What is seToolbelt?
seToolbelt is an open content community resource center for social entrepreneurs. Its content—over 1,400 free toolkits, cases, essays, videos, examples, tips, podcasts, business plans, research papers, and templates—comes from practice and spans regions, sectors, industries, and business functions.
seToolbelt’s community focus is intended to connect and engage social enterprise practitioners around the world to work together on strategic, managerial, operational, and leadership issues related to social enterprise. Through an online platform, seToolbelt helps its users find practical resources; learn about social enterprise; share their own internal and unpublished resources, and collaborate to create new ones through programs such as our Practitioner Innovation Communities.
Social entrepreneurs need comprehensive practitioner-oriented technical materials to make their social enterprises successful, yet they face barriers to finding or accessing appropriate resources. seToolbelt aggregates both free and previously restricted social enterprise-specific resources as well as leverages internal and untapped resources developed by social entrepreneurs and hosts them in a centralized location.
The collaborative content creation and open content format also allows practitioners to make unique new resources or customize and adapt existing ones, and then share their revisions with the community fostering an organic evolutionary resource and methodology development process.
seToolbelt is the first global platform for collective problem-solving and knowledge creation for social enterprise that brings a grassroots practitioner perspective to the fore. seToolbelt takes advantage of social entrepreneurs’ expertise and experience to address widespread priority concerns and facilitates the production of tangible community enabled resources for the public good. seToolbelt’s community structure enables practitioner leadership, management, and ownership of the site, products, processes and decision-making and buy-in, ensuring that seToolbelt will be a forum for generating social enterprise best practices.
Why did we start seToolbelt?
Social enterprise may be a new field, but it is an old practice. Practitioners have long used entrepreneurship and commercial activities to solve social problems. Knowledge and experience at the grassroots runs deep, yet little of this intellectual capital has been tapped for technical resources. The alarming majority of resources, conferences, and networks available to social entrepreneurs come “top down” from academic and funding organizations and are rarely driven by practitioners themselves. Today, most social enterprise literature is devoted to scholarly theories and inspirational stories rather than strategic and management topics that could really help social entrepreneurs plan, operate and scale their enterprises.
We saw this gap as a huge opportunity.
Market research brought to light other problems; social entrepreneurs told us:
- Technical resources for social enterprise are extremely dispersed and search costs to find them are high.
- Content is too theoretical and not adequately grounded in reality.
- Resources that come wholesale from business do not account for the social nature, needs, or circumstances of the social enterprise.
- Definitions are barriers since many exceptional practitioners do not always define themselves as “social entrepreneurs” or what they do has “social enterprise.”
- Most social enterprise resources are developed-world oriented and not suitable for developing world challenges or contexts.
- There is a lack of customizable toolkits that can be adapted to different situations.
- Differing terminology about social enterprise is confusing.
- Many of the published resources are expensive.
- There is no central location for social enterprise resources.
84% of practitioners surveyed claimed that they would benefit from strategic and managerial resources.
Over 65% of social entrepreneurs create their own technical resources to carry out their social enterprises’ missions because appropriate resources do not exist in the public space.
A wealth of practical social enterprise resources already exists.
Internal resources are not often published or shared; frequently practitioners consider them “unpublishable” because they are not confident about their validity, usefulness, or content. These resources are the scorecards, assessments, budgeting worksheets, business plan, market research instruments, impact and performance measurement tools, and other nitty gritty, “works for me” tools that practitioners create themselves, because they weren’t available elsewhere.