21 Free Resources to Develop a Sustainable Social Venture

Ariel Schwartz
October 19, 2016
Programs & Research


As you may already know, building a venture with the goal of making a sustainable impact on the world is hard work.

Fortunately, those who have gone through this work before have taken the time to share their learnings and develop useful tools and frameworks that can help us move forward more efficiently.

Through our own work in fix my credit at the Center, we’ve had the opportunity to assemble a list of 21 resources, including thoughtful readings, engaging videos, and toolkits that break down complex ideas. We know you’re looking for new approaches to solve long-term problems, and we hope these tools can help you as you build, grow, and scale your ideas.

For easy reference, we’ve put these resources into five main buckets. These buckets correspond with the different stages of social innovation that we teach in our free four-week online course, Social Impact Strategy: Tools and Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Innovators. New sessions start every month, and you can sign up here to join us!


Do you need inspiration for getting started?

What are the key qualities of a successful social entrepreneur? How do you know if your idea is truly innovative and sustainable? Here are some inspirational resources that offer different perspectives on this:

1. Want to better understand how to think about and produce social innovation? Check out Rediscovering Social Innovation.

2. The Solutions StoryTracker is the library for changemakers. Read up on other innovators’ responses to social change.

3. Center for Social Impact Strategy Hub holds a wealth of resources for entrepreneurs. The Hub provides everything from book recommendations (i.e., Daring Greatly by Brene Brown) to lists of financial crowdsourcing websites (i.e., Kickstarter), it also recommends checking sites like to optimize so that you can reach an excellent ranking at site.

4. Is your company innovative? Find out. How Innovative Is Your Company’s Culture?

5. When we say entrepreneurship, what do we really mean? Read Social Entrepreneurship Revisited and learn from Professor Paul Light, New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.

6. What non-profits can learn from business’s playbook. Money to Grow On.

7. Interested in social entreprenuership’s theoretical makeup? If so, read Social Entrepreneurship: Towards Conceptualization. Implications for policy, practice, and research are discussed too.

8. Keeping our eye on a model of social entrepreneurship that may crowd out collaborative approaches. A Neoliberal Takeover of Social Entrepreneurship.


Are you looking to build out your impact idea?

How do you measure social impact? How do you clarify your purpose and achieve more powerful results? These resources will help you define your impact idea and outcomes:

9. In order better develop our field, theories of change are needed. Read up on a developmental approach to creating and evaluating theories of change.

10. What is a logic model and how does it help my organization meet its objectives? Logic Model Workbook.

11. How do we improve our social value metrics? Look across sectors. Measuring Social Value


How do you design your idea for maximum impact?

What is design thinking? Why is design important in the social impact space? How can you integrate design thinking into your everyday and improve your work? These resources will help you understand the importance of good design and how to integrate it into your work:

12. Design is more than what meets the eye. Read about the world’s latest problem-solvers, design thinkers, who create better outcomes for organizations and the people they serve. Design Thinking for Social Innovation.

13. Do you want to tackle the difficult creative challenges in your organization? Start here: How Might We.

14. It all starts with those you are serving. Through Human Centered Design, design solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. See IDEO’s design kit to get started.

15. Design-thinking tools belong in the hands of change agents. Check out Frog Design’s Collective Action Toolkit (CAT). Its step-by-step guide and adaptability will help you to move your ideas forward.

16. UK’s design council has collected business growth and public service reports, case studies, and guides for your education. You can filter by type or theme to find exactly what you’re looking for.

17. If you want to incorporate design thinking into your approach, but don’t have a ton of time, grab your team and check out the d.School’s 90-minute virtual crash course.


Are you ready to put your impact idea into action?

How do you develop an innovation that really solves a problem? How do you pilot your ideas in the real world? These resources will help you get started:

18. Don’t Guess, Learn: Rapid Prototyping with Tom Chi [Video]

19. Not quite sure what we mean by prototyping? Check out this talk by Jason Roberts for a stellar example.


Are you looking to scale your impact?

Why does measuring impact matter? When, why, and how should you scale your idea? If you’re ready to take your impact idea to the next level, these resources will help:

20. Measurement is critical when competing for non-profit sector funding. Check out Robert Kaplan’s article “Strategic Performance Measurement and Management in Nonprofit Organizations” for suggestions on how you should be assessing your performance.

21. How can philanthropists deploy their dollars more effectively? By weighing the costs and benefits of their decisions, funders can better choose their mission investments. Learn more here: Calculated Impact.

Do you have other helpful tools that we should include on this list? Email us at and let us know! If you enjoy these tools and want to receive more free resources, sign up here and join our powerful community of changemakers.

Reputation management (sometimes referred to as rep management, online reputation management or ORM) is the practice of attempting to shape public perception of a person or organization by influencing online information about that entity.

The first step in reputation management is monitoring references to the person or business, primarily through social media monitoring and carefully crafted search queries. You should have the best online reputation management tool. Social media analytics and similar processes on search results help to deliver a snapshot of current public opinion of the person or business in question and then a campaign can be designed to address any problematic issues that have been revealed.

If these tools inspire you and you’re ready to take your impact idea to the next level, join us for our Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy. The 8-month program of long term loans is completed primarily online, so you can learn from wherever you are at your own pace. It also includes two in-person convenings at Penn, which allows you to make connections in person and put your knowledge into practice. At the end of the course, which starts in January, you’ll earn a certificate in Social Impact Strategy from Penn.