Context and Concepts

The Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework

 Helping entrepreneurs drive greater social venture creation and innovation success 

The Social Venture Café has been created for the purpose of advocating, incubating, and supporting an innovation-centered, collaborative approach to the creation of successful new social ventures and innovation initiatives aimed at serving our local community’s most pressing social challenges, needs, and problems. As we looked at the history of entrepreneurship, we quickly came face to face with the harsh realities of the entrepreneurial startup journey; over 99% fail to attract the critical early funding and sponsorship necessary to support fully developing and launching their new venture or innovation ideas.Traditional Idea funnel Formula 8 19 2014

With failure rates of greater than 99% we quickly realized that there was no way we would be able to fulfill our mission and have the impact we wanted to have by simply creating a more significant volume of new social venture startup and innovation activities. As a result, we dove deep into understanding what entrepreneurial approaches and behaviors drove both successful as well as unsuccessful outcomes. The unique  insights and learnings we gained from our years of study and work (complemented by decades of personal experiences in helping lead a wide range of intrapreneurial and innovation efforts within the high technology industry) resulted in the development of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework which we believe will help every social venture entrepreneur or innovator achieve dramatically higher levels of success from their new venture creation and innovation efforts.

The Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework can be used like a compass by every new social venture entrepreneur to dramatically improve their ability to navigate a path towards success by helping them avoid the typical missteps that often undermine progress towards achieving success. Using the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework’s entrepreneurial leadership and associated innovation principles, process recommendations, supporting tools, and techniques will significantly improve the odds of securing the essential funding and strategic stakeholder sponsorship necessary to move their new venture forward on a path towards full development, launch/implementation, and ultimately, sustainability (and more preferably, operational self-sufficiency!)

It’s all about Innovation

“Innovation” is at the core of creating successful new social ventures and social innovations. But what is an “Innovation”? Simply stated, an “Innovation is an idea that is executable and actionable into value.”.


These innovations can be incremental or radical in nature and can be based around a single idea or a combination of ideas associated with such things as new or improved:

  • products   • services   • process improvements   • technologies or technology application  • operating models • partnerships or alliances   • organizational structures and alignments • client service delivery systems• approaches to improve solution awareness- preference-support-adoption cycles  • approaches to more fully leverage an individual’s, community’s, organization’s assets and capabilities to better serve the community’s social challenges, needs, and problems, etc.

As our definition of “Innovation” highlights, a true innovation requires that an idea be executable and actionable into value. A good idea that is simply not executable or actionable is just that, simply a good idea. Good ideas play an important role in the innovation cycle as they provide the “sparks” that produce the heat for the innovation process to catch fire. Every great innovation is surrounded by a lot of simply good ideas. Finally, “value” is all about the impact and outcomes that will be generated by these executable and actionable ideas (“Innovations”). From our perspective, “Value” is realized when an executable and actionable idea has a sustainable direct and positive “net” benefit on the community; where that community is defined not only by its members who are most directly affected by the challenge, need, or problem being addressed, but also by the community’s ecosystem of partners, service providers, and direct service support structures that are engaged in servicing these community challenge, need, or problem areas. “Value” is also about creating “net” benefits through the implementation of more sustainable (and preferably self-sufficient) delivery and operational models; models that can not only have a positive impact on the community’s challenge, need, or problem areas but can also meet or exceed the social, emotional, and financial results expected by the entrepreneur, grantors, funders, sponsors, and/or other stakeholders who have invested their time, talent, and resources into the discovery, development, and implementation of the new social venture and its innovative new solutions.

