Financial Sustainability: the Numbers Side of Social Enterprise

Dr. Erik Simanis, Acumen

The Course

Course Description:

We believe that having a clear line of sight on how your social enterprise will reach a profit level required for scaling is a critical part of building a successful social enterprise and achieving the goal of broad social impact and transformation. It's an issue important at all stages of a new enterprise's beginning and growth. Together with Dr. Erik Simanis, the Head of Emerging and Frontier Markets Initiative at Cornell University, +Acumen developed this course on financial modeling for start-up social enterprises.

We believe this course will be valuable for social entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes, and at all stages of the start-up cycle. It is applicable to a wide range of people: aspiring social entrepreneurs, non-profits that want to create market-based project, impact investors evaluating a new business, and also corporate intrapreneurs who want to launch ventures aimed at the BoP market.

Key Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand how to estimate the reach and size of your business unit
  • Understand how to estimate the cost structure of the business unit, as well as the home-office-level operations and associated costs that come with scaling
  • Understand how to calculate the necessary price point and gross margin for a profitable and scalable enterprise

More questions?
Please visit our +Acumen Course Page for more information.

  • How does this course work?
  • What if I want to take this with my friends/colleagues?

This Course Is For You If:
This is an introductory level course.

  • You are a social entrepreneur/intrapreneur trying to make the business case for your venture
  • You want to understand the operational and economic drivers behind a financially sustainable & scalable social business
  • You are curious to learn the basics of financial modeling as it applies to a new or growing social venture
Check out course highlights »

More Information


Approximately 4-5 hours/week

    Technical Requirements:

    You will need a computer that allows you to watch the video lectures and provides the ability to upload all your assignments. This is an introductory level course. Basic financial literacy is recommended, but not necessary.

    Statement of Accomplishment:

    Subject to course completion (completion of all assignments), you will receive a statement of accomplishment signed by +Acumen.

    The Instructors

    Dr. Erik Simanis

    Head, Emerging and Frontier Markets Initiative at Cornell University

    Erik is an action researcher and authority on innovation and go-to-market strategies for creating and shaping new mass markets in emerging and frontier economies. His frameworks and tools are the product of getting on the ground and living in the very target communities and markets he aims to reach—from the post-Soviet communities of the Baltic countries, the slums of Kenya and Nigeria, to the villages of India and Ghana.
    A frequent speaker on innovation, social entrepreneurship, and bottom-of-the-pyramid, Erik's work is published in leading journals, including the Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, and The Wall Street Journal. His chapter “Needs, Needs Everywhere, But Not a BOP Market to Tap" appears alongside Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz's chapter 'Innovation for the BoP: The Patient Capital Approach' in the book “Next Generation Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid: New Approaches for Building Mutual Value" edited by Ted London & Stuart Hart (2010).

    Acumen Impact Team


    Acumen is changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas. We invest patient capital in businesses whose products and services are enabling the poor to transform their lives. Founded by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001, Acumen has invested more than $86 million in 77 companies across Africa, Latin America and South Asia. We are also developing a global community of emerging leaders with the knowledge, skills and determination to create a more inclusive world. In 2015, Acumen was named one of Fast Company's Top 10 Most Innovative Not-for-Profit Companies. Learn more at and on Twitter @acumen.

    +Acumen is a global learning community for social change makers. Be an effective force for change with Acumen's free online courses and chapters. Learn more at on Twitter@plusacumen.

    • Coming soon
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    • Language: English Gb


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