Are you a student who is interested in the idea of social business?
If so, this guide is meant for you.
STUDENT GUIDE TO
Becoming involved in social business –
what students can do to make this place
a better world.
What is this Student Guide about and
why should I read it?
Social business has been defined by Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus as a financially
self-sustainable business that fully focuses on solving
pressing social problems within healthcare, environment,
education, and many other areas.
This idea is rapidly growing and spreading all around
the world, with more and more social businesses being
started by companies, universities, governments and
Are you a student who is interested in the idea of social
business? Did you catch fire and now think about how to
implement social business within your education?
This is a short guideline for students who are not only
interested in social business, but want to take action
and implement their own initiatives. As a student,
you bear the creative potential and courage to make
a difference and contribute to solving social problems
with entrepreneurial means. This guideline is intended
to be a starting point for you to get involved in the field
of social business. It supports you with ideas on how
to plant first social business seeds in your university
setting and in your community.
The following pages guide you through the processes of
getting informed about social business, spreading the
idea of social business in your university, organizing
your first initiative, lobbying for your activities and,
in the end, starting your own social business. You
can contribute to foster the worldwide social business
movement side by side with a broad range of academic,
economic and political actors and organizations.
We hope this student guide will be a valuable
contribution on your way to start an impactful social
Read it with joy!
We live in extraordinary times.
Financial crises and economic crises are looming large in
many parts of the world. Social problems are prevailing
in developing countries, as well as developed countries
with the only major distinction being that the type of
social problem differs across countries.
But we also live in extraordinary and exciting times.
The young generation today is the most powerful
of any young generation in history. They have the
capabilities and the technology to overcome any of
the social problems that exist and have not yet been
solved. Young people all around the globe are better
connected than ever before. The power of technology
enables access to information of any type, and also
enables communication in even far away, remote places.
Moreover, there is a strong and ever-growing desire of
young people to change the world for the better.
Social business is a wonderful vehicle for the youth to
make this change happen. Young people can bring in all
their creativity and passion to develop social business
ideas that can really make an impact in people’s lives.
Many young people have already started their own social
business initiatives and have come up with beautiful
and creative solutions that we have never thought about
You too can become a part of this change and make your
contribution towards a better planet.
Sounds great, but as a student, what
can I do?
The following are practical steps that you can take to
become active and engage with social business in your
…about social business. Read, watch, listen. Join
workshops, conferences and online communities.
Engage with professors and students in discussions
about your ideas. Create a social business students club.
Start the conversation.
Design a workshop or conference yourself. Ask social
business professionals to speak at students events. Start
a social business idea competition.
Go talk to your professors and faculty and lobby them to
teach about social business.
One of the best ways to get involved is to actually start
your own social business to tackle a social problem!
Do it with joy.
Spread the Idea
Organize with Joy
Lobby for Social Business
With the idea of social business, Prof. Muhammad
Yunus has introduced a new dimension for capitalism: a
business model that does not strive to maximize profits
but rather to serve humanity’s most pressing needs.
Thus, the first motive of a social business is not profit,
and second, it does not pay its investors dividends.
Instead, it aims at solving social problems with products
and services at affordable prices, or giving the poor and
marginalized people ownership in a business allowing
them to share in its profits.
A social business pays back only its original investment
and reinvests its profits in innovations or further growth
that advance its social goals. Although the social
business is pioneering in its aims, it is traditional in
its management. Its workforce is professional and paid
according to market wages.
This type of business may or may not earn profit, but
like any other business it must not incur losses in order
to be able to sustain itself.
In every sense the social business is sustainable: in its
direct environmental impact, its impact down the value
chain, and critically, in its financial independence.
This is a key difference between social business and
charity. Once its initial investment is repaid, the social
business aims to be financially self-sustaining, giving
it the independence and security to focus its efforts
on the long-term improvement of the lives of the
Thus a social business is a new type of company
and “social business entrepreneurs” are a new type
of entrepreneurs who are not interested in profit-
maximisation. They are totally committed to making
a difference in the world. They want to give a better
chance in life to other people and they want to
achieve this objective through creating and supporting
sustainable social businesses.
Social business follows 7 principles, which serve as its
The seven principles of social business:
1. Business objective will be to overcome poverty, or
one or more problems (such as education, health,
technology access and environment) which threaten
people and society; not profit maximization.
2. Financial and economic sustainability.
3. Investors get back their investment amount only.
No dividend is given beyond investment money.
4. When investment amount is paid back, company
profit stays with the company for expansion and
5. Environmentally conscious.
6. Workforce gets market wage with better working
7. …do it with joy.
Dialogue in the Dark
There are more than 160 million visually impaired
people worldwide, with 45 million of them being blind.
Most of the world‘s visually impaired live in developing
countries. A blind person has significant challenges
finding employment; even in developed countries like
Germany, only about 15% of the blind have a job.
Moreover, the common prejudice that blind people
cannot participate in the working world is one of the
reasons for their lack of integration and acceptance
in society. In addition, interaction between “abled”
and “disabled” people is hindered by stereotypes,
fears, avoidance, prejudice, discrimination and
The German social entrepreneur Andreas Heinecke
developed the idea that blind people guide sighted
visitors through an exhibition in complete darkness.
Walking through the dark, people get a sense of the
everyday world without sight and switch roles with the
blind as they require their assistance and perceive the
obstacles they often face. Starting with one exhibition
in Hamburg, Germany, “Dialogue in the Dark” has
become a social franchise active in many different
countries and attended by more than 75,000 visitors per
year. Andreas Heinecke also broadened the concept and
founded a restaurant in which customers eat and drink
in the dark and explore how their sense of taste changes
when the light is switched off. With the recently
initiated exhibition “Dialogue in Silence” the founder
started to employ deaf people to guide visitors through
a completely quiet world.
