Which problem are you trying to solve?

A social entrepreneur is someone who has identified a social or environmental problem that they wish to tackle. A good analysis of any problem should include the following: 

  • A clear description of the problem, including the people affected
    An understanding of the root causes of the problem
  • A sense of the costs to society, both monetarily and in terms of impact on lives and / or environment;
  • Who the stakeholders are (e.g. community, government, business) and what their involvement in the problem is (e.g. are they hindering or helping the situation, who could be a good ally)


In effect, this analysis is the social entrepreneur’s equivalent of a market study. It defines the scale of the challenge (= scope of the market), and hence the venture’s potential for growth and impact.

Case Study

SolaRise started because its founders saw the immense health issues causes by kerosene first-hand, while working as teachers in rural villages. 

When researching about the issue they found that 4.3 million people die annually because of diseases directly caused by indoor burning of fossil fuel (WHO). 

Also, kerosene is expensive and inaccessible for many, leading to a loss in productivity – children aren’t able to study in darkness while adults have to stop working at nightfall. 

Tanzania has about one million households without electricity: small villages, far away from cities and power grids. 

SolaRise identifies these households as the beneficiary group, collects data on how much income they earn, number of family members, number of children in school etc to really understand the context of the people who will buy and benefit from their products.


Write the answers to the questions below onto post-its and create a visual overviewof the problem.

  • Which geography are you addressing? 
  • What is the cost of the problem to society? 
  • Can you describe in detail the communities that you would be serving? 
  • Predominantly men or women? 
  • Age group? 
  • Income level? 
  • Which livelihoods? 
  • Can they access credit? 
  • How do they receive information? 
  • What is the magnitude of the problem? (Number of people affected, directly andindirectly) 
  • What are the root causes of the problem? 

Write down in one page or less the social problem that you are seeking to address.

Use the visualisation to be as specific as possible


  • If you have personal involvement with the issue, this will be appealing to an investor.
  • If you are addressing a problem that you don’t have any, or much, personal involvement with (particularly if it is for a community that isn’t your own) then it is important to show how you have “apprenticed with the problem” and really built up your understanding of the nuance of the context.

This topic has been insightfully explored by Daniela Papi-Thornton and can be found here.

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