Social Venture Sustainability Boot Camp

Author: Melissa Paulsen

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On May 15-17 the Gigot Center launched its first Social Venture Sustainability Boot Camp, a 2 ½ day dynamic learning environment at which individuals from six social ventures – for-profit, non-profit or hybrid organizations – at various stages of development came together in a facilitated workshop setting to address pressing challenges associated with fiscal sustainability.  The social enterprise organizations submitted applications, including problem statements, in early March, and the agenda was developed based on the common themes that arose from those problem statements, most notably, funding.

Social enterprise teams were paired with faculty facilitators, business mentors, MBA and undergraduate students, and taken through a series of detailed, interactive exercises as part of understanding their business model, including establishing a value proposition, identifying customer segments, market opportunities and competition, utilizing communication channels, and establishing revenue streams.

As one of the participants said, “I thought it was useful for every organization to be forced to think about issues faced by fellow organizations through interactive exercises. I noticed that while brainstorming on [fellow enterprises], they started coming up with ideas for their own organization.”  Another participant stated, “It reinforced many of the notions I had been entertaining, such as the need to be profitable and the sooner, the better; the need to research our customers' needs/wants/thoughts more extensively and soon; the need to develop our revenue sources.”

Another boot camp is planned for fall 2011 on campus and there is consideration being given to taking the boot camp “on the road,” subject to logistics and funding.  Those social enterprises who participated in May’s SVSB included No Parent Left Behind of Notre Dame, Indiana; Education Computation of Mishawaka, Indiana; Economic Growth Initiative of Haiti; Monroe Park Grocery Co-op of South Bend, Indiana; The Network for Better Futures and its business unit Better Futures Enterprises of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store of South Bend, Indiana.

For more information about the Gigot Center’s Social Venture Sustainability Boot Camp, please contact Melissa Paulsen at 574.631.7568 or