An entrepreneurial leadership compass to help support a journey towards greater success

Many social venture entrepreneurs fail to fully realize the full potential of their work simply because they get off to a poor start and quickly fall prey to a range of human behavior patterns that work to undermine their leadership and social venture start-up and associated innovation success. We believe these leaders simply miss taking and/or managing a number of crucial early steps that we believe are essential to dramatically improving the chances for social venture start-up success. The Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework (see figure above) has been specifically structured and designed to help social venture entrepreneurs more effectively plan and navigate their journey towards achieving far greater social venture start-up success by helping them avoid these early missteps.

the same old thinking and disappointing results

Before we move into an overview of each stage and step of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework, let’s get on the same page in regards to the basic Social Venture Creation and its associated Innovation Lifecycle phases. We’ll use this as a context against which to understand the progression and focus of your work within the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework as well as to understand where it’s useful to establish milestones around which you should have important team and stakeholder alignment sessions (i.e., “Journey progress reviews”) aimed at helping keep you, your team, and your critical sponsoring stakeholders fully aligned on the start-up’s progress and committed to its forward-looking journey plans.

Journey “Kick-off” Review

(Sharing outcomes of the following and alignment on the next journey review deliverables)

  • Entrepreneur/Leader Goal Setting and Self-assessment
  • Social Venture Solution Directions: Brief Creation (including; Field of Interest clarity)
  • Team Formation: Team Member Requirements/Needs Assessment and Team Member Recruitment


 Community Needs & Challenges Journey Review

(Sharing outcomes of the following and alignment on next journey review deliverables)

  • Community Need/Challenge/Problem Orientation: Segments, Size, and Chosen Focus
  • Stakeholder Analysis and Success Factor Assessment
  • Community Ecosystem Map (s)
  • Focus areas: Need/Problem Understanding/Analysis & “Day in the Life-Today” Stories


Concept Development Journey Review

(Sharing outcomes of the following and alignment on next journey review deliverables)

  • Ideation & Creation of “Day in the Life-Tomorrow” Stories & Ecosystem Implication Briefs
  • Idea Evaluation and High Potential Idea Selection Analysis/Outcomes
  • Concept Development, Rapid Prototyping (around Selected Ideas), Limited Phase 1 “Desirability” validation


Design Development Journey Review

(Sharing outcomes of the following and alignment on next journey review deliverables)

  • Reintegration of Concept Prototyping Feedback
  • Design Development, Early Prototyping, Phase 2 “Desirability” User Validation / Design Plussing
  • Design Development- Intermediate Design Prototyping, “Feasibility” Validation
  • Final Design Prototyping and Field Testing/Feedback/User-Ecosystem, Phase 3 “Desirability and Feasibility” Validation


Funding/Sponsorship Checkpoint Review

(Sharing outcomes of the following and alignment on Funder/Sponsor engagement actions)

  • Social Venture or Social Venture Innovation Funding/Sponsorship Plan (Venture plan) Creation
  • Funder/Sponsor Proposal Engagement Plan/Strategy & Next Actions


NOTE: While the above may seem reminiscent of a traditional “waterfall” model for driving venture start-up programs , the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework embraces and integrates a broad array of innovation and venture development approaches and concepts, including those highlighted in a number of other publications such as: “The Lean Start-up” (author; Eric Ries), “Human Centered Design- Tool Kit “ (IDEO.Org), etc. Leaders who follow the  Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework must continually ensure they and their teams remain agile in their work, while making absolutely certain to avoid prematurely selecting and fully developing specific idea/solution prototypes, etc. before it’s appropriate. We highly recommend that leaders progress as quickly as appropriately but yet sequentially through the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework’s first three stages (i.e., paralleling work up through the Community Needs and Challenges Journey Review highlighted above) before fully unleashing the iterative/agile oriented principles emphasized in books like “The Lean Start-up” and others. The first three stages of the Framework should be seen as truly “foundational” in terms of helping surface and capture critical information and insights that will help you accelerate and better focus your work throughout the remaining stages of your start-up journey.  

The phases following these include: Production/Service Delivery development and build-out phase, Market Awareness/Development phase, Operational Launch/implementation phase, and the Operational Ramp-up and Stabilization/Steady-state phase where the goal is to achieve operational stability and targeted sustainability/self-sufficiency levels.

