1. Establishing Your Mission /

1.1. Defining the problem

STANDARD:

We have evidence that shows our work is needed.

To meet the standard in full, you will fully understand the social, economic or environmental problem you are tackling. You will have up-to-date information from credible sources that shows the seriousness and extent of the problem.

To achieve impact as a social enterprise, there must be a problem that you are able to solve.

The world is full of big social and environmental problems – unemployment, homelessness, climate change, and so on – most of which are very complex.

If you don’t fully understand the problem you want to solve there is much more risk that you won’t make any kind of impact.

You might want to consider what evidence is already available on the problem you care about. You can improve your knowledge by looking at reports or statistics, and talking to the people effected by the situation. When sourcing data, try to ensure that the information is up-to-date, from trustworthy sources and is likely to be credible to others. Government statistics are particularly helpful as they tend to be collected regularly and consistently over time.


You can also talk to others to better understand the problem. Get answers to questions such as:

  • Why does this problem exist?
  • Who or what is causing the problem?
  • Who is affected by the problem and how many are there?
  • How severe or significant is the effect on people?
  • Is the problem increasing or decreasing?
  • How important is the problem to others?
  • Who else is working on the problem?

Remember that the problem you are looking to tackle is unlikely to be solved quickly or by any organization on its own. By considering the causes of the problem you might become clearer on how you can work with others as one part of a bigger and longer-term solution.

There are a variety of techniques that you can use to help understand the problem and its root causes. The Causes Diagram from the Social Enterprise Institute is one example.

Once you have defined the problem, and understood its causes, you are likely to find ways to solve it permanently.