Supporting Systems Understanding
Before Solution Pitching

Another cornerstone of many social innovation and entrepreneurship programs is a social venture business plan competition. Many of these competitions, like most traditional business plan competitions, invite entrepreneurs to pitch in front of an audience of judges, and sometimes offer grants or social investment funding as a prize. Many of these competitions provide training on business model development and pitching, but are not often designed around a systems orientation nor do these competitions often provide systems tools and trainings. Many times questions asked in applications for these competitions are similar to those asked in traditional business plan competitions such as “Who are your competitors and how is your offering unique?” Imagine if all social venture pitch competitions or funding applications instead asked questions like this: “How is your offering building upon the successes and failures of other efforts working on the same issue, and how will your work improve the impact potential of other nodes in the systems?” What if these competitions asked applicants to describe or map the systems in which they work and how their offering contributes to shifting the system by contributing to the impact of the collective? The following examples of efforts to rethink business plan competitions and/or incentivize systems understanding highlight some possible options in moving from a competitive to an additive systems change contribution mindset.