Dialogue in the Dark aims at the social inclusion of
marginalized people and to establish employment for
disabled people on a global scale. It raises awareness
shifts perspectives to overcome barriers between the
“abled” and “disabled”.
The Business Model
Dialogue in the Dark has established 21 permanent
exhibitions all around the world and in addition
also sets up temporary exhibitions at many different
locations. The exhibitions have been in more than
30 countries and over 160 sites throughout Europe,
Asia and America since its beginning in 1988.
Dialogue in the Dark obtains its main revenues from
the international franchise model, the permanent
exhibitions and the leadership trainings worldwide,
followed by entrance fees and gastronomic revenues.
All profits are reinvested, which is one of the basic
preconditions for a social business.
Access to energy is a major problem in almost all
developing countries in the world. Especially rural areas
are faced with a lack of an electrical grid infrastructure,
since in many cases it is not cost-effective to provide
grid connectivity to remote rural areas. Looking
specifically at Bangladesh, around 80% of its population
of around 160 Million people live in rural areas.
Moreover, only around 40% of the total population have
access to grid electricity, while all others have to rely on
kerosene, diesel or wood for lighting and cooking. The
use of kerosene is a major health concern when used for
cooking in small huts. Moreover, the lack of access to
energy is a severe economic constraint, as it limits the
production time and the productivity of small businesses
and also limits the time for kids to study after sunset.
Grameen Shakti (which means “village energy” in
Bengali) was established in 1996 in order to provide
sustainable energy to the villages of Bangladesh. The
aim was to find an energy source that would solve the
problems of poor people in rural areas without causing
additional harm. Grameen Shakti started its operations
selling Solar Home Systems (SHS). The mission of
Grameen Shakti is to “empower the rural people with
access to green energy and income” and its vision is “a
future where rural households of Bangladesh have access
to environment friendly and pollution free energy at
The Business Model
Grameen Shakti was originally set-up as a not-for-profit
organization, but it has been transformed into a social
business, which became financial sustainable within the
first 4 years of operations.
By 2012 they had sold almost 1 Million Solar Home
Systems in Bangladesh, and also expanded their
product line to biogas plants, improved cooking stoves
and organic fertilizer, which is a byproduct of the gas
produced in the biogas plants.
Selling rather expensive products to mainly poor
customers, Grameen Shakti had to rely on an innovative
distribution and an after sales care system as well as
microfinance to create demand for their products.
They have set up local Grameen Technology Centers
(GTCs) in order to train people on how to market and
produce SHS and accessories. The program is particularly
focused on training women thus allowing them to
develop their skills as technicians.
Given the relatively high costs of the Solar Home
Systems, Grameen Shakti developed an innovative
financing scheme based on microfinance. Through this
financing scheme, customers are able to pay in smaller
installments over a period of 2 or 3 years.
As of 2012, Grameen Shakti employs more than
10,000 people and serves more than 40,000 villages in
During recent years, a lot has happened in terms of publications. There are not only the books by Prof. Yunus, but
also other books, case studies and articles about the social business idea and various social businesses. Here you
will find a brief overview about selected readings:
Yunus, Muhammad. Creating a World without Poverty –
Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.
New York: Public Affairs, 2007.
In 2007, Yunus for the first time formulated his vision
in “Creating a World without Poverty” and pioneered
and defined the idea of social business. In this book,
Yunus gives an account of social business and describes
how his ideas moved from microcredit to the first
social business designs, such as Grameen Bank and
Grameen Danone. Yunus writes about the development
and implementation of these social business ideas and
about the lessons learnt from his experiences. The
“Times” concludes: “Not only does it read as swiftly as
a thriller, it turns the dreary science of development
economics inside out.”
Yunus, Muhammad. Building Social Business: The
New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanities Most
Pressing Needs. New York: Public Affairs, 2010.
In his second book on social business, “Building
social business models”, Muhammad Yunus looks more
deeply into the concept of social business and offers
a practical guidance for creators of social businesses.
Important issues such as the formulation of seven
principles for the creation of social business or legal
and financial frameworks are presented and discussed in
Yunus’ most recent book.
Yunus, Muhammad. Banker To The Poor: Micro-Lending
and the Battle Against World Poverty. New York: Public
“Banker to the Poor” is the unique founding story of
the Grameen Bank’s microcredit system that is based
on Muhammad Yunus’ idea to extend credit to the
poor so that they can help themselves. In clear and
conversational tone, Yunus tells this story from his
personal perspective and gives insight into the concept,
premises, and challenges of the Grameen bank. In 2006,
Grameen and Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize for
their efforts to create economic and social development
from within the lowest socio-economic groups.
Richter, Roger & Spiegel, Peter. The Power of Dignity -
Die Kraft der Würde: The Grameen Family.
Bielefeld: Kamphausen, 2008.
“The Power of Dignity“ is a book of Peter Spiegel
(essays) and Roger Richter (photos) that aims to change
our view of the poor. It contains photographs of and
essays about people in rural, poor areas of Bangladesh.
The persons appearing in these photos belong to the
Grameen family, the employees and owners of Grameen
organisations as well as microcredit borrowers and
founders of small, independent businesses. “The Power
of Dignity” takes a new perspective by encountering
people with an aesthetic of dignity instead of
presenting people seeking help.
Humberg, Kerstin. Poverty Reduction through Social
Business? Lessons learnt from Grameen Joint Ventures
This book of Kerstin Humberg links Yunus’ idea of social
business to various scientific and development policy
contexts and analyses it against these backgrounds.
