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Making it happen!

Improving the hospital environment for children in China.

How will you build a sustainable social business model for improving the public hospital environment for children in China? This was the question put to the team of 15 selected undergraduate and postgraduate students from Tsinghua University, representing a broad range of disciplines including construction management, healthcare, science, business management, arts and culture.

The challenger Beijing Contemporary Arts Foundation (BCAF), is a Chinese cultural institution committed to bringing the appreciation and enjoyment of the arts to people, by organizing philanthropic activities, creating a contemporary urban think tank that gathers creative ideas, and connecting art with a variety of other disciplines. The challenge for the participants in this first edition of Leading for Impact in China, revealed at the end of the BE phase, was to co-create a sustainable revenue model to enable its Children Hospital Environment Improvement Social Initiative(CHEISI) to be scaled up in China, whilst keeping to the mission of the institution.

Reuniting since the BE phase in May, the 3-week DO phase programme kicked off on 4 July with the team and DO School Innovation Facilitator Ms. Helena Henneken, who took us through the DO school method, with the focus on brainstorming and ideation(see below Step 1: Dream) for the week. A briefing and in-depth discussion about BCAF’s mission, the CHEISI project vision, plan and development, and the expertise of BCAF was held on the first day with Ms. Wang Lijie, Chief Development Officer, BCAF.

So how might we start generating ideas? Helena took us through numerous toolkits and a variety of methods in brainstorming, drawing user experience maps and using the social business model canvas. Throughout the week we penned on multi-coloured post-its and shared with each other wide ranging ideas from the most practical to the most innovative (not necessarily distinct from the other), including ideas which appear to be long shots or require seemingly superhuman powers. The open process encouraged creativity, and inspired more ideas that we would have not thought of on our own. Breaking down the ideas into who, what, how, these were separately shuffled and picked up at random, and given to smaller teams to generate more ideas with the parts given. Remember to keep it to one idea per post-it.

An important part of the first half of the DO phase was to consult with experts first hand for their valuable insights on the spectrum of subjects involved. Towards our challenge, experts spoke on the topics of impact investing, social innovation landscape in China, key challenges faced by social enterprises in China such as secular utility values prevailing, lack of trust and ignorance of empathy, as well as best practices in fundraising and outreach. The invited experts were Mr. DongXiang Wang, Venture Partner of Yu Venture Philanthropy, CEO of Tsinghua x-lab Social Innovation Hub, Mr. Dongshu Shen, CEO, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation, Ms. Fan Yuan, Director of Philanthropy & Development, Beijing SmileAngel’s Hospital, Ms. Li Ding, VP, NPI and Mr. Rocky Chow, Secretary General, BCAF. After each presentation by the experts, team members recorded key takeaways from the session, noted relevant benchmarks and floated new ideas inspired by the presentation, which were then added to the wall.

In order to design an effective solution, it is important to design it with the stakeholders in mind, particularly the key player(s). These are stakeholders that are the most powerful (who could either positively or negatively influence your venture) and the most interested (where the more they are heavily involved in your venture, the more interest). All stakeholders can be mapped out in a 2×2 matrix along the vertical axis of power, and horizontal axis of interest.

Upon identifying the stakeholders, one can then analyse and design an approach that would bring value to them, or leverage on their areas of influence towards a positive outcome for the social initiative. In this challenge, we identified the stakeholders of BCAF, as well as that of the hospitals, for the CHEISI project.

What is the revenue model of your social enterprise? The three main revenue models which social businesses employ are: a) providing an essential product or service, that is provided directly to the customer, who is the beneficiary (e.g. a solar lamp sold to rural population at a low cost); b) the value chain model, where the bottom of the value chain generates a high income that ultimately benefits the beneficiaries, where the customers of the product are not the beneficiaries themselves (e.g. a handicraft manufacturer where women product local handicraft that are being exported to ensure they have high and stable income over time); c) the CSR model, where we look at problems that are not solvable by a business approach (e.g. operating a chicken farm in a village where profits go into funding free education for children at a school). Identifying and delivering a value proposition to your beneficiaries and customers as such is key to establishing a sustainable business model in your social enterprise.

What ideas you might have for the CHEISI challenge? Or, what is the social impact you want to achieve in setting up your own social enterprise, and what innovative ideas or business model might you create to achieve it?

Theodora Lai, Singapore

Theodora graduated with her bachelors degree in Economics in 2009. She is foundingmember and chairperson for two consecutive terms of the Young Women’s LeadershipConnection, a distinctive group of young women leaders, and a non-profit which aims to empower and connect young women leaders through mentoring. She was also appointed council member of the National Youth Council of Singapore in 2013, and was also Singapore Delegate to the Youth 20 meetings along the sidelines of the G20 summits  in 2014. At Tsinghua, she is co-founder and co-chair of the Tsinghua MBA Family Business Club, and an active Student Ambassador.