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Social Enterprise Case Studies

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If any case is reproduced and used in a course please contact us before distribution. For a complete listing of case studies by the Yale School of Management, please visit the Yale SOM Case Studies Directory

Design and social innovation "raw" cases

Mayo Clinic

If we can test new drugs in clinical trials, can we also test new kinds of doctor-patient interactions?

Teach For All

How can Teach for America expand its successful model of education beyond the United States?

SELCO 2009

Harish Hande founded SELCO to provide solar electricity for lighting and power to India's poor. Having attained a measure of success, he must determine the future of his enterprise.

Project Masiluleke

Texting and testing to fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Free cases on nonprofit governance

Conflicting agendas for the future of a youth agency

Having avoided self-scrutiny for most of its sixty year history, a youth agency is forced to take a hard look at its future when finances begin to decline. The executive director and the board president hold differing views on the appropriate course of action, and the reader is asked to decide which position is in the best interests of the organization.

Consulting to a nonprofit board: Peeling the onion

Outside consultants to governing boards are commonly asked to clarify the appropriate roles for the board, executive director, and staff--who does what and who should. The "problem," however, is rarely what it seems to be to participants. Understanding the complex environments in which boards do their work is key to effective consulting and to achieving successful outcomes for a board. In this case the reader is challenged to "see" the agency in its context with a variety of interpretive lenses. 

Board development and congregational sponsorship

The governing board of a shelter for homeless women and children is dominated by representatives of the founding congregations. As the condition for receiving a substantial grant, the board has been asked to curtail its involvement in operations and focus instead on planning, policy development, evaluation, and fundraising. The reader analyzes the influence of faith on member behavior and the board's developmental stage and assesses the impact of changing from sectarian to non-sectarian sponsorship.

Neighborhood agencies, businesses, and the city: Boston Against Drugs

Boston Against Drugs was a partnership among the city, business corporations, and neighborhood groups united in opposition to drug and alcohol abuse. In this case, the reader is asked to analyze BAD as a collaboration, paying particular attention to assessing the role of the corporate partners. Readers must make recommendations regarding future funding options necessary to keep BAD alive as well as administrative and governance changes necessary to strengthen BAD's operating effectiveness. 

Governing board oversight of donor dollars: Foundation for new era philanthropy

The exposure of the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy as a Ponzi scheme attracted wide press coverage in 1995. New Era promised nonprofit organizations that funds deposited with it would be matched in six months. In this case the reader is asked to evaluate the oversight of donor funds exercised by the governing board of Menno Haven, Inc., an operator of retirement communities that numbered among the Foundation's major beneficiaries. 

Hospital joint ventures and conflicts of interest

Although Mapletown's community hospital is operating in the black, it carries a substantial debt load and its future in the changing health care environment is uncertain. A physician's proposal to add an expensive high tech service brings to the surface conflicting perspectives about governing board strategies and actions that will best promote the community's welfare. 

A governing board considers closure: A dramatic narrative in three acts

In this case the reader must decide how the governing board of a floundering arts organization should respond to a motion for closure. The case illustrates the unique traits that founding executive directors often possess, the limitations of un-involved boards, the dangers of inert programs and policies, the need for transformational leadership in floundering organizations, and the factors that may influence a board to consider closure. The case is presented through a play-like narrative of three acts. 

To be or not to be? Or, is it nobler to care than to be a part of managed care?

Associated Youth Services (AYS) provides a variety of services to at-risk youth and their families. In recent years its management and board have responded to rapid cuts in state funding and to the introduction of "managed care" in the administration of state social service programs. Readers of this case critique a decision process of core strategic importance: whether to redesign the organization's mission and vision to reflect a basic paradigm change in the external environment. 

Authority dilemmas on a board in a multi-tiered governance structure

Nonprofit organizations often struggle with the never--ending discussion of board roles and responsibilities. Who does what, when, and who should? In the case of St. Aloysius Care Center, the problem of role responsibility was exacerbated by an organizational structure embracing three levels of authority. The distinctions and responsibility were never clear, not just structurally but politically. When the local board, consistent with its understanding of its authority, initiated actions to replace its president/CEO, it opened a Pandora's box. All three levels acted as if they were in charge. 