Thereby, Humberg differentiates the approach from both
nonprofit organizations and profit-maximizing companies.
The second part of the book presents two case studies,
i.e. Grameen Danone and Grameen Veolia, and analyses
and compares them. “Poverty Reduction through Social
Business?” is the first comprehensive empirical study of
Yunus’ social businesses in Bangladesh.
Wimmer, Nancy. Green Energy for a Billion Poor– How
Grameen Shakti Created a Winning Model for Social
MCRE Verlag, 2012.
This book of Nancy Wimmer, who is an entrepreneur,
researcher and advisor to the World Council of
Renewable Energy, examines the case of Grameen Shakti.
This social business was established in 1996 to promote
and develop renewable energy technologies in remote,
rural areas of Bangladesh. Wimmer tells the success
story of Grameen Shakti and gives insights into the
inner mechanics, strategies and values of the company.
This is of course only a small overview of available books. There are more and more books, case studies, working papers
and articles available. We have compiled a bibliography, which will be updated on a regular basis. You can download
the bibliography online at http://www.grameencreativelab.com/academia.html within the Resources section.
Of course, the internet plays the leading role for all the latest news and updates. Here are short overviews about
some very interesting websites:
Information about the Yunus & Shiiki Social Business
Research Centre at the Kyushu University in Kyushu,
The website of the California Institute for Social Business
at the California State University Channel Islands.
Information about Grameen Shakti, a renewable energy
company in Bangladesh, which sells solar panels, biogas
plants and improved cooking stoves in rural areas.
Mammu is a social business based in Latvia whose goal
is to create jobs for single mothers. It’s a fashion brand
producing in Latvia and selling world wide.
The Grameen Creative Lab
Get information on social business, social businesses,
our activities and latest news from our website and
social media channels.
The Yunus Centre is Prof. Yunus’ leading institution
promoting the idea of social business.
Learn how Grameen Veolia Water is working on ways to
bring safe drinking water to Bangladesh.
Information on the activities of the Danone
Communities fund. Among other things you can find
detailed information about Grameen Danone on this
Dialogue in the Dark
Background information on the concept of Dialogue
in the Dark, exhibitions, workshops and the exhibition
venue closest to you.
Website of the joint initiative between GCL and the
National University of Singapore.
Bive is a social business in Colombia that provides
access to a variety of high quality health services and
easy access to clean and adequate infrastructure at an
A joint venture between Grameen Healthcare Trust and
Uniqlo which is producing clothing in Bangladesh and
selling it at affordable prices for the poor.
An online project, challenging people for social business
and bringing together social business entrepreneurs with
individuals ready to take up their challenge.
This holistic social business movement in Caldas,
Colombia, aims to eradicate poverty and to rebuild
the economy by helping to establish various social
HEC Paris, Social Business Chair
Website of the Social Business Chair at the HEC Paris
with information about their activities in research,
teaching and practice.
Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health
Based at the Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland,
the Centre aims to change the lives of the poor through
research in social business and health.
Yunus Social Business
Yunus Social Business started as a spin off from The
Grameen Creative Lab in 2011 and focuses on social
business funds and advisory services.
EU Social Business Initiative
Information on the activities of the European
Commission in the field of social business and their
Social Business Initiative.
Website of Grameen Bank with detailed information and
history on microcredit as well as data & reports and
information regarding microcredit training.
EBS University, Social Business Chair
Website of the Danone Endowed Chair of Social Business
at the EBS University in Germany.
Attending conferences is important for various reasons.
First, you will get the latest news and also gain in depth
knowledge through expert presentations and workshops.
Additionally, conferences are a great place to connect with
other like-minded people, to share ideas and to connect
for joint initiatives.
Over the past years a number of events related to social
business have taken place around the world. There are
several conferences and events about or related to social
business, that are held on a regular basis. Some of them
are described below.
The Global Social Business Summit is the world’s
largest international conference exclusively on social
business. It brings together entrepreneurs and experts
from the corporate, political, academic sectors to
connect and network. Also it provides a prominent
platform for social businesses to present their initiatives
to an international audience. Workshops during the
summit offer the opportunity to gain insights into
new concepts and develop solutions for a multitude of
Throughout the year, there are also several Social
Business Forums taking place around the world. These
national or regional forums like the German Social
Business Forum or the Social Business Forum Asia
also provide a platform for entrepreneurs and experts
to network and exchange ideas. With idea contests and
Social Business Boot Camps, which provide technical
support to young entrepreneurs, these forums offer the
opportunity to get a deeper insight into social business
and additionally help to establish social businesses with
a more regional focus.
Another example is the International GCL Klassentreffen.
This event format brings together the Grameen Family
and entrepreneurs that are involved in social business
for a weekend at a local school to reconnect and
exchange ideas and experiences. At the same time
newcomers get the opportunity to learn about social
business and get first hand insight into existing social
businesses from experts.
The above events are all organized by the GCL or the
Grameen Family and focus exclusively on social business.
However, there are several other conferences on the
broader concept of social entrepreneurship that also
include social business into their program and also offer
excellent opportunities to gain insights and connect to
At the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship,
each year, social entrepreneurs and key players gather
at the University of Oxford to exchange ideas and
knowledge and create new collaborations. Several
workshop formats are offered to pick up skills or
update your knowledge and connect with some of the
most renowned social entrepreneurs and experts in
The Vision Summit, organized by the Genisis
Institute, was established in 2008 as a leading
conference on social entrepreneurship and social
impact business. It offers a variety of workshops,
discussions and presentations on issues related to
social entrepreneurship, ranging from social arts and
impact measurement to design thinking for social
An example of an event organized by students is
the One World Convention on Social Business. The
convention was organized by students from University
Passau, Germany, and featured an introduction to
social business as well as panel discussions and
presentations about the opportunities of social
business, impact measurement and the future of social
business. You will find a report about their experience
further back in this report.
