077, A 4-Step Process for Finding Your Big Social Venture Idea

077, A 4-Step Process for Finding Your Big Social Venture Idea

Where does the idea for a social venture come from? Despite what you might think, social venture ideas are not delivered from a mountain side written on stone tablets. With perhaps rare exception, social venture ideas do not appear in a vision. Arriving at a social venture idea is not magic, however you can accelerate the process by using a systematic approach.

The Desire to Start a Social Venture

If you’d like to find a social venture idea, you’re not alone. According to a survey by the University of Phoenix, half of all working-age adults either own a business or they want to start a business. This is even truer for workers in their 20s. Nearly 70% want to start a business.

To add to this trend, there is a large demographic of aging workers who are not ready for retirement. The time between the end of a career and the end of life is growing longer. Many people in retirement years are looking for a social venture idea to work on.

In another survey from Deloitte, nearly 90% of those surveyed want their work to be aligned with their values and their sense of purpose. I suspect that, because you’re reading this, it must be true for you as well. In fact, it’s probably true that nearly 100% of us want our lives to matter. We want to be connected to something bigger than ourselves. We want to leave a legacy. We have a sense of urgency that we need to make an impact while we may.

It is no wonder that you’re interested in social entrepreneurship. There is no greater way to scale your impact than to be a social entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs of all types are reshaping the world in profound ways. And, social entrepreneurs are taking on some the world’s most intractable challenges.

Finding Your Social Venture Idea

In this episode of Social Entrepreneur, I’m fortunate to be joined by Jackie Biederman. We talk about a process for finding your social venture idea at the intersection of four areas: competence, motivation, product-market fit and social impact. If you take a personal inventory in each of these four areas, you’ll find your social venture idea at their intersection.

Social Venture Ideas comes at the intersection of four areas


In Episode 68 of Social Entrepreneur, Jackie and I talked about ways to become more self-aware, including tools for understanding our strengths and competencies. The key question here is, “What am I good at?” There are several key competencies related to starting a social venture. You can find them listed in the Social Entrepreneur Startup Readiness Assessment.


The key question around motivation is “What is the social footprint I want to leave behind?” You are, or hope to be, a social entrepreneur because something has stirred your heart. Either a cause has inspired you or a challenge has broken your heart. What motivates you? What is that passion that will keep you going for the long journey ahead?

Product-Market Fit

Keep in mind, that there is a long and disciplined process to get to product-market fit. You can use human-centered design processes, customer development, business model generation and value proposition development to find the following:

  • Right Customer Segment
  • Right Problem
  • Right Solution
  • Right Timing
  • Right Price, Cost & Profit

However for our purposes today, it can be as simple as asking “What is the problem that I am solving and what is my solution?” Or as Paul Graham of Y Combinator says “Find something that is evil, broken or stupid.”

Another key question to answer is, “Why now?” If this is such a good idea, why hasn’t it been done yet? What is new in the world that allows your solution to happen? See this TED Talk from Bill Gross about the importance of timing.

Social Impact

The big question here is, “How big of a dent do I want to make in the universe?” Think about the challenge you can see and measure. How will it be different because of you. What is your theory of change? If you launch your social venture, what will change for whom?

The Four-Step Process for finding Your Big Social Venture Idea

So, here’s your four step process. When I follow this process, I tend to get away for a weekend with time to be in nature. I walk or run a little, then I write a little. When I’m heads-down writing this is the process that I follow:

  1. Make a list in each of these four areas: competence, motivation, problem/solution, and social impact.
  2. Look where they intersect.
  3. Put together a hypothesis – or ten hypotheses – for a problem you can solve and the solution you will create.
  4. Share these ideas with others – trusted friends, friends of friends and potential customers.

When you come up with an idea, let me know what you come up with. I can’t wait to see your big idea.

Culture Shift Learning Academy!

In June, I’ll be opening up a fantastic new resource for social entrepreneurs, the Culture Shift Learning Academy. You can’t enroll today, but you can sign up to be notified when enrollment is open. As a thank you gift, I’ll send you the Social Entrepreneur Startup Readiness Assessment. This handy tool is designed to help you determine where you are on your startup journey. It also helps you find areas to focus on for your development. Sign up today at http://tonyloyd.com/assessment .


Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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