While many of the core principles that underlie the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework are applicable across these later phases, the Framework’s primary focus is on those phases bounded at one end by a Social Venture entrepreneur’s  initial idea/inspiration/passion and desire to take deliberate actions to move forward and on the other end, by that entrepreneur and his/her team putting forward their funding and sponsorship proposals in order to secure the resources and support necessary to fully develop, launch, and scale up their new social venture.

Journey Toward Success:

The Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework

Stage 1:
At its center: YOU!

At the center is you

Context: As you can see, the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework is structured like a compass but with one key difference; at its center is YOU! This is THE essential starting point for your entrepreneurial leadership journey because “Success” within our Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework philosophy and approach is ENTIRELY defined by YOU. Everything that follows from the work you do in this stage will be influenced by, and evaluated against, the “SUCCESS” attributes you establish here. It is here that you establish the focus and approach to your journey as well as the outcomes you desire to achieve at its end. Once established, you’ll constantly monitor your progress and take both subtle as well as dramatic actions to make sure your decisions and progress forward stay on a course to support achieving the essential outcomes you have established here. You will want to ensure that you are consistently working towards achieving those essential outcomes in a manner that you feel supports the “quality of the journey” you initially desired to experience. We all believe that achieving the goal of creating a successful and sustainable social venture would be a big part of the entrepreneurial leadership reward but achieving that at step emotional or relationship costs might more than offset those rewards. We encourage you to always remember, in utilizing the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework, “Success” is defined by you and you alone. When all is said and done, you will evaluate your entrepreneurial start-up journey’s “Success” based on how well you were able to meet, and hopefully exceed your own “Success” measures.

Concept: At its center: YOU! Whether you are a social venture leader within an existing socially oriented organization, or a new entrepreneur we think it’s essential that the entire journey of discovering, designing, developing, launching/implementing, and sustaining a successful new social venture MUST be led by a passionate, collaborative, innovation-centered entrepreneurial leader. Furthermore, we believe this leader (You!) MUST establish up-front clarity around your personal mission, vision, goals, objectives, as well as the new venture’s teaming and operating preferences in order to efficiently and effectively take charge of leading the social venture creation journey forward towards “Success”; “Success” as measured against your own definition of success and not those measures that others have for themselves. You see, like any journey, success is ultimately measured in terms of where you end up (vs where you intended to end up), the path you took to get there (vs the one you wanted to take), and the experiences you had along the way (vs what you desired to have). By taking the time to reflect and to build a level of personal clarity around the array of attributes and measures that define your own model of “Success” you’ll be much more likely to take the proactive and thoughtful leadership steps necessary to drive your social venture start-up forward towards that “Success” and in a manner consistent with how you wanted that journey to unfold.

Stage 2

Heading North – The Right Start

Breakawy Innovation framework_Stage 2 _8_19_2014Capture

Context: Once you have established your personal mission, vision, goals, objectives, and new venture start-up teaming and operating preferences, it’s time to jump into the meat your social venture start-up journey. The north point of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework, “The Right Start”, represents Stage 2 of the Social Venture Start-up Framework and it’s here you’ll continue building the strong foundation that will support accelerating and focusing your social venture start-up journey towards success. Within this stage, you’ll be working to more clearly define your “Field of Interest” focus as well as the profile of the “Winning Team” you’ll recruit and bring on board to best support the work ahead of the start-up on its journey towards success.  Let’s take a look at the two major steps within this stage: “Field of Interest” and “Winning Team”.

 Stage 2 : Step 1

Establishing Your Field Of Interest


Concept:  The Field of Interest step is all about bringing focus and clarity to the community segments and the social challenges, needs, or problems of those segments that the social venture will be setting off to address. The goal of this step of Stage 2 is to bring more specificity to the areas of the community that you’ll focus as well as the needs, challenges, or problems that you are deeply interested in and passionate about creating solutions for within those segments. Similar to the story-line of the Three Little Bears, in this step you’re looking to define your community segment a community segment challenge, need, or problem focus areas in a way that is not too wide, not too narrow, but instead, just right!

