Blog-a-book #8 – by KK Tse

(Note: To know more, you may refer to Blog-a-Book #1, Blog-a-Book #2, Blog-a-Book #3, Bolg-a-Book #4, Blog-a-Book #5, Blog-a-Book #6, Blog-a-Book #7 )

Lean Startup for Social Impact

Strategies for New and Established Businesses to Change the World

Co-authors: Karen Lee, Wander Meijer, Catus Lee, Ivy Lau, Marcus Lim

An Online Course on Lean Startup

One of the core assumptions of this book is that social purpose organizations have little access to training on Lean Startup. What if there are good online courses which could help these organizations to learn and master this methodology?

Acumen Fund, has attempted to do precisely this.  But is it effective? Can anyone really learn and master this through an online course? I have not seen any assessment of its effectiveness to date. I am sure Acumen Fund will do an impact assessment of it in due course.

In the meantime, I would like to encourage our readers to try it out and share your experience with us.


Founded in 2001 by Jacqueline Novogratz, Acumen Fund is one of the most respected and innovative impact investing funds. Their investors include the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,, and the Skoll Foundation.

Its name was changed to simply ‘Acumen’ in 2013, in order to reflect the range of work they do in addition to managing the fund.

In the same year they announced their new mission statement:

“Our mission is to change the way the world tackles poverty by investing in companies, leaders and ideas.”

That is why Acumen is offering a variety of free, online courses to build capacity for organizations to tackle poverty and other social issues.

In what follows, I will present the course information on Lean Startup to impress you to take it. Alternatively, you may just go to their website:

On Online Course from Acumen

Lean Startup Principles for the Social Sector

Apply the innovation methods from Silicon Valley to social issues


In this course, you will learn how to test, validate, and adapt your vision of change to ensure that you’re creating the greatest impact and meeting the needs of your customers and stakeholders.

This course is ideal for experimenting with lean methodologies to start a new enterprise or build a new program within an organization. The lean approach relies on validated learning, experimentation, and iterative product to shorten product development cycles, progress measurement, and receiving valuable customer feedback.

These principles aren’t just for high-tech startups but tools for any innovator, especially those determined to solve the world’s toughest social problems.

What You’ll Learn:

  • How social enterprises and organizations successfully run experiments, pivot, and remain lean and innovative while ethically serving their customers and prioritizing social impact;
  • Understand how to develop a business model that can drive financial sustainability and social impact;
  • Use of business model canvas to map out key components of a social enterprise;
  • Create and test hypotheses about a social enterprise’s target market size, cost structure, revenue streams, and value chain partnerships; and
  • Uncover revenue engines to power businesses serving customers living in bottom of the pyramid markets

Format: Project-Based Course

Learning Tools:

    • 4 reading guides highlighting case studies and examples
    • 4 workshop guides to help you apply lean methods to your own projects
    • Instructional videos from Sasha Dichter, Acumen’s Chief Innovation

            Officer and Steve Blank’s Lean Launchpad Course

Course Outline:

Section 1: What are Lean Startup Principles?

    • Video: Introduction to the Course from Sasha Dichter
    • Video: What is the Lean Mindset?
    • Reading: Avoiding Wasted Time and Wasted Effort
    • Reading: What are Lean Startup Principles?
    • Reading: The Build-Measure-Learn Loop
    • Reading: What Lean Does Differently
    • Reading: Lean Principles for the Social Sector
    • Reading: What Lean Startup is NOT
    • Reflection: Check Your Understanding of Lean Principles
    • Activity: Developing Your Value Proposition
    • Activity: Uncovering Business and Impact Assumptions
    • Activity: Assumptions Grid
    • Activity: Hypothesis Generation

           Section 2: Customer Discovery

    • Video: An Overview of Customer Discovery from Steve Blank
    • Reading: Discovering Your Customers
    • Reading: 4 Stages of Customer Development
    • Reading: An Acumen Example from Pakistan
    • Reading: Getting Out of the Building
    • Reading: 10 Tips for Talking to Customers
    • Case Study 1: Watsi
    • Case Study 2: Frontier Markets
    • Activity: Identify Your Target Customers and Stakeholders
    • Activity: Build an Interview Guide
    • Activity: Conduct Your Customer Interviews

Section 3: Designing Minimum Viable Products and Lean Experiments

    • Video: Introduction to Minimum Viable Products from Steve Blank
    • Video: Pains, Gains, and the MVP
    • Video: Testing Hypotheses
    • Reading: Types of Minimum Viable Products
    • Case Study 1 : Saral Designs
    • Case Study 2: Markhor
    • Case Study 3: Fasal
    • Case Study 4: Kidogo
    • Reading: How is an MVP different from a pilot program?
    • Reading: Key Elements of Testing with Customers
    • Reading: Moving from MVPs to Experiments
    • Reading: 3 Types of Experiments to Try
    • Reading: Avoid Vanity Metrics
    • Reading: The Ethics of Experiments
    • Reading: 3 Best Practices for Ethical Experiments
    • Activity: Experiment Grid
    • Activity: Minimum Viable Product Design
    • Activity: Run an Experiment

Section 4: To Pivot or Persevere?

    • Video: What’s a Pivot?
    • Video: Final Advice from Sasha Dichter
    • Reading: Making Sense of What You Learn from Experiments
    • Reading: To Pivot or Persevere?
    • Case Study: Linkage
    • Activity: Methods to Synthesize
    • Activity: Update Your Value Proposition Canvas
    • Resources: Further Reading

About the Course Partner

Sasha Dichter is Acumen’s Chief Innovation Officer. In this capacity, he oversees Acumen’s work in Leadership and the spread of ideas. Sasha is also a noted speaker and blogger on generosity, philanthropy and social change.

I strongly urge you to take the course, preferably in a small group of 3 to 5 persons so that you could discuss the ideas presented and work on the assignments together.

I would like to hear your feedback on the contents and course delivery method.

Your feedback is most welcome. Please send it to


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