Update: The Social Entrepreneur's Playbook Ebook Experiment

October 07, 2013

Wharton Digital Press and the authors invited readers to join The Social Entrepreneur’s Advisory Group by July 15, 2013, to crowdsource feedback on the free ebook in order to help shape the complete edition of the book, which publishes on November 12, 2013. A survey was used to gather feedback from the Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook Advisory Group. The following summarizes the findings from the survey.

The Numbers

  • Number of surveys completed: 297
  • Number of survey respondents who elected to have their names included in the complete edition:  233
  • Number of respondents with 2 or more years of social entrepreneurship experience:  132 (56%)

To see who joined the advisory group and elected to have their names in the book, visit The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook Advisor Group.

Who Joined the Advisory Group

Although the advisory group includes philanthropists and people generally interested in social entrepreneurship, the majority of respondents are active or aspiring social entrepreneurs: founders, CEOs, executive directors, managing directors, and leaders of their start-ups.

  • They hail from all around the world: 44% in North America, 21% in Asia, 15% in Europe, 13% in Africa and the Middle East, and 7% in South and Central America.
  • The advisory group includes members of both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
  • Many respondents were new to the field: 35% have been involved for 2 years or less.
  • Approximately 65% said they have a project underway.
  • A significant proportion of respondents have extensive experience in social entrepreneurship, and 23% have been involved for more than 5 years.

Funding

Survey respondents were asked to check all the funding sources that apply to their venture. The majority (62%) self-funded all or some part of their enterprises. In addition, 31% received funding from friends and family; 22% from nonprofit organizations; 20% from government or foundation grant; 13% from corporate funding; and 11% from venture capital.

What They Said About Their Challenges

The advisory group identified generating profits and covering costs, scaling the enterprise, and securing funding as the greatest difficulties. They found developing the basic concept and meeting the needs of beneficiaries difficult, but not as difficult as satisfying donors or starting operations.

Rate the difficulty of the following on a five-point scale from 1 (not a problem) to 5 (extremely difficult). Mean
Generating profits/covering costs 3.41
Scaling the enterprise 3.38
Securing funding 3.26
Satisfying donors/financial backers 2.92
Starting operations 2.78
Meeting the needs of beneficiaries 2.77
Developing the basic concept 2.25

 

The advisory group generally agreed that generating sufficient funds to continue operations is always a serious problem, there are few clear guidelines for social entrepreneurship, and dealing with the sociopolitical environment is a major problem.

Rate the following on a five-point scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Mean
Generating sufficient funds to continue operations is always a serious problem. 3.87
There are few clear guidelines for social entrepreneurship. 3.64
Dealing with the socio-political environment is always a major problem. 3.53
The failure rate of social entrepreneurial projects is much higher than the normal commercial venture. 3.28
Satisfying beneficiaries is more difficult than operating the venture. 3.18
It is never clear when a go–no go decision should be made. 2.98
I have trouble convincing potential beneficiaries to cooperate in my projects. 2.96
Finding tractable social problems is one of the most difficult problems I face. 2.23

 

The advisory group reported that their biggest problems are obstruction by those objecting to change, unpredictable governance, and indifference by parties whose support is necessary.

Rate the following on a five-point scale from 1 (not a problem) to 5 (critical problem). Mean
Obstruction by those objecting to change 3.64
Unpredictable governance 3.58
Indifference by parties whose support is necessary 3.57
Unreliable infrastructure 3.49
Uncertainty about pricing 3.24
Underdeveloped markets 3.16
Unpredictable competitive responses 3.08
Untested technology 3.02

 

Response to Free Ebook

  • 19% of readers said this was the first ebook they had read.
  • 55% read their ebook on an iPad or another multi-purpose tablet. Nearly 34% read on a Kindle or other dedicated e-reader, and 12% read on a phone or mobile device.
  • The advisors reported across the board that they would recommend the book to someone interested in starting a social enterprise (4.55 out of 5 – with 5 being “definitely recommend”).

The Expanded Edition

Advisory group feedback is incorporated in the complete edition, which will cover all three phases of the start-up to scale-up process. The decisions were driven by the high support the advisory group gave to specific facets of the free ebook they reviewed (only 7% respondents indicated that they would not buy the expanded edition).

  • Free ebook elements: The advisory group had overwhelmingly positive reactions to three key elements of the free ebook; therefore, these elements are also included in the expanded edition:
    • Stories of social entrepreneurs: 77% (82% for respondents with 5 or more years’ experience)
    • Tables:  75% (85% for respondents with 5 or more years’ experience)
    • Tough Love Tests: 74% (78% for respondents with 5 or more years’ experience)

In spite of their deeper experience, more experienced respondents found the tools to be more valuable than did novices.  The authors interpreted this as further validation of: i) the authors’ field research findings, and ii) the need for leadership and management guidelines in social entrepreneurship.