You might also find that by working through this step it will help refocus some of the initial energy and momentum you (a passionate social venture entrepreneur) are bringing into the new social venture start-up efforts. It’s not unusual to see start-up leaders initially set off on a social venture start-up path because they’ve had a specific personal experience with a community social challenge, need, or problem. In addition, it’s not unusual for these entrepreneurs to already have an exciting idea (or kernel of an idea) around which they feel passionate about in terms of its ability to help to solve these challenges, needs or problems. While this passion and energy should be seen as a positive thing, if it causes a leader to prematurely lock into a specific need/challenge/problem definition and/or solution it can later turn into a painful and expensive learning lesson that undermines the ability of the team to find a better and more impactful community focus and to develop an even more exciting social venture solution into reality.  The goal here is to channel this energy as might be necessary in order to ensure the social venture start-up’s journey, at this point, is defined in terms of a “clear direction and outcome” vs “specificdestination and means of getting to that destination”.

Stage 2 : Step 2

Building Your Winning Team


Concept:  The Winning Team step is all about putting a diverse (e.g., knowledge, skills, experiences, perspectives) and collaborative team in place to more effectively support the process of discovering, creating, and launching a truly great new social venture start-up. Much has been written about the need for, and the power of, diverse and collaborative teams. The Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework is purposely designed to promote putting such a team in place early in the social venture start-up journey. Without this team in place early, an entrepreneurial social venture start-up leader will have taken a common misstep that often leads to more unnecessarily expensive and painful learning lessons that can undermine or limit the overall success of an entrepreneur’s work. Simply put, without the right team engaged early in the social venture start-up journey, as the start-up’s leader, you’d be heading down the challenging start-up path half blind and less than fully provisioned to reach your destination.

  Stage 3

Heading West: The Right Goals To Guide Your Journey

Breakaway Innovation Framework_Satge 3_8 19 2014

Context: The next stage in the Social Venture Start-up journey is focused on establishing a collective team understanding of The Right Goals around which your social venture start-up efforts must stay focused.  In this stage, you and your team will progress through two steps: 1)  Building  a Common Orientation to , a) the community’s range of existing needs, challenges, and problems, b) the community’s current solutions and delivery organizations, c) community’s eco-system of stakeholders  and stakeholder organizations that play a part in serving the community and who you’ll need to be aware of and work closely with in order to successfully achieve your mission, vision, goals, and objectives, and  2) understanding the community’s Stakeholder Objectives; identifying and understanding the objectives of the community stakeholders whose support and sponsorship is desired, and in some cases essential, to supporting your start-up success. While you’ll l work to identify the full range of stakeholder groups throughout the community, you’ll pay special attention to fully understanding and embracing the realities of how, and under what conditions, the most critical of these stakeholders would most likely offer up their direct support and sponsorship.

 Stage 3 : Step 1

Building A Common Understanding Of Your Field Of Interest


Concept:   During the Common Orientation step you and your team will be leveraging a range of resources to build a shared awareness and understanding of the field of interest you’ve chosen to focus on. Think of this as the background research aimed at developing a collective view and understanding of the community challenges, needs, and problems that fall within your community segment area of focus and around which you’ll be working to discover, create, build, and introduce new solutions as part of your social venture start-up.

