What does the term “social venture” mean?
Social venture is a term used to describe entrepreneurial activities that address two bottom lines: social and financial. A social venture develops a project, organization, or business that addresses a felt social need and provides sustainable revenue to do so.
Are there different kinds of social ventures?
Social ventures take many forms:
- FareStart in Seattle trains homeless persons to become chefs and kitchen staff. It operates as a typical restaurant but its purpose is to train homeless persons for work.
- An international example of a project comes from the University of Washington’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition, where a winning team from Korea proposed a project to manufacture self-powered, hand-cranked AM radios for use in rural Mongolia.
Another type of social venture deliberately pursues financial and social returns within a specific industry segment:
- Krochet Kids sells caps in the U.S. that were made by people in impoverished countries (e.g. Uganda). This provides jobs, education and business training for families in these communities.
- The for-profit business Overstock.com has an online segment called Worldstock, a market within the site that gives access to small artisans worldwide.
What is a social venture plan, and how does it fit into this competition?
A social venture plan is a systematic way of evaluating, planning, and organizing a project. For this competition, students develop their written plan based on the Social Venture Planning Template (PDF). Plans are evaluated by readers from the community who rate and assign points.
Student competitors ultimately present their projects at a table display event called the Showcase Round. Here they describe the project and its benefits in conversations with visitors and judges. Points from the written plan are combined with points from judges during the Showcase Round. Projects earning the most points earn prizes.
Is this an individual or team competition?
We encourage students to form teams. Developing a good plan requires a lot of brainstorming, research, and writing; it’s a big effort and having more people will make it more manageable. In addition, the Showcase is a multi-hour event and teams are better able to manage and respond to inquiries from the high volume of students, faculty, staff, and community judges who will visit during that time-period.
So, to encourage students to work together and seek teammates with a variety of skills from other disciplines, we recommend that at least two students represent each entry. Teams may have a maximum of six students.
What kinds of students does the competition attract?
About half of the students who participate in the SVPC each year are Business Administration or Global Development majors. However, a great number of other disciplines also get involved, including students studying Accounting, Apparel Design, Biology, Communications, Economics, Educational Ministries, Engineering, Political Science, and Psychology to name just a few.
Is the competition open only to SPU students, or can students from other universities also enter?
Yes, students from other schools can, and have, entered the Social Venture Plan Competition.
Who then should participate?
Are you a student with an idea to bring a valuable service or product to people who don’t typically have access to it? Do you have a device that could be adapted for underserved communities? Do you have a business idea that could raise money to fund social change? Then you should participate in the Social Venture Plan Competition.
The competition is designed for any student interested in implementing an innovative project that would address a social need. It’s a way to present your idea to people who may be able to help you launch your project.
What kind of support do students receive?
We offer a 2-credit course (BUS 3682) that walks students through the steps of creating a social venture plan. By the end of the course, students should have a draft of their written social venture plan. Experts in specific aspects of venture planning make short presentations during the course, then work with teams to apply what has been presented.
What kinds of projects are desired?
Projects may be very diverse in terms of social need addressed, product or service offered, or organizational strategy. Be creative! Here are a few sample categories:
- Nonprofits to address a social need (e.g., farestart.org).
- For-profit business to support a not-for-profit clientele (e.g., miir.com).
- Outreach or ministry project — local, national, or global (e.g., rainierhealth.com).
- Engineering device to address a social purpose (e.g., kickstart.org).
- Applying scientific research (e.g., benetech.org).
- Business venture that applies profit to forward a social need (e.g., Worldstock).
- Simple agricultural machines (e.g., fullbellyproject.org).
What are the program’s goals?
Our primary goal is to help SPU students learn how to evaluate and launch an enterprise that addresses a social need. Second, we seek to identify students who possess an entrepreneurial nature and nurture their gifts. Third, we want the event to showcase innovative projects and the creative students behind them to community leaders in nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The competition provides students an opportunity to network with potential investors, advisors, mentors, and business leaders.
What criteria will be used to judge the plans?
Projects will be scored and judged in four broad categories:
- The significance of the social need being addressed.
- The ongoing impact of the venture, since projects providing impact over time will have greater value than a one-time event.
- The likelihood that the plan can be successfully implemented.
- The financial viability of the plan.
Internal revenue generation will have a greater value in the scoring than grants and contributions as a sustainable income stream.
What do the winners receive?
The Herbert B. Jones Grand Prize is $5,000. There is also a $3,000 runner-up prize and three honorable mentions at $2,000. The Donald B. Summers People’s Choice award is $1000. We attach no strings to the prize money, so winners may spend it as they wish.
Where can I learn more?
Learn more from the 2021 Official Rules, by contacting the Center for Applied Learning at email@example.com, or consulting these resources:
Tutorials on putting together a plan, especially helpful with financials. Links to sample business plans.