Last week Erin and I wrote and submitted a proposal to the MN Cup Social Entrepreneurship competition. This is organized by MN Social Venture Partners. I’ll do an interview with their Executive Director in a future blog, so you can understand their mission.

Writing this proposal was a good exercise for us as it forced us to condense and simplify Acara’s rather complex operating model. I am going to share some pieces of the proposal, esp. sections that help explain our mission, goals, and expected outcomes. The section below talks about our anticipated outcomes.

Anticipated Outcomes

Outcome #1: Socially Relevant Business Solutions: Acara’s most concrete outcome is the production of a complete business launch plans (and in some cases, actual implementation of the plan), derived from a thorough gathering of data, analysis, input from a variety of experts and tested prototypes. Acara Institute will promote these business and will work with our students/industry teams and our incubation partners to further the business solutions on a case-by-case basis. One measure of success will be the number of concepts that move forward into incubation. Another measure will be the number of solutions that are implemented within existing corporations or social ventures. A third measure would be the actual effectiveness of any of those implemented solutions.

Teams working on the Acara Challenge pilot program have already created business concepts with the potential to impact 10-20% of the individuals living in the Mumbai slums. If successful, the pilot could be the basis for providing access to affordable, clean water for several million Indian citizens. The team that wins the initial Challenge will travel to Mumbai in June 2009 to conduct on-site research and to better understand the requirements for the next phase in launching their business. Acara will work with the team in India and, as long as the business appears viable, remain involved as necessary to help make ensure the business becomes a reality.

Outcome #2: University programs that prepare students: The Acara Challenge provides a learning opportunity that serves as a meaningful complement and extension to existing university programs. Acara offers participating universities resources such as class materials, guidance, international teaming, collaboration tools, business methodologies and industry mentors. Students are given the tools to “figure it out” for themselves—and then provided with access to help. These various resources combine to give students real world examples of the business environment they will face it over the next 50 years.

Outcome #3: High school programs that engage and prepare students: Our High School partner, High Tech Kids, has already demonstrated the ability of high school students to tackle problems in teams, look at a various solutions, and use analytical thinking to optimize results. The Acara Challenge for High Tech Kids is derived from Acara’s university programs. It is more structured than the university-level program and may focus on local issues, but the goals are the same: allowing students to work on real programs, with industry (and university) mentors, and to participate in providing solutions to issues of social significance. The anticipated outcomes of the high school program include: teenagers who are excited about careers in business, engineering, science and global affairs; a pipeline of motivated students entering colleges and universities; and a pool of potential future business and technology leaders.

Outcome #4: Industry access to solutions and business opportunities: Many MNCs wish to participate in “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” but don’t know how to get started. The Acara Institute provides companies and their employees chances to learn about these issues through both direct participation in Acara programs or by accessing to the reports and analysis generated through the Acara Challenges.

Overall, Acara Institute is balancing actionable business solutions vs. education. We are interested in advancing both outcomes, although the balance in our programs shifts as we move from high school (more education-oriented) to university (strongly oriented toward education) to business incubation (oriented toward tangible business results).