Stage 3 : Step 2

Understanding Your Stakeholders’ Objectives & Interests


Concept:  In the “Stakeholder Objectives” step, you and your team’s primary objective is to identify the key stakeholders existing within and around your Filed of Interest with a focus on identifying the range of its stakeholders: “Essential”, “Strategic”, “Important” and “other” stakeholders that exist throughout your Community and its ecosystem. You will ‘ pay particular attention identifying and understanding those “Essential” stakeholders who represent the potential funders and sponsors you’ll be approaching to secure the time, talent, and resource support that might be needed to move your new social venture start-up. In simple terms, at the end of your Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework journey, you’ll be pitching your new social venture proposal to a set of targeted funding and sponsorship stakeholders with a goal of securing the commitment and support necessary to move your new social venture start-up forward into the next phase of its realization; full development, launch, and scale-up to steady-state operational sustainability and self-sufficiency. If you fail to secure this funding and sponsorship commitment, your new social venture creation journey is over! As we highlighted earlier, in the commercial venture capital world, 995 out of every 1000 proposals (>99%) fail to gain the funding and sponsorship commitments they need to continue their work beyond that which was only possible, in most cases, through the support of friends, family, and the founder. Creating clarity around your Essential stakeholders’ interests and objectives at this stage of your start-up journey will help improve the quality of the solutions you decide to pursue and the plans and proposals that you’ll put forward; significantly increasing your odds of achieving funding and sponsorship success.

Stage 4

Heading South – Discovering And Pursuing The Right Idea

Breakaway Innovation Framework_Stage 4_8 19 2014

Context: The next stage of your social venture creation and  innovation journey takes you and your team through three distinct steps: 1)  Empathic Marketing; building a truly empathic understanding of your targeted challenge, need, problem area and those individuals and groups being directly or indirectly impacted, 2) Ideation Magic: generating an unbounded set of  ideas that represent a range of  core product/service/operating model/etc. solutions that appear promising in regards to  positively addressing  the  challenges, need, and problems identified during the Empathic Marketing step, and 3)  Filter & Select: culling through those solution ideas in a thoughtful and pragmatic way to  identify the most promising ideas,  to rapidly prototype  those ideas, to collect initial feedback/validation on those solution ideas, and  ultimately, to select the most promising  one or two of these solution ideas  to take forward into a deeper feedback, validation, and iterative design development cycle of work

Stage 4 : Step 1

Inspiration – An Empathic Understanding Of “A Day In The Life”


Concept: The first step in this stage is absolutely critical to the discovery and formation of the core solution ideas and innovations that will eventually be at the heart of your new social venture or innovation program, . It’s here where you and your team take an empathic marketing approach to developing a deep understanding of the “day in the life” realities of those in the community touched by the social needs, challenges, and problems that are the focus of your start-up’s work. It’s also where you’ll build a similar level of understanding around those community members, groups, and organizations that are currently serving these of community challenge, need, and problem areas. The intimate and deep perspectives you and your team gain here will significantly enhance your ability to generate (in step 2 of this stage) a rich array of solution ideas; solution ideas from which you’ll later (in step 3 of this stage) select and then further develop as the solution at the core of the start-ups work.

Stage 4 : Step 2

Ideation Magic – Envisioning  New “Day In The Life” Possibilities

Stage 4-step1

Concept: The second step within the “Right Idea” stage of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework, “Ideation Magic”, is all about generating a wide array of solution ideas to address the challenges, needs, and problems identified and more contextually understood through the empathic marketing work you will have just completed in step 1 of this stage. This rich pool of ideas will provide you and your team with the raw material from which to identify and further develop a small subset of those ideas that are seen as having the highest potential in regards to securing external funding and sponsorship while also being fully supportive of achieving the unique goals and objectives that YOU, the social venture entrepreneur, established in Stage 1 of your Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework journey.

Through the empathic marketing work in step 1 of this stage, you and your team will have identified a number of “personas” and “archetypes”   around which you will have created rich and insightful “Day in the life” stories; stories that give your personas’ challenges, needs, and problems contextual meaning and make their impact more richly understood and appreciated.  The goal here in step 2 of this stage (the “Ideation Magic” step) is to generate a broad array of solution ideas, each of which holds the “potential” of having a positive and meaningful impact on your targeted community segments and its challenges, needs, and problems as well as having the potential to do so in a sustainable (preferably in a self-sufficient) way. This step is not about filtering these solutions and ideas as to their desirability, feasibility, viability, or stakeholder attractiveness (that evaluation will come in step 3 of this stage) it’s simply about creating a large volume of interesting and promising solution ideas; Solution ideas that hold the potential of creating a new “Day in the Life-Tomorrow” realities for the Community.