Also, there are many one-of events and specific
workshop formats such as Social Business Labs, which
bring together different stakeholders from businesses,
NGO’s, academia and civil society to jointly develop
concrete social business ideas.
More in depth insights into social business are offered
during a Social Business Week, which combines
various workshop formats and public speeches to give
participants the best overview possible. Some examples
are the Social Business Week Bahrain 2012, which
started with a speech by Professor Yunus and also
included a strategy session to develop a roadmap for
social business in Bahrain, and the Social Business
Week Singapore 2012 organized by the National
University of Singapore.
The events mentioned above take place irregularly and
are promoted through the known channels.
The above list of conferences is not meant to be
comprehensive, but rather to provide an overview.
Interview with Samuel Ching
Samuel Ching is a 17 year old student at Raffles
Institution, Singapore. Raffles Institution, founded
in 1823, is the oldest and one of the most
prestigious centers for pre-tertiary training in Singapore.
He is studying in the Humanities Program and took the
GCE-A Levels in 2012. He is passionate about the nexus
of business and poverty alleviation, leading him to the
field of social business and social innovation.
Q: How did you come across social business and how
did you become knowledgeable about the topic?
I came across the concept of social business through
the very first Grameen Creative Lab Social Business Lab
organised by GCL@NUS. It was there where I first met
Hans Reitz and the team from GCL. I still remember with
great fondness the stories that Hans told the audience
during the launch – they were both inspirational and
moving. This set the tone for the workshop over the
next 2 days, which was peppered with both inspiring
stories of Grameen’s customers as well as with the
practical aspects of how to execute a social business.
It was a thorough immersion into the ins and outs of
social business and I came away awed and felt the need
to spread this revolutionary way of doing business.
To me, the idea of using the business mechanisms
to solve social issues was game-changing and could
have limitless potential in the business of ‘making
poverty history’. As such, I decided to dive deeper
and see how much more I could find out about social
business, leading me to participate in the inaugural
Social Business Forum Asia, held in the aftermath of the
Fukushima Earthquake. There, the brainstorming and the
interaction with established social businesses, grounded
my desire to start a social business initiative.
Q: Tell us a bit about your social business project.
What is it about?
My personal social business initiative comes in a few
different forms. Firstly, I set up a youth network of
high school students to explore and to promote social
business amongst high school youths in Singapore.
The network was set up with the aim of getting more
youths to understand and appreciate the concept of
social business/social entrepreneurship. We felt that if
we could get the youths interested in social business
while they were in high school – they could then make
full use of the resources provided in university to further
their interest. Secondly, as the president of my school’s
“To me, the idea of using the business
mechanism to solve social issues was game-
changing and could have limitless potential
in the business of ‘making poverty history’.”
entrepreneurship club, I directed the club with the
theme of exploring social entrepreneurship and social
business in mind – resulting in our club developing
many little social business projects, including using
Valentine’s Day to raise money for Habitat for Humanity.
Lastly, I started a personal blog to document my
experiences in this space (thedollarmultiplier.co.cc), as
well as to provide a platform to encourage anyone else
keen to find out more about social business.
Q: What motivated you to start your social business
The three different projects were motivated by a core
interest to raise the awareness about social business
amongst high school students both in Singapore and
around the world. I felt that the fastest way to gain
maximum interest would be to engage youths online, as
well as to set up local on-the-ground programs to allow
youths to interact with local social businesses.
Q: How exactly did you get started? Did you have any
partners? Who else joined the movement?
It started off with a group of friends that wanted to do
this – it was very informal and casual, and our common
interest was what motivated us to do this. It all started
when I started talking to a friend about my experiences
in Fukuoka – he was keen to find out more and curious
as to why he had not heard about this before. After
telling more friends about this, I found that these
friends had the common want to find out more about
social business and social entrepreneurship, and it was
through this that the network was formed.
Q: How did you convince and motivate others? And
how did university faculty and staff react on your
Surprisingly, convincing others was not as difficult as
expected. In Singapore, we found that most youths
were already keen on helping on the underprivileged.
This was just another way of doing so. The harder part
was thinking of ways to explain the model to them –
to demonstrate that it is in fact a more effective and
sustainable form of service. The National University of
Singapore (NUS) was very supportive of the initiative
and they provided support in terms of tie-ups with
both the youth network as well as bringing Prof. Yunus
in to Raffels Institute under the banner of the Raffles
Entrepreneurs’ Network. Prof. Wong from NUS was also
very supportive, he kindly volunteered to bring me over
to Fukuoka for the Social Business Forum Asia.
Q: Did you face any kind of obstacles? What were the
biggest challenges so far?
The journey has been a very exciting one – we had our
first national symposium for youths on social business
in 2011 and we had Professor Yunus over in March
earlier this year. The response was phenomenal from
the students and youths who we invited from across
Singapore. There haven’t been any major challenges, but
the work going into preparing for these symposiums has
Q: Do you plan any further social business activities
in the near future?
The upcoming year is set to be even more exciting as
we are exploring possibilities of how best to expand the
scope to involve even more students from around the
region and beyond. We are looking into the possibility
of expanding our online presence to engage youths
“It started off with a group of friends that
wanted to do this – it was very informal and
casual, and our common interest was what
motivated us to do this.”
