University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Acara Spring Institute – Idea to Impact: Getting Your Social Venture Off The Ground

Do you have an idea to solve a big problem but think a social venture is using a dating app?
Do you have an idea for an innovation but don’t consider yourself an entrepreneur
Are you a potential intrapreneur in a big business or NGO?
Do you want to make a change in the world and make a living doing it?

The Acara Spring Institute is for you. This course is for anyone with an idea for social or environmental change, whether that idea is on the back of a napkin, in a detailed business plan or already running.

A social venture, sometimes referred to as an impact venture, could be a for-profit, a nonprofit, a benefit corporation or a hybrid organization. The legal structure doesn’t matter. What matters is that the venture has a financial value proposition (can you sustain and grow the venture) and a social or environmental value proposition (what impact are you having on the world).

There are great workshops in the Twin Cities on topics such as design thinking and entrepreneurship. This class, however, is uniquely positioned for social ventures, which are similar but distinctly different. How do you balance financial needs in a mission driven organization? How do impact investors evaluate a social venture versus a typical investment opportunity? How do you communicate your business and mission effectively?


Course Schedule and Content:

March 31, 2015 – 5 – 9pm – Who Cares?: Intro to design thinking and ethnography, business model and value proposition canvas, social value proposition and customer segments, defining your action plan for market research.

April 14, 2015  –  5 – 9pm – Do the Math: Refining your solution, creating business model canvas, establishing financial and social value proposition, defining and measuring metrics for a social venture.

April 21, 2015    5 – 9pm – Tell me a Story: Structures for social ventures, creating compelling elevator pitches and presentations, getting started with impact investors and crowd funding.

April 28, 2015 – 5 – 8pm – Acara Impact Venture Review Session: Selected class participants will be invited to present their venture at the Acara Impact Venture Review . At this review teams will pitch to an invited audience, including entrepreneurs, business owners, engineers and other professionals who will provide critiques and suggestions. No charge for this session.


Course Details:

Prerequisites: You must have an idea for a social venture in order to participate in the sessions.

Fee: Sessions are $100 each. For members of the Minnesota Social Impact Center, there is a discounted fee of $80 per session; contact Danielle Steer at MSIC for details. Attendance is limited so don’t delay! Scholarships are available upon request. Registration fee includes dinner and workshop materials.

Registration: Registration to these classes is open to anyone. They will not be webcast and do not earn credit at the University of Minnesota. We would strongly encourage you to take all three, but you may also sign up for individual sessions. Register here:

Location: Minnesota Social Impact Center, 250 N. 3rd Ave. #550, Minneapolis, MN 55401, (612) 318-2800

Instructors:  Fred Rose and Brian Bell, both of IonE, have taught more than 400 budding social entrepreneurs in six countries. Fred has two engineering degrees, spent 30 years in industry in various technical and innovation roles globally, and has started several nonprofits. Brian has degrees in Civil Engineering and Sustainable Development, and extensive on the ground experience in Uganda, Kenya, Nepal and India; he is active with Global Shapers and Gopher Angels. Both Fred and Brian have been involved in helping to launch numerous social ventures out of the Acara program. Guest speakers from the Twin Cities social entrepreneurship community will be featured each session.

About the Impact Center: Minnesota Social Impact Center is a new organization dedicated to increasing the social impact of individuals and organizations seeking entrepreneurial strategies to address today’s social and civic issues. It is a community of people who offer expertise, community engagement, access to resources and training all in a co-working environment. Our first major effort is to bring Impact Hub to our region as Impact Hub Minneapolis-St Paul.

Directions/Parking options:

Questions: Inquiries may be directed to Fred Rose at

Acara is the impact entrepreneurship program of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.