Acara Institute, together with 3M, has developed a program, called Sales for Social Impact (SSI), to address social venture sales efforts. Many social ventures have an existing product or service to serve their market but struggle to sell it. This is very common, as most of these enterprises are underfunded, understaffed, and work on challenging problems. SSI is an introduction to the sales role in a social venture’s business (often a non-profit).

SSI has just launched with the beginning of this semester, with seven universities (Baylor, DePaul, Indiana, Houston, North Carolina A&T, Southern and St. Catherine University) in the US, and Makerere University in Uganda in collaboration with  a St. Paul, Minnesota non-profit – Compatible Technology International (CTI). The kind of holistic and  empathetic view required to successfully sell and market products and services at the Base of the Pyramid and is useful to not only understand that market, but is exactly the type of skill set a sales professional needs in any market.

The SSI course is structured like the Acara Challenge, with teams of students. Rather than a business plan, SSI teams deliver a a formal Sales Plan. It is an introduction to those who have never encountered these topics before, and as a way for those with prior coursework in these areas to put learning into practice. Both fields are constantly evolving, and we encourage students involved to use the resources we provide as a starting point for further research and discussion. Although the syllabus deals specifically with selling Compatible Technology International’s products in Uganda, the ideas presented can be applied to selling any product or service in any Base of the Pyramid market. By the end of the course, students should have formulated original research questions, generated new market research, and used that information to create a sales plan for a real product, in this case a food grinder from CTI.

This program fits Acara’s mission of helping to provide practical solutions to create societal change. We are quite excited about it, as the path to impact is directly through an existing business. Future blog posts will contain more details about the SSI program.

– Fred Rose, CEO, Acara Institute