Spread the Idea
Every journey starts with the first steps. To start a
social business movement at your university, it is
important to make the concept known among students
as well as professors. Spreading the word about social
business helps you to find other interested people or
organizations and might generate some new ideas or
opportunities for collaborations.
Start the conversation about social business with other
like-minded students in your community. Set up regular
open meetings inviting everyone who is interested and
exchange ideas on how to bring social business to your
university. Post your meetings on social media, bulletin
boards, etc. to draw attention to your activities.
Also, you could run promotional activities through
social media channels in order to make people aware
of the idea. Create a page for social business on the
common social media channels and post news, activities
and outcomes of meetings with like-minded students.
Sharing the latest social business news with your friends
through these social media channels is also a good idea.
To get some first hand experience, more attention, and
credibility, you may ask social business professionals
to speak at students events or at other events planned
at your university. The event should have at least some
distant relation to the field to increase the chance of
reaching participants that are interested in the concept.
Another way of introducing social business to your
university could be to write your bachelor or master
thesis about social business.
Last but not least, every university has them: clubs,
societies or groups in which students engage themselves
in discussions about their ideas. So why not found a
social business students club? The list below gives you
an idea of how you could realize a student club.
Find out your university‘s regulations about student
clubs. How many founding members do you need? Do
you need to write a founding document or constitution?
Does the university provide any financial support?
Write a one page summary about what the club stands
for and what sort of activities it will pursue. You could
even try to formulate a mission statement!
Research other clubs whose members might have
overlapping interests, make a list of classes that are
relevant and identify faculty members that could
be interested in getting involved. These are your
Contact these people via mailing lists, go into lecture
rooms and write on the blackboard, maybe even speak
in front of a class. Visit faculty in their office hours and
talk to them about your club. A facebook group or page
could be a great idea.
Have an inaugural meeting inviting everybody that
responded positively, use communication channels
mentioned above to promote it. Have the assembled
members adopt a (pre-written) constitution, outline
leadership structure and fill the positions. Give all
candidates 1 minute to introduce themselves, then hold
a vote for each position.
Organize future meetings, talks, fundraising, and other
events according to your mission. Network with similar
clubs at other Universities.
Spread the Idea
Social Business Student Club Checklist
Organize with Joy
Conferences & Workshops
To organize a conference you first need an idea and
possible topics. Social business is a central topic for
a range of events (see overview in the conferences
chapter), so you should focus on a concrete outline of
your conference. Otherwise it may become difficult to
get speakers, sponsors, or the necessary participants as
there are too many similar events. Bear in mind that you
have strong competitors and you have to figure out how
to differentiate your event.
You need a guiding idea, central theme, or “golden
thread” running through the diverse slots of your
event. It could be that your target group is a special
one: a location in a country where no social business
event has taken place before, a conference specifically
for students, a specialized scientific conference, or a
practitioners event. Your event could be focused either
on a special field like healthcare, ageing, integration,
nutrition or on a special agenda like social business
joint ventures, social business start ups, social business
in developing countries, etc. Or maybe the format and
design of the conference makes it unique. For example,
the event could be a huge online gathering or be
connected to important political events. You have to ask
yourself: How different is my event from others and why
should people invest time and resources to join it?
Now that you have an idea you need a team with a
strong desire to organize the conference. This can be
crucial, especially in the last weeks before the event
when you will all be very busy with the recruiting of
the last participants, preparing the location, organizing
details, answering questions of speakers and participants
etc.. You should look for team members with diverse
skills to delegate tasks in a sensible way, acknowledging
the strengths of each one of them. A very eloquent
and convincing person is perfect for being in charge of
inspiring prominent speakers and attracting sponsors.
Another person with good organizational talent should
support you in conceptualizing and guiding the overall
process. In a later stage of organization you should
also think of persons who will be in charge of technical
support and logistics.
Organize with Joy
Check other Conferences
Their homepages, public documents or participants’
comments give you lots of pointers on almost every
aspect of the conference: how should an application
form look like, how should the web page be
conceptualized and designed and what information to
put on it, the structure of the program, the timing,
potential speakers and so on. Brainstorm with your
team which ideas you want to pick up or adapt. Write
all the ideas down and discuss them. That doesn’t mean
copying the design of other conferences, these are just
examples that improve your brainstorming process. Try
to be creative – what would you like to see, hear and
do at a conference on a topic you are interested in?
Finally, come up with a proposal or guideline that
clearly presents the results of your brainstorming.
Prepare a presentation about the conference idea for
your university leaders. Try to answer every question
faculty members may ask: How are you going to finance
the event? Whom are you going to invite? Why is the
conference attractive and how can it contribute to
positive social change? Which rooms and halls do you
need and when? How much can the regular schedule
be affected? Be self-confident and well prepared.
Don’t forget to ask which equipment the university
may support you with, if you may use the cafeteria for
lunches and dinners, and whether the dean would like
to hold a welcome speech.
As soon as you have the university’s support, check
the available resources, such as know-how of people
who already organized a conference at your university
and determine the responsibilities. You will need a
head of conference (you?) as well as people to be in
charge of finances, the program, accommodations,
logistics, technical support, a webmaster, and a head
of communications and marketing. Depending on the
size of the conference, there will be one or more people
for each resort or in case of smaller events one person
may be responsible for two or three of these tasks. Also
think of who will second you if you are absent or ill.
Now, by the latest, you should know concretely
when and where the conference will take place. You
should also specify the features and subthemes of the
conference before you ask speakers and lecturers to
participate. Which types of sessions will the conference
offer: Speeches? Workshops? Panel discussions? Slots for
informal meetings? How many speakers do you need and
how do you ensure the quality of the sessions? Watch
videos of potential speakers to see if they are not only
knowledgeable but also good speakers and entertaining.