Hope Network: Where do we go from here?

A faith-based nonprofit organization is at a crossroads after learning that its founding CEO plans to retire. The board of directors must now determine what kind of leader to seek and what implications this process might have for the future of the organization. 

ABC Childcare "My hands are tied"

Elizabeth Green is the Executive Director of ABC Childcare, a financially burdened nonprofit childcare center loosely affiliated with a local YMCB in Central Massachusetts. The YMCB's efforts to centralize operations had been costlier than expected, resulting in a newly imposed salary freeze for all educators and administrators. Dissatisfaction among YMCB employees was smoldering, and teachers were increasingly tense. Elizabeth felt that without the ability to offer even the most modest of raises, she could not overcome her teachers' waning motivation. Furthermore, she became concerned about the longer-term implications. Could she and her associates develop a strategy to re-energize teachers?

Other case studies related to social entrepreneurship

Founded in 2007, IBM’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) had become the largest pro bono consulting program in the world. The program promised a triple-benefit: leadership training to the brightest young IBMers, brand recognition for IBM in emerging markets, and community improvement in the areas served by IBM’s host organizations. As the program entered its second decade in 2016, IBM was looking for ways in which it could increase social impact while preserving the program’s other aspects.

On the edges of a warehouse district in New Haven, Connecticut, Amistad Academy, a charter school founded by two Yale Law School graduates, are challenging the conventional theory that poor educational performance is the result of low socioeconomic status (SES) by not only getting students on par with their grade levels in reading and math, but is pushing them to perform as well as the best suburban school districts too.

In 2007 the Guggenheim began considering a proposal for a new branch in Guadalajara, Mexico. A spectacular site, a healthy tourist industry, and a cooperative local government all seemed to offer a solid foundation for a new museum. However, the Guggenheim's endowment was not growing at the same fast rate as it had during the 1990s. Was Guadalajara a good option for a Guggenheim in Latin America? Or should the Guggenheim wait and pursue offers from other cities?

This case was produced through the Yale SOM Goldman Sachs Foundation Partnership on Nonprofit Ventures. This case examines the challenges of a start-up for profit venture created by non-profit parent entities. CostumeRentals, LLC has many issues to resolve. As a new venture, it has the challenges of profitability, operational efficiency, staffing, and sustainability.

James D. Marston, director of Environmental Defense's Texas Office, has been asked by a group of private equity firms to bless their takeover of TXU in return for environmental concessions. What should his negotiation strategy be?

Governors Island was a military base for 200 years. When the Coast Guard left in 1996, the island became a ghost town of landmark forts and houses as well as deteriorating outbuildings and playing fields. For some, this open land in the midst of New York Harbor represented an opportunity to build an extraordinary development. Others saw the potential liabilities. Will local, state, and federal governments make a deal?

Mercy Corps was known for its gutsy approach to disasters. While other relief and development organizations were scrambling to plan a response, Mercy Corps would already be on the ground with aid and skilled field workers. Although it was a relatively new player in the NGO world, by the late 1990s Mercy Corps had developed a reputation as a nimble, decentralized organization that was not afraid to take risks.

This case was produced through the Yale SOM Goldman Sachs Foundation Partnership on Nonprofit Ventures. In this case, Benhaven, an organization serving the needs of autistic children, struggles with the role of its consulting arm. This branch, called The Learning Network, seeks to provide revenue for the larger organization by selling its expertise to local school districts. But the organization quickly finds that there is sometimes a tension between providing quality services and profitability.

The Baltimore Fund LLC is a community development venture capital fund with 15 investors: foundations, individuals, a financial institution and a university. This case traces the development of the partnership from the perspective of the foundation that initiated the project. It looks at many of the decisions that had to be made to get the project underway.

Having pioneered a successful financing model for student loans, Prodigy also was considering other financial services that could make use of the company’s risk model. What new products could Prodigy offer to support its student borrowers? What strategy should guide the company’s new product development? Or should the company stick to the educational loans it pioneered and knew best?

William Bratton, commissioner of the New York Police Department from 1994 to 1996, presided over a dramatic decline in the city’s crime rate. Hired by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as part of a new crime fighting initiative, Bratton embraced the “broken windows” theory