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Social Enterprise: Defining Your Mission

Social Enterprise Mission from The Startup Garage

A key part of a company’s business plan is the mission statement.  In particular for non-profits and social enterprises, the mission statement serves as a constant reminder of the social aim the organization is dedicated to.  Writing a strong mission and corresponding guiding principles is a key planning step to keep your social enterprise on track during the various stages of business. For a social enterprise, the mission and guiding principles must provide guidance for tackling the tension between mission and margin.  Below, we provide a list* of the areas from which you can draw inspiration as you write your mission statement and guiding principles:Writing a Mission Statement that matters from the startup group

  • Employees: What is your role with your employees?  Are they a means or an end or an intricate part of who you are?  How does that manifest itself in your business and its structure?
  • Community: What is your relationship to your community?  Is it simply a place of business?  Could you move one hundred miles away without any loss of impact or connection?  Or would your community miss you because you were impacting it positively?
  • Environment: What will you do and not do to earn a profit?  What are your profit goals?  Who is rewarded when a profit is made?
  • Wages: How will wages be calculated?  What is your commitment to moving in the direction of a living wage?  What type of benefits are you committed to providing?
  • Governance: To whom is the organization accountable?  To whom are you, the leader, accountable?
  • Decision making: From whom are you going to seek input, counsel and advice?  Will decisions be made by consensus or chain of command?  Where will the buck stop?
  • Business Ethics: What will be the basic business terms by which you will conduct commerce?
  • Diversity:  Whom will you welcome into your organization and how hard will you work to get them there?
  • Personal Development: To what degree will the enterprise be a vehicle for personal growth?  To what degree will you seek to encourage spirit at work?  What about fun?
  • Advocacy and Public Policy:  Which social issues is the organization passionate about?  Will you seek to affect those issues with your work alone?  Will you be a public voice?  Will you seek to influence public policy?
  • Impact: How will you measure your impact and what will you call success?  What are you willing to spend on measurement?  How open will you be to the course corrections that measurement suggests?

An example of a company with a well-articulated Social Mission and a downloadable PDF of their guiding principles is Yonkers, NY-based Greystone Bakery, who strives to provide job opportunities to people who are considered “hard-to-employ” such as ex-prisoners.


*Lynch, Kevin.   Mission, Inc.: The Practitioner’s Guide to Social Enterprise.  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009.  Print.


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