In the following months, your team should complete
some of the following tasks, some of which will run
in parallel: 1) draw up the budget, calculate the
participants fee and gather the funds, 2) create the
webpage and the application form, 3) invite speakers
and participants, 4) find potential accommodations for
participants to stay and make agreements with hotels
to offer affordable rooms, 5) organize how participants
will get to the airport/train station and back, 6) obtain
offers for video/audio equipment, if needed, 7) promote
the event in different media, inform journalists etc..
If the event is of large scale, create a project plan to
avoid missing any important steps. Organize regular
meetings where the team members update each other
and coordinate their activities.
First invitations or a save-the-date note should be sent
out 4-5 months before the event, followed by two or
three reminders. The timetable and program should
be set as early as possible and distributed so that
participants exactly know exactly what to expect. You
should send a package which also includes travel and
accommodation information, background information
about the speakers, short description of the sessions
and other relevant details.
Organize with Joy
Just like conferences, workshops can have different
scales. Social business workshops can be part of a
lecture series, an integral element of a conference
or single events. They can be organized by students
and faculty members or by other institutions or
persons. The university could provide the physical
place and support for such a workshop. This decision
depends on whether the university already has the
expertise or prefers to rely on external specialists. In
any case, workshops always need active involvement
of participants and your job is to ensure and moderate
the communication between participants. You should
organize workshops if you or the potential participants
endeavor a practical outcome. Workshops can be an
ideal platform to develop concrete social business ideas
and action steps. Depending on the size of the workshop
(or series), the steps listed in the checklist should guide
No matter if you opt for a conference or a workshop:
document the results and publish them. Assessments
of the quality of your event should be obtained using
surveys. Think of whether the event will be repeated
next year and send a save-the-Date note to the
participants. You should also list mistakes and problems
that have happened and organize a feedback meeting to
question why they happened and eventually change the
procedures for next year’s event.
Read about how to hold a workshop. What structure is
appropriate? What material will be necessary?
Think about scale and scope of the workshop. What
is your audience? Will you be able to conduct it by
yourself or do you need support? What is the topic and
how can concrete results be generated?
If you would like to bring in some external support
talk to whoever is in charge of student affairs and the
student body leadership. They may be able to provide
financial or logistical support.
Nail the content down early, invitees will want to know
about the program of the workshop especially if you are
planning on asking them to pay a participation fee!
Invitation management and promotion: Keep track of
who registers and how many spaces are left. Start with
the core group of people you think will be valuable to
have at the workshop and work your way out to more
contacts until you fill the workshop.
Use social media, flyers, mailings and personal contacts
to promote the workshop. Again, going into relevant
lectures and seminars can be very effective. Target
dining facilities, coffee shops and libraries.
At the workshop make sure to collect everyone’s
contact information for future events. Create a
document summarizing the main outcomes and
member commitments (if applicable) and send it to all
Organize with Joy
Conferences / Workshop Checklist
An idea competition aims at generating a breadth of
concrete ideas, initiatives and business plans that are
the first step to establish a social business. First you
need a concept and a sponsor behind it. What kind
of idea do you want to support? A student initiative,
a startup, or a re-design or new branch of an existent
social business? Do you have a university-wide, regional,
national or international scope? Elaborate a concept
in a convincing way and present it to your university
leaders. As soon as you have them on your side, look
out for sponsors. It may be a company or a government
institution that supports your competition. A university
leaders’ engagement is a crucial point here – he or she
could be the one having the important talks to potential
sponsors. You will prepare these talks and provide the
A successful idea competition also requires a student
body that is well educated on the subject. You should
have a clear idea of what makes up a good project idea
or business plan. What are important aspects to look
for? Make sure you have gotten the word out before you
initiate a competition, otherwise you might not get
many quality submissions! Develop evaluation criteria
and eventually differentiate between first round and
second round criteria. Acquire committee members
and involve them in your criteria design to end up with
a common sense about priorities in selection. Think
of how the evaluation will take place. Will committee
members name their first, second and third choice or
will they award points for each evaluation category?
How do you measure the quality of an idea?
Talk to your sponsor about the competition, will he
sponsor the prize only or the entire event? In the latter
case, watch out for other sponsors. As soon as you have
the first one, it often becomes easier to inspire a second
and third one. Concretize the prize. Great prizes are
start-up funding and services like consulting. Will there
also be a second and third prize?
Now you should start to assure that a sufficient number
of applications will reach you. Set the deadline.
Will there be a public event or ceremony announcing
the winner? If so, you should start the planning of
the announcement early (see section on organizing a
conference). Announce the competition and the final
event in the relevant networks. Try to reach informal
networks as well, ask people to spread the information
that a social business idea competition will take place.
Think of a nice slogan and logo; promote the event
to your target group through different media: the
university’s webpage, facebook, twitter, forums, blogs.
The more people know about the competition the higher
the chance that you will receive excellent submissions.
Think about whether you want the submissions to be
anonymous for the judges to avoid that gender, racial,
social or other criteria are applied that discriminate
against some of the applicants.
Gather the submissions and eventually pre-screen
them according to formal criteria to filter out the worst
submissions. Then distribute the remaining concepts
to the committee members. Inform the judges about
potential ethical guidelines, e.g. that a conversation
about submissions between them is prohibited.
Determine a deadline for the decision and organize
the decision process - will it be a discussion between
the judges or will the winner be evaluated based on
the measures given? Finalize the preparation of the
announcement event including a speech, participants
management, the preparation of the location, logistics
etc. After the event, write a summary or report,
probably introducing the entrepreneur who won the
prize and his project. You should also consider how you
ensure the proper use of the money, depending on the
sum you should ask the winner for a detailed report or
even sign a contract with him or her.
