Social Business Matrix
We recommend that you do this exercise as a group – maybe with your staff team, your
Board, with volunteers or with people you serve – or ideally a mix of all four.
The idea behind this exercise is that it is useful to consider what you currently do, before
deciding to set up new socially enterprising services.
It can help you to consider each of your current activities in terms of:
• its contribution to achieving your social mission
• its contribution to the financial viability of your organisation
Of course, life isn’t quite so simple – but it can still be useful to consider each of your
activities in this way. At the very least it should stimulate discussion about each of the things
you currently do.
First of all, draw a graph like the one on the attached sheet, on a big piece of paper.
Then, write down all of your current activities on post-it notes. It’s worth going into a decent
level of detail – but you’ll need to decide exactly how much detail, depending on your
organisation and how much time you’ve got.
Then, take each activity and plot it on the matrix, as follows:
• The more socially beneficial an activity is, the higher up the page it goes.
• The more financially sustainable that an activity is, the further to the right it
In other words:
1. Activities in the top left hand corner help you to achieve your mission, but don’t
contribute to your organisation’s financial sustainability.
2. Activities in the top right help you to achieve your mission, and contribute towards
your financial viability
3. Activities in the bottom right contribute to your financial viability, but don’t
particularly contribute to achieving your mission.
4. Activities in the bottom left don’t help you to achieve your mission, and also don’t
contribute to your financial viability.
As you add the activities to the matrix, you’ll hopefully be having a series of little discussions
about each activity. How useful is it? How do we know? Do we make money out of it? Is it
OK that that this particular activity costs us money? It’s the discussion that matters most
– not exactly where you place a post-it note – so don’t worry if you can’t decide where to
place certain activities.
When you’ve finished, take a step back and have a look at the matrix. Are there clusters of
post-its on certain parts of matrix? What does this suggest to you? Then, take each section
in turn, and open up the discussion:
Top left There are likely to be activities in this box which are important to you, but which
require funding – either from external sources or from surpluses you generate elsewhere in
the organisation. How secure does the funding you attract for these activities appear? Is
there any scope for generating some extra income through delivering these activities – eg by
charging people for some of the services? Or do you need to just accept that these activities
need funding – and keep making the case for them/fundraising for them?
Top right This is where you’d probably want all your activities to be! Contributing to
achieving your mission, whilst also covering costs/generating income for your organisation.
Could you build on your success so far? Maybe you could develop certain services, to
generate more income and achieve more good? And do some of the activities in this box
give you clues as to how achieve more – socially and financially – through some of your
Bottom right Activities in this box are likely to be ones which generate income, but don’t
directly help you to achieve your mission. It can include things like room hire, or income
from photocopying. Some organisations might use their skills to deliver services to groups
outside of their “target group” – but which generate income to fund other activities. Are there
other ways that you could use your skills and resources to generate income?
Bottom left How honest were you feeling today? This box is often empty. We don’t like to
think that there are things that we do which lose us money and make no difference. But it’s
worth thinking hard, and trying to be honest with yourselves. Many organisations have
activities which they’ve done for years, which were once well funded, and which used to
make a big difference. So you carry on doing them because it’s easier to continue than to
deal with the upheaval of ending the service.
Sometimes the most socially enterprising thing you can do is to stop doing something which
loses you money and makes little difference. The key is to stop doing it in an “organised”
way. In other words deal with the situation before a crisis occurs – and when you deal with
it, deal with it in a way that is sensitive to the people involved
We’d suggest rounding off this exercise with some discussion about what to do next. How
will you explore the issues it raises in more detail? You may also want to do an exercise
which follows on from this – the Opportunity Pyramid.
Activities here help
you to achieve your
mission, but don’t
contribute directly to
contribute to your
financial viability, but
Activities here help
you to achieve your
social mission, and
Activities here don’t
help you to achieve
your mission and also
don’t contribute to
your financial viability.