Assessing Your Social Enterprise: You Have to Know Where You Are, Before You Try to Go Somewhere Else

Posted by on August 29, 2012 in Book Club, Entrepreneurship, Measure Impact, Non-Profit

I’m increasingly intrigued with the assessment tools that are available to leaders of non-profits and social enterprises. I attended a session at the Nonprofit Management Center at the University of St. Thomas/Minneapolis last week, and heard a presentation from Dr. John Brothers. Dr. Brothers summarized for us his model for organizational life cycles for non-profits. You’ll remember, I posted a blog entry a few months ago on Greiner’s approach to organizational evolution. I invited social entrepreneurs to take a look at an assessment tool I developed, based on the Greiner model.

Dr. Brothers has co-authored a book, Building Nonprofit Capacity, which also contains some ideas for assessing your nonprofit. He has some tools that will help you do this, as well.

Dr. Brothers also mentioned a nonprofit industry tool called the CCAT (Core Capacity Assessment Tool). It looks like a very powerful tool for helping nonprofits assess where they stand in terms of key measures of effectiveness.

So, my question is, “How applicable are these tools to social enterprises?” Yes, many social enterprises are outgrowths of nonprofits, and some social enterprises are the core of their nonprofit “parent.” However, I am increasingly hearing about the tension within social enterprises between the “business culture” and the “nonprofit/mission culture” of social enterprises. Which leads me to believe that the measures for success of nonprofits may not be the same as those for social enterprises. There may well be some overlap between these two sets of measures, but the financial make-up of social enterprises is likely to push those organizations to act differently.

I’ve suggested elsewhere in this blog that the Baldrige Criteria for Nonprofits could be used as the basis for an assessment tool.

And, there is that whole issue of cultures. I blogged last week about the work of Dr. Joanne Martin at Stanford University, in the area of culture clashes within social enterprises. An assessment tool might be helpful, in helping social enterprises understand better the tensions within their organization. As the saying goes, “You have to know where you are, before you go somewhere else.”

If you’ve used the CCAT, or any other tool to help your social enterprise function more effectively, please post your experiences here.

Paul Hardt is a trainer and consultant, with nearly 40 years of experience teaching and training people in a wide variety of settings. 

He can be contacted at

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