Tools & Techniques

A selection of useful teaching and learning resources that educators can use in the classroom to inspire their students to engage with social innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Innovation Spiral was developed by Nesta (formerly known as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) to illustrate the various different stages that innovators and entrepreneurs go through when embarking on ventures and creating innovations.


Nesta Innovation Spiral illustrating the 7 stages of creating an innovation.



The spiral is made up of 7 key stages of innovation and entrepreneurship. These stages are very apt in relation to social innovation and entrepreneurship also. They are:

  1. Opportunities and challenges
  2. Generating ideas
  3. Developing and testing
  4. Making the case
  5. Delivering and implementing
  6. Growing and Scaling
  7. Changing Systems
When should I use the Nesta Innovation Spiral with students?
  • To conceptually illustrate to students the process of creating social innovations and building social enterprises
  • When students begin to explore designing a new social innovation/venture
Why we like it:

The Nesta Innovation Spiral breaks down innovation very clearly. The spiral shape also clearly illustrates how (social) innovation and entrepreneurship processes and initiatives are iterative and adaptive.


The Impact Gaps Canvas was developed by Daniela Papi-Thornton to empower people to develop effective meaningful solutions to social problems.


The Impact Gaps Canvas with guiding questions on how to fill it in.



The canvas encourages students to move away from the idea of 'hero-preneurship'. This concept refers to a motivation to create social impact, but by developing solutions without fully understanding the social challenge. This often leads to inappropriate or ineffectual social innovations. 

Instead the canvas uses a systems-led approach to social entrepreneurship that enables people to consider the social area and social challenge in-depth and develop an informed, meaningful solution.


    When should I use the Impact Gaps Canvas with students?
    • To support them generating ideas for social entrepreneurship.
    • To enable them to develop a better understanding of the social problem.
    • To explore what the best way forward is for solving a certain social problem.
    Why we like it:

    It is vitally important that students understand what exactly is the problem that exists before jumping in to developing solutions. The Impact Gaps Canvas is a great tool for exactly that, allowing students to map out every aspect of the problem, including the solutions that are already out there. In doing so, students can explore how they can build on the existing solutions to create collective social impact.


    Visit Systems-led Leadership to learn more about the Impact Gaps Canvas, Hero-preneurship and Systems Change.

    The Value Proposition Canvas was developed by Dr Alexander Osterwalder as a framework to ensure that there is a fit between supply and demand. The canvas aims to ensure that an organisation’s products and services are centred around what the customer values and needs.


    The Value Proposition Canvas with customer jobs, pains and gains, and the value proposition made up of products & services, gain creators and pain relievers



    The customer profile examines the jobs that customers must do, the pains they must face in order to carry out the job and the gains that come from positive outcomes in these jobs. 

    The value proposition outlines the products and services that can help customers to achieve their jobs, considering the gains that the services help to bring about and the pains they help to relieve.

    The Value Proposition Canvas can be useful when applied in the context of social innovation and entrepreneurship. The canvas can support students to consider how their product or service could achieve a positive social impact (gains) and offer solutions to a social problem (pain reliever). If necessary, students could do 2 different variations of the Value Proposition Canvas: one focusing on customers (the people paying for the product or service), and the other on the beneficiaries of the social enterprise (the people who will benefit from the social change who don't necessarily pay for or use the product or service).

    When should I use the Value Proposition Canvas with students?
    • To support them in developing viable ideas for a social enterprise or social innovation.
    • To enable transition from initial ideas for social impact to brainstorming a product or service that can bring about this social impact.
    • If students run into difficulty with their product or service idea, this canvas is useful in bringing students back to the drawing board to realise where the problem is arising with the product or service.
    Why we like it:

    The Value Proposition Canvas is adaptive and can be used in a variety of different contexts with a range of different stakeholders. In relation to social entrepreneurship, it's a helpful tool for students to understand how they can create positive social or environmental impact.


    Visit Strategyzer to learn more about the Value Proposition Canvas and to download a copy of the canvas.

    The Social Business Model Canvas (SBMC) is a tool used in social innovation and entrepreneurship education that was inspired by the traditional Business Model Canvas (originally designed by Dr Alexander Osterwalder). 


    Social Business Model Canvas with each box to fill in the different components of your social business idea.

    Source: Social Innovation Lab (2013)


    There is no linear way to fill in the SBMC. Users can begin by: 

    • Developing an idea for social impact, for example in the Type of Intervention or Social Value Proposition blocks.
    • Considering potential customers and what value they could deliver to them in the Customer Value Proposition 
      • (students can use previous work from the Value Proposition Canvas to complete this section)
    • Reflecting on the Resources available to them, such as, skills, time, facilities, resources.


    When should I use the Social Business Model Canvas with students?
    • It can be used to help students to generate initial ideas and map out each component of their social business venture.
    • To support students to expand on their ideas, considering if their ideas are realistic and what might need to change to develop a more successful plan. 
    Why we like it:

    The Social Business Model Canvas is a really useful tool that allows students to visualise their social business ideas more clearly and get a better sense of what the important elements to consider are when developing a social enterprise.


    There are many different useful and interactive versions of the SBMC.

    The original SBMC was developed by the Social Innovation Lab in 2013.

    Dr Denise Crossan (Swarthmore College, USA, From Passion to Action podcast guest) used MURAL to develop her own version of the SBMC, which integrates the Impact Gaps Canvas and the Social Value Proposition. 

    The Team Charter Canvas was created by Design A Better Business to support users in building successful team relations. The model enables people to agree on collective goals and values, and establish a well-balanced team while also respecting boundaries.


    The Team Charter Canvas to map out the structure of a team.



    This canvas is best used by allowing student teams to work in their own private space for approx. 45 minutes. Educators can print a large version of this (for example, A1 size) to allow students space to fill the canvas with their thoughts and ideas. If possible, supply students with pens and sticky notes to allow them to get creative!

    When should I use this the Team Charter Canvas with students?
    • As the first step in group projects (particularly interdisciplinary group projects)
    • In the middle of a group project to improve group relations, for example, if members are finding it difficult to work together
    Why we like it:

    Working on projects that involve social innovation and entrepreneurship is complex. Therefore strong teamwork is crucially important for the process to run as smoothly as possible. Social entrepreneurship usually involves a larger number of stakeholders than traditional entrepreneurship, spanning across a number of different disciplines. Due to this interdisciplinary nature of social entrepreneurship, it's important to understand and acknowledge the team's differences in knowledge, interests and value systems. The Team Charter Canvas is a very effective way to do this.


    Design A Better Business have provided a step-by-step guide on how to use the Team Charter Canvas. 

    The Iceberg Model is used frequently in the area of systems thinking, a topic that social innovation and entrepreneurship align with closely. It is used to help people understand social and environmental issues more clearly, at a systemic level.


    The Iceberg model with events, patterns/trends, underlying structures, and mental models.



    The Iceberg model is made up of 4 different levels. These are:

    • The Event level
    • The Pattern level
    • The Structure level
    • The Mental Model level

    The Event level represents what we can usually see in the system (i.e. the tip of the iceberg that is visible above the water). The other levels aren't as clear to see straight away, but are very important to consider as they ultimately influence what happens at the Event level.


    When should I use the Iceberg Model with students?
    • When you want students to learn about the system as a whole so that they can come up with well-informed solutions to social/environmental issues.
    Why we like it:

    The Iceberg model encourages staff and students to think much deeper about a social or environmental problem, before coming up with a solution.