Organize with Joy
Organize with Joy
The first step is to define the goal of the contest: Do
you want to collect a broad range of ideas or specific
business plans? Is there a focus on a certain issue area
or social problem? Will there be a physical event or price
giving ceremony or will it be online?
Next, design the competition process. Who will be
invited to participate? Will it be regionally limited, will
you need to hold a number of rounds (i.e. Semi-finals)?
Who makes the decisions, a jury or a community?
Now, it is time to approach possible jury members and
sponsors. Make sure all external communication is very
professional and be realistic about who you contact and
what you expect them to contribute.
Establish a web presence. This should happen as you
are reaching out to sponsors. Having an established
web presence will increase the likelihood of their
Start promoting the competition. Be very specific about
what you expect the proposals to address and what
they should include. Maybe ask for executive summaries
first, then request more detailed proposals for the later
Go through your pre-designed process of selecting and
awarding proposals, stay in constant communication
with all stakeholders and make sure to have fun while
your at it!
Idea Competition Checklist
One World Convention on Social Business
– perspectives for tomorrow’s world
Can you imagine 50 international students in a little
south Bavarian town learning about social business?
I couldn’t, until the end of 2009, when Nobel Peace
Prize Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus came to
our little university town Passau to give a talk about
social business and microfinance. I was totally struck
by the concept and I couldn’t stop thinking of it
anymore. Why is social business not known among
students, why did I learn about it just then? To change
all this I decided to organize a conference to make
social business more popular among students all over
Europe. Since I am a member of the European student
organization AEGEE, I have access to a great network,
with a huge group of young people eager to learn and
experience. I believe that this is the perfect audience,
because it is young people like us shaping the future in
which social business should definitely be a part of. I
found a wonderful team of 20 people who worked with
a lot of passion for one year to finally implement our
conference: “One World Convention on Social Business-
perspectives for tomorrow’s world”.
We had a very interactive approach in order to make the
participants learn not only by listening to expert talks
(e.g. “The Social Business Movement, Grameen Creative
Lab“) but also getting active in workshops like “How to
realize and run a Social Business?” by Angela Lawaldt
from Bonventure. On a Best Practice Fair all university
students could inform themselves about different social
business and microfinance ideas like the GLS Bank,
Bonergie, Oikocredit, Social Business City or Baola. We
also formed project groups for the participants who
could think about their own social business ideas,
which were presented at the end of the convention.
Throughout the conference there was a spirit of great
motivation and commitment and I think we could meet
our objective to make social business more known on an
international level. I know from several participants that
they became active in the social business field, doing
research for papers on microfinance, working on their
own social business idea or taking part at the Vision
Summit in Potsdam. Until the implementation we had
to work ourselves into the mind and matter of social
business and did a lot of research in the internet and
reading texts by Muhammad Yunus.
Actually we learned while planning. This was a great
motivation to always move one, because we often
struggled to find good funding and partners: The
obstacle was that social business wasn’t known well
enough to support it without doubts. Luckily we
were able to convince our university, other university
groups and local sponsors and even took a funding
from the EU’s “Youth in Action Program”. In the end
everybody saw that social business matters and should
be promoted. During this year my team and I learned
so much about social business but of course you
should always go on. Now, with my bachelor degree
coming to an end I plan to get active in the field of
sustainable lifestyles, the post growth society and also
social business. I am still hooked and I hope that the
“One World Convention on Social Business” had the
same effect on all the participants. Even though the
conference is already over our webpage is still active as
a learning platform. Feel free to download our reader
and other information- because sharing is caring:
Author: Friederike Korte, Project Manager, One World
Convention on Social Business
Lobby for Social Business
Different from the suggestions made in the “Spread
the idea” section you now are in a good position to
influence your university’s politics regarding social
business in a positive way. Having organized a
conference, a workshop and/or an idea competition,
you have a network, and maybe valuable contacts
to the industry, within the university or to other
universities, and public authorities. This community
strengthens your credibility and will support your future
actions. Now you have diverse opportunities to bring
social business to the next level. You can support
your university in gaining reputation in the field. That
can happen through an important regular event, such
as an annual large-scale social business conference,
through establishing a curriculum incorporating
social business or developing a social business master
or MBA. Social business should not be missing from any
university’s teaching portfolio, so if it is not yet taught
at your university go talk to the relevant Management,
Economics, Public Policy (or from another related
field) Professor and lobby them to teach about social
You can represent the students’ voice and actively bring
in their priorities to provoke change in your university’s
agenda. You can always argue that there is an ethical,
ecological and social demand for social business
becoming a part of academic teaching. Apart from
that, students want to learn about social business.
More and more social business university activities
are shaping up globally and the students’ interest and
engagement is an important part of this movement.
Other arguments you can put forward are that social
business is a growing business sector whose relevance
for all businesses will increase significantly in the near
future. And educating social business is a great way to
teach about entrepreneurship and business challenges
in a new and innovative framework and to bring in a
Lobby for Social Business
Spot other Professors familiar with social and
environmental topics and start the social business
conversation with them. Spot leaders who like
innovation and new topics and expand your network to
your university’s decision making bodies.
Ask for your university’s support to organize student
field trips to social business projects or to join national
and international conferences. You may also ask one of
your professors to actively or passively participate in
social business events such as the GSBS and the related
Academia Meeting. Initiate volunteer and exchange
programs with established social businesses.
Connect the practitioners, students, academics,
industrial representatives of the social business network
you established. In that way, they can continue the
dialogue and launch projects.
