorming session with the team carrying the social business model.

It is designed to be printed or drawn on large sheets of paper, or projected onto a whiteboard, and gradually filled by ideas or drawings, written on small adhesive paper or post-its.

The first level of the framework is composed of nine blocks, leading to answer some fairly basic questions. The limitation to nine blocks fosters creativity and the diversity of thoughts, a more systemic approach and a more interactive work, less detail oriented.

According to the motivations of participants and the organization, the values affirmation and the eight questions can be addressed starting with any block and follow a sequential or completely random walk; however, the "Values", "Why" and "Who" blocks are the most representative of the social business behavior of the canvas.

This work should be done preferably in groups of 4 to 8 people, in order to enrich the thinking and collective creativity.

2. Questions

In the table below, you can find the values affirmation and the eight base questions with their explanation and their sub-questions.

Social business model canvas: the shared values

The shared values

The values ​​of the people carrying the business model are at the center of the canvas and are more a statement than a question, because they probably already exist and are shared, thus influencing the business model. They are the foundations of the business model because when integrated with the culture of the organization, they will manifest themselves in behaviors, further transcribed into action principles, and finally will be reflected into the actions and so will be impact generators.

Social business model canvas: why, the needs and opportunities


This basic question basically refers to the societal impact that the model business may cause. You can decline it into:

  • What are the major problems the social business model will face?
  • What are the causes of these problems?
  • What are the real and relevant needs related to these problems?
  • What are the objectives that the business model wants to achieve?
  • Are there unexplored opportunities?
Social business model canvas: who, the beneficiaries and clients


This basic question refers to all audiences for which the business model will meet and try to solve the needs. You can decline it into:

  • What will be the direct beneficiaries of the business model?
  • Will they be simple users?
  • Who will pay for the proposed benefits, users or other persons or organizations?
  • Are there indirect beneficiaries, who will gain some advantage from the benefits, even if they are not for them?
  • Are there indirect impacts in some segments of society?
Social business model canvas: where, the context of "the game"


This basic question refers to the context in which the business model will be developed. You can decline it into:

  • In which geographical areas the business model will be active?
  • The activities will be subject to temporal, seasonal constraints?
  • Can the political or legal context strongly influence the business model?
  • The social context plays an influence on the business model?
  • Can the model benefit from the technological context?
  • Environmental constraints exist?
Social business model canvas: what, products and services


This fundamental question refers to what the business model will provide to its customers segments. You can decline it into:

  • The business model will provide products, which ones?
  • What will be the services developed by the business model?
  • Your business model will work by projects or streamed?
  • Will there be intangible products, such as "information packets"?
  • Services will be produced directly at the user’s places?
  • Can they be divided in primary and secondary?
Social business model canvas: by what, communication and distribution

By what?

This question refers to the bridge between the future products and services, generated by the business model, and its different target audiences. You can decline it into:

  • How will users know about your business model services and products?
  • What relationship do you have with your users, direct and customized or self-service?
  • How will your benefits arrive in the hands of your users?
  • Are there some ways for your users to return you products?
Social business model canvas: with what, all the ressources and activities

With what?

Behind this question lies the whole production of the business model, including:

  • With what human resources (internal teams, external persons, service providers, volunteers...)?
  • What are the specific skills needed for the core business?
  • Which raw materials, consumables will you need?
  • What will be the process of production, the support activities, the administrative tasks?
  • Will you need production and maintenance equipment's, software support?
  • What will be your installations, furniture, infrastructure, logistics equipment, vehicles?
  • How many financial resources do you need for investment and funding working capital?
  • From where do these financial resources come (revenue, grants, investors, sponsors, other donors...)?
Social business model canvas: with whom, partnership, alliances and prescribers

With whom?

This question reflects the saying "Alone we run faster, together we go far ahead." You can decline it into:

  • What will be the decision making process?
  • What governance model will be internal?
  • Is it possible to have partners in the business model? Or allies?
  • How do we integrate volunteers?
  • Organizations or individuals can play the role of prescribers (relays)?

Social business model canvas: verifiable through measures and indicators


This last question closes the loop, looking back at the "Why", assuming the premise of which is not measurable is pure subjectivity. You can decline it into:

  • How will we know if the social business model has been successful?
  • How to measure immediate results?
  • How to check the impact caused by the social business model?
  • What will be the measurement tools?
  • What will be the sources of information?
  • When measuring?


Some tricks

  • Write only keywords on post-its, preferably with large markers;
  • Respect the time allowed to each person putting a post-it on the canvas;
  • Follow the basic rules of brainstorming: no censorship and so on...
  • Bounce again on presented the ideas and concepts!


It takes at least an hour to the exercise of creating a business model through the canvas. This can allow the group to make two or three versions of the canvas, in the space of half a day, before working in more detail.

It is recommended, if the exercise is done on a poster or with a beamer projection on a white wall, to take several photographs during its creation.

A good practice is that everybody prepares several post-its, and when he affixes them onto the poster or the board, to talk time for short explanations, which allow other participants to "bounce" over the ideas and concepts presented.

The example below is a canvas made around an Innovation transfer project, in the context of the european program Leonardo da Vinci:

An european Leonardo project example

Click on the image to enlarge it


Two A0 posters of the social business model cavas, to work with post-its (in french for the moment).
The first one display contains explanations of the blocks and can print legible printed in A1 and A2. The second does not contain any explanations.
Documentation tool (Word document in A3 format, also in french) allowing to reproduce the social business model, constructed through the canvas at the 1st level, with the image on the canvas in the bottom and pseudo Stickies ready to be completed and positioned at the right place.
It complements well the photograph of the poster with its stucked post-its.
This form allows you to transcribe the post-its written to the 8/9 blocks issues of the canvas, with the possibility of a more complete description and other outstanding issues.


Example: The Social Business Models' canvas

Le canevas de Social Business Models

Below you will find the canvas reproducing our own association business model, made during some committee meetings and working groups, and then carried in one of the instruments attached to the page tool.

However, it should be considered that this is one of the possible representations and it is not entirely immutable.

Even if the mission (why, who and what) basically remain the same over time, new value propositions may arise and other items are subject to change and to be improved.

Not only the context can change, but new partnerships can be concluded, the working methods may change, as well as financial flows.

You will find in this compilation of views expressed during the first sessions of the committee. 

Click on the image to enlarge it

Service providers

Organisation Contact Pays Langues Domaines d'intervention
Barrallon Engeli Consulting Emilie Barrallon Suisse Français, Anglais, Espagnol PEOPLE + PROJETS INTERNATIONAUX + ENTREPRENEURIAT en 3 dimensions (économique, sociale, écologique.) Création et développement d ONG, social business et private companies. Création de filiale et bureau de représentation. Business coaching / Accompagnement a la definition de votre vision, mission, business model, business plan, pitch, implémentation. Coaching d equipes / Leadership. /Gestion du changement et des conflits. Communication virtuelle et interculturelle. Social business. Green business.... Contacter
Diana Malerba - Marketing For Good Suisse Français, Anglais, Espagnol, Italien, Allemand. Developpement du business Marketing Communication Creation des sites web Contacter
Social Business Models Claude Michaud Suisse Français, Anglais, Portugais Associations, fondations, coopératives Services public Contacter


Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be running off the screen in Ie. I'm not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I thought I'd post to let you know. The design look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Kudos
Claude's picture

Thanks a lot to send your message!
I have tried with Internet Explorer, but I did not saw any problem... which version are you using?
Could you test also with chrome?
Kindly regards,

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Hello! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form? I'm using the same blog platform as yours and I'm having difficulty finding one? Thanks a lot!
Claude's picture

We use the recaptcha module for Drupal

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