  • From start-up to scale-up: The expanded edition addresses several areas that the advisory group identified as concerns:
    • Phase One: Pressure Test Your Start-Up Idea. This section, which has been expanded from the free ebook, now also includes advice on setting revenue and social impact goals, how to navigate the sociopolitical landscape, and how to develop a strong concept statement.
    • Phase Two: Plan Your Social Enterprise. All new to this edition, this section shows how to frame and scope the venture, determine what it will take to actually deliver a sustainable enterprise, identify the key assumptions that have been made, and design checkpoints to test those assumptions before making major investments.
    • Phase Three: Launch and Scale Your Social Enterprise. Also new for the first time in the expanded edition, this section provides guidelines on how to effectively launch an enterprise, manage upside potential and downside risk, and strategically scale up.
    • Interactive tools: 86% requested downloadable forms and tools (89% of those with five or more years of social entrepreneurship experience requested downloadable files), the expanded edition also includes access to downloadable planning documents, including user-friendly spreadsheets.
    • Format: The advisory group expressed interest in both ebook and paperback formats, with 61% preferring an ebook; therefore, the book will be available in both formats. However, due to reader feedback, the limited retailer support for interactive ebooks, and higher production cost complexities, Wharton Digital Press does not currently plan to publish an interactive ebook edition.

Where to Look in the Expanded Edition for the Advice You Need

Even those who have read the free ebook will want to start at the beginning of the expanded book as each chapter from the free ebook includes updated or new materials. If you consider any of the following issues a challenge or problem, you will receive specific support from the corresponding chapter(s) in the new edition. Please note that each chapter is followed by a note that indicates whether it is all-new to this edition or updated from the free ebook edition.

 

If the following is a challenge… Read:
Generating profits/covering costs Chapter 2. Specify Performance Criteria *ALL NEW*
Chapter 9. Frame and Scope the Venture *ALL NEW*
Chapter 10. Specify Deliverables *ALL NEW*
Scaling the enterprise Chapter 14. Scaling Up Your Social Enterprise  *ALL NEW*
Satisfying donors/financial backers Chapter 7. Address the Inevitable Sociopolitics *ALL NEW*
Chapter 9. Frame and Scope the Venture *ALL NEW*
Chapter 10. Specify Deliverables *ALL NEW*
Starting operations Chapter 12. Launch Your Enterprise  *ALL NEW*
Chapter 13. Manage the Upside and Downside *ALL NEW*
Meeting the needs of beneficiaries Chapter 3. Define and Segment Your Target Population *UPDATED*
Chapter 4. Understand the Beneficiary Experience *UPDATED*
Developing the basic concept Chapter 1. Articulate Your Targeted Problem and Substantiate Your Proposed Solution *UPDATED AND NEW CONTENT*

 

 

If you feel… Read:
Generating sufficient funds to continue operations is always a serious problem. Chapter 6. Identify Operations Realities *UPDATED, AND NEW CONTENT*
Chapter 10. Specify Deliverables *ALL NEW*
Chapter 14. Scaling Up Your Social Enterprise *ALL NEW*
There are few clear guidelines for social entrepreneurship. The complete edition offers a clear set of guidelines for testing, planning, and launching and scaling a social enterprise.
Dealing with the socio-political environment is always a major problem. Chapter 7. Address the Inevitable Sociopolitics *ALL NEW*
The failure rate of social entrepreneurial projects is much higher than the normal commercial venture. Introduction: The Creation of Wealth Out of Poverty *UPDATED*
Satisfying beneficiaries is more difficult than operating the venture. Chapter 3. Define and Segment Your Target Population *UPDATED*
Chapter 4. Understand the Beneficiary Experience *UPDATED*
Chapter 5. Analyze the Most Competitive Alternative *UPDATED*
It is never clear when a go–no go decision should be made. The Tough Love Checklists at the end of each chapter
I have trouble convincing potential beneficiaries to cooperate in my projects. Chapter 3. Define and Segment Your Target Population *UPDATED*
Chapter 4. Understand the Beneficiary Experience *UPDATED*
Chapter 5. Analyze the Most Competitive Alternative *UPDATED*
Finding tractable social problems is one of the most difficult problems I face. Chapter 1. Articulate Your Targeted Problem and Substantiate Your Proposed Solution *UPDATED, AND NEW CONTENT*

 

 

If the following is a problem… Read:
Obstruction by those objecting to change Chapter 7. Address the Inevitable Sociopolitics *ALL NEW*
Indifference by parties whose support is necessary Chapter 7. Address the Inevitable Sociopolitics *ALL NEW*
Unpredictable governance The framework of The Social Entrepreneur’s Playbook helps to systematically reduce uncertainty, as described in the Introduction: The Creation of Wealth Out of Poverty *UPDATED*
Unreliable infrastructure Throughout three phases, as described in the introduction
Uncertainty about pricing Throughout three phases, as described in the introduction
Underdeveloped markets Throughout three phases, as described in the introduction
Unpredictable competitive responses Throughout three phases, as described in the introduction
Untested technology Throughout three phases, as described in the introduction

 

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