Now it is time to approach possible sponsors for a
broader range of social business events or the launch of
social business initiatives. These steps should be guided
by senior members of the department and ideally the
President of your university. If they ask for your opinion
about social business, offer all the support you can.
Lobby for Social Business Checklist
Volunteer and Internships
One way to get involved in social business and to
contribute to positive social impact on the ground is
through internships and volunteer programs.
There is in many cases the option to do a full time
internship usually over a period of three to six months,
although some volunteer assignments might be available
even for a shorter period of time.
An alternative could be online volunteer opportunities
where you could contribute your skills and your
valuable time on a more flexible basis. Online volunteer
opportunities usually look for specific skills, such as
e.g. design skills, translations, basically skills and tasks
which could be easily done in a remote way.
Since there are more and more social businesses
coming up, there are many opportunities to contribute
to. Nevertheless, finding the right opportunity is not
always an easy task, since in many cases the relevant
information about open positions is widespread. As a
good starting point, check websites and especially social
media channels of all relevant social businesses on a
Again, networking and getting directly in contact with
social businesses is a promising way. As mentioned
before, conferences, workshops, lectures, etc. are a great
way to find other like-minded people and to establish
the first important connection.
Finally, taking the initiative is always promising. Do
not hesitate to send unsolicited applications to social
businesses you really would like to work for, although
this might require a bit more tenacity. Even if you
“only” apply for an internship or a volunteer program,
always keep in mind that you need to convince with
your skills, but also with your passion for the idea.
Your Own Social Business
One of the most advanced ways to get involved is to
simply start your own social business to tackle a social
problem. In addition, getting active and starting your
own social business is the best way to approach social
issues in your community. First steps in setting up a
social business are to understand the causes for social
injustice in your environment and develop a change
model: Ask questions and listen to people in your area
to identify concrete social problems. Be aware and open
to talk to people with biographical, cultural, social
backgrounds different from your own. Now become
concrete about what you want to achieve.
Brainstorm with others about possible entrepreneurial
solutions for the social problems you identified. What
you need is a very good idea, just think of all the
mediocre or bad ideas that waste money and lead to
disappointment for you and all your partners. Therefore,
you and persons familiar with the field in which you
want to get started should really believe in your idea
and you should have an answer to every “but…”
comment. Otherwise it might be that you did not yet
develop them very well. Make use of the feedback you
receive, re-conceptualize and improve your idea. Also
think about ways to visualize your idea with facts and
figures so that your audience easily grasps your aims. As
soon as you have your brilliant idea and a convincing
concept, be prepared for the challenges and constraints
you will face in the next months and years. Ups and
downs are a normal part of a start up period. Innovation
often means breaking down barriers that resist change.
What you also need are business acumen, a solid
business plan that builds on a smart and sustainable
approach, and funding! For funding and coaching
submit proposals to business plan competitions and
social business incubators or social venture investors.
If such conceptualizations have not been part of your
studies, take a class and read books about how to
design a business model and write a business plan.
Calculate how much budget you need to start your
social business and let professionals re-check the final
calculations and the business plan. Think of which legal
form is best to implement your idea.
A SWOT analysis is a good tool you may want to apply.
SWOT is a strategic planning method to evaluate the
(S)trenghts and (W)eaknesses of your project as well
the (O)pportunities and (T)hreats involved. Such an
analysis helps you to consider all positive and negative
consequences and effects that may result from your
The business plan is an important document that
you will need to find partners, convince investors, to
justify your approach and to be completely aware of
what you are up to. An investor can be a company, a
private person, but also organizations like Ashoka or
the Schwab Foundation that regularly support social
business entrepreneurs. Also think of other stakeholders
in the field, how are you going to deal with established
organizations, governments and other people that are
affected by or interested in your project. They might
become important proponents of your project and, if
not, you should at least have a clear strategy of how to
react on their actions.
Don’t do it alone, find persons you know and you
can trust who become your partners. Find mentors
like other social business entrepreneurs for advice.
Join conferences and connect yourself with other
entrepreneurs and potential supporters of your idea.
Contacts are already of value if they start talking
about your project with a third person or mention your
social business in a speech or workshop. Along with
the promotion of the idea, you should already start
implementing it. Depending on the social business
design, you may start your approach with a couple
families, one kindergarten etc. and then scale it to a
higher level as soon as you have attracted an investor.
Now, by the latest, you managed to transform your idea
Have a clearly articulated purpose.
Make sure the business model is sustainable.
Make sure that both what and how you do it are about
Don’t do it alone - Partner with people, build knowledge
& expertise around you. Be ready for tough 36 months.
Be innovative - Test and pilot new ways of doing things
Measure your results
Do it with joy!
Do it Checklist
What is The Grameen Creative Lab?
The Grameen Creative Lab (GCL) is a social business
GmbH, a joint venture between the Yunus Centre
in Dhaka and circ responsibility GmbH & Co. KG in
Wiesbaden. It was founded in 2008 by Nobel Peace
Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus and Hans Reitz, a
serial entrepreneur and creative advisor to the Yunus
Centre. GCL is designed to accelerate the social business
movement, in collaboration with an international
network of talented and dedicated young professionals,
entrepreneurs, companies, NGOs, governments, and
As one of its objectives, GCL aims to bring social
business into universities and create a social business
culture within academia. GCL pursues this aim by
introducing academic institutions to the social
business concept and acting as a connector between
universities which are an important part of the social
business movement. GCL consults universities on how
to introduce social business into their activities and
curricula and how to expand their social business
knowledge. Further GCL engages in joint initiatives,
which help create an entire social business environment.
The Grameen Creative Lab
The Grameen Creative Lab