I am always impressed and inspired by the sheer amount of collective brainpower working towards a better future. As long as I can pull myself away from Facebook updates long enough to focus on things I am actually excited about, I usually find myself stumbling across something that makes me wonder why I am just now seeing it.

The Business Model Canvas

Toggling back and forth between Alex Osterwalder’s The Business Model Canvas, Steve Blank’s “How to Build a Startup: The Lean LaunchPad“, and Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup forever changed how I approached entrepreneurial thinking. Anyone I chat with knows it will not take long for one of those books to come up.

The Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder


The Lean Canvas

What’s truly amazing is that since Osterwalder released the Business Model Canvas under a Creative Commons license, there have been amazing iterations of the canvas that fit different needs. Stumbling across an article in Entrepreneur magazine entitled “Skip the Boring Business Plan. Focus on This Strategy Instead” by Cache Merrill (Thanks to Pocket for the stumble!) highlighted a particular iteration by Ash Maurya entitled The Lean Canvas.

As I stared at the Business Model Canvas on my wall, and horrified as to why I was unfamiliar with this iteration, I vaguely remembered bookmarking this page before. Clearly, I never went back!

Changes in The Lean Canvas by Ash Maurya


The Social Lean Canvas

Of course! I always speak of the Business Model Canvas in terms of Social Entrepreneurship. After all, approaching your business model planning from a customer (or constituency) -based approach and working within limited resources is the reality for most dealing with social impact. So what do I find? The “Social Lean Canvas” is another iteration that attempts to integrate questions specific to Social Entrepreneurship organizations. Developed by Rowan Yeoman and Dave Moskovitz, it sure does look interesting!

The Social Lean Canvas by Yeoman and Moskovitz


At a surface level, the Social Lean Canvas adds in “Purpose” and “Impact” to anchor the entire model. Social entrepreneurs have the unique responsibility of working within the tension between profit and social impact so I find this small adjustment actually helps ground the entire conceptual exercise.


These days, many consider the act of writing a full business plan not only a waste of time but a questionable behavior all-together. There are too many “unknown unknowns” to warrant detailed projects of assumptions based upon assumptions. However, it is important to create a structure to articulate your vision and rigorously test and validate/invalidate those very assumptions.

For my latest entrepreneurial effort, Teaching Each, I am working on an abbreviated (10pp) business plan for entry into Temple University’s Be Your Own Boss Bowl business plan competition. I applaud their new decision to limit the number of pages to 10. They even list a Business Model Canvas as an optional submission document. Great work Owls! However, academia still remains a few steps behind the latest thinking. Maybe I will submit an iteration of the Social Lean Canvas instead?

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