Stage 4 : Step 3

Narrowing The Possibilities To The Most Promising


Concept:   Step three of the “Right Idea” stage of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up  Framework; “Filter & Select; Success Factor Fit”  is where you’ll take the broad array of blue sky solution ideas that were generated during the “Ideation Magic” step,  cull them down into a small handful  of high potential candidates,  and  then rapidly prototype them to begin assessing their desirability, feasibility, and sustainability/viability potential ideas and quickly boil them down into the top three to four that hold the most promise in regards to  achieving success in your new social venture start-up efforts. To do this , you’ll  go through three steps, 1) a quick solution idea assessment round where your goal is to come up with three to four ideas that you believe represent the highest potential solution ideas to pursue, 2) a rapid prototyping, validation, and rough SROI/venture plan assessment  cycle around each of the three to four  ideas you identified , and lastly, 3)  finalize your  selection of the 2 (recommended)  most  promising solution ideas to  take forward into a full feedback, validation, and design development cycle.

Stage 5

Heading West – Validating , Tuning,  And Selling Your Big Idea

new stage 5 3 4 2015

Context:   In this stage of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework, you and your team will be engaged in two key sets of activities; First, Solution idea feedback, validation, and  tuning  to perfect your new social venture ideas and  secondly, “Telling A Winning Story”  where you’ll be structuring and delivering a well-designed  and crafted proposal to key funding and sponsorship stakeholders in order to gain  the commitment and support necessary to move your start-up forward into full development and community launch of your new social venture.

Stage 5 : Step 1

Validating And Tuning Your Idea For Success

stage 5 step 1 impage

Concept: Feedback and Validation: In the Feedback and Validation step, you and your team will be focused on:1) further perfecting  your solution idea by developing more functional prototypes and using those to engage a range of users and stakeholders to gather feedback, tune the idea/solution (“plussing”),  and more fully validate the idea’s/solution’s desirability , 2)  fully fleshing out the idea/solution’s feasibility by completing a thorough development/launch/implementation requirements plan as well as associated risk assessment/mitigation scenario plans, and lastly, 3) assessing the viability of the new venture by, a) developing a comprehensive set of  new venture business/ development/ launch /implementation/operational plans and using them to fully flesh out  the necessary levels of    short, medium, and long-term  time, talent, and resources that will be needed  to develop, launch, implement, and operationally scale up  the new social venture, and b) ensuring these plans appropriately support achieving the essential, strategic, and important stakeholder goals, objectives, priorities, and preferences  that have been identified  as critical to achieving YOUR success and to securing the funding and sponsorship needed to move forward.

Stage 5 : Step 2

Seeking Sponsorship & Funding; Telling A Winning Story   

satge 5 step 2 image

Concept:  It’s time to move onto the final step of the Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework: “Telling a winning story” which is aimed at : 1) effectively designing and  preparing the written documentation that you’ll use to  support your ability to efficiently and effectively communicate your new social  venture proposal to others,  2)  securing a range  opportunities in which  you can present your proposal to key funders and sponsors,  3)  preparing an  appropriate range of engaging  presentation and  presentation support  materials  you’ll use to  deliver your “winning” new venture proposal (“story”) , and 4) preparing yourself and your team to engage with these potential funders and sponsors and to deliver these presentations in a highly effective and engaging manner; a manner  that significantly improves your  chances of securing their  support.


The concept of success as a result of team work

The Breakaway Social Venture Start-up Framework is designed to be used as a “compass” by any social venture entrepreneur that is truly interested in achieving greater success from their efforts.  For those of you who have joined us here at the Social Venture Café, we hope you’ll join us in advocating, incubating, and supporting the creation of new social ventures that help to better serve our local community’s most pressing social challenges, needs, and problems.  We look forward to helping support your success and we hope you’ll help other community members achieve greater success through your willingness to share your own “entrepreneurial start-up journey” insights and experiences.