Scaling Your Social Venture” by author Paul N. Bloom

 

Book Profile by Drew Tulchin and Sean Dehan

 

 

Just like an athlete must have his or her body fit and healthy to attempt a new challenge, a social entrepreneur must have a sound and healthy program or idea that is poised to be rolled out, not something that is shaky or untested.”1

 

Chances are you know, are a customer of, or have a friend who works for a social enterprise in New Mexico, but had never (until now) considered this term.

 

Social Enterprise” denotes the use of market or commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environment well being rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders. Perhaps most importantly, these organizations truly integrate themselves with their clients and the community, as their service or product is much more than just a transaction.

 

Social enterprises take all types of forms—for-profits to charity organizations. They make impact important and generate revenue outside of the traditional nonprofit revenue model, donations or grants. New Mexico, which often has a downtrodden self-image (i.e. “Thank goodness for Mississippi” in terms of rankings) has leading social enterprises. They are integral parts of our community in economics, environmentalism and humanitarianism.

 

We have national examples like Goodwill, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. We also have local efforts, including Southwest Creations Collaborative, WESST, ACCION-NM, MoGro (the mobile grocery) and many others.

 

Most social entrepreneurs are in the business to make a difference and create change. They are “provocative.” But just setting out to “do good” isn’t always enough to change the world, or even ensure measurable impact.

 

Some organizations appear destined, like in the movie This is Spinal Tap, where the rocker Nigel’s Marshall amplifier “goes to 11.” Most entities, however, don’t grow overnight like Tom’s Shoes or Habitat for Humanity. 2 Instead they must determine whether their organization is capable of “pumping up the volume” to scale impact.

 

In the book Scaling Your Social Venture, author Paul N. Bloom addresses key points of what figures into such pivotal decision making. The book includes valuable examples of models scaling success and a general blueprint for social entrepreneurs, nonprofit executives, program managers, and all people interested in narrowing the socioeconomic gap.

 

The author has quality credentials on this topic. He is an adjunct professor with the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where he previously served as faculty director. Dr. Bloom is an accomplished author of more than 100 books, papers and articles. He has served as a board member for several social enterprises and nonprofit organizations. He holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Kellogg School at Northwestern University and an MBA from the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania.

 

In this book, Bloom goes to great lengths to reiterate that scaling is extremely difficult, no matter how “buzzy” a word it is. He outlines a rigorous, although general, methodology to assess an organization’s capacity for scaling. In true professorial fashion, he details an anagram—SCALERS, which stands for: Staffing, Communicating, Alliance-building, Lobbying, Earnings-generation, Replicating and Simulating Market Forces. These seven terms are the internal levers that make an organization tick.

 

These comprehensive levers constitute how your organization accomplishes its theory of change. For example, Teach for America is an organization that relies on staffing as a major lever for effective scaling. Bloom notes that no single lever is sufficient to cross the proverbial finish line. Rather, he says that an organization will more likely resemble the soundboard at a rock concert. Concentrating on a specific lever results in producing a different “sound.” An internal and external organizational “sound check,” driven by data, market analysis and other empirical evidence coupled with Bloom’s proposed assessment, is the recommended first and most important step in determining organizational capability to “go to 11.”

 

Scaling Your Social Venture is a book all social entrepreneurs—aspiring, active, and the like—should read and utilize, particularly for growing institutions. And, it is valuable for anyone in the impact field: program manager, nonprofit executive, board member or educator. Bloom’s book becomes a journey of organizational self-assessment beneficial for most.

 

 

Drew Tulchin is Managing Partner of Social Enterprise Associates, a boutique consulting firm helping businesses, NGOs, government and foundations achieve financial performance, social impact and environmental sustainability. Sean Dehan is an analyst with Social Enterprise Associates. (www.socialenterprise.net)

 

 

1 Bloom, Paul N., Scaling Your Social Venture, pg 8, 2012, New York, NY.

2 Scaling Your Social Venture, pgs. 1, 61, 76, 92, 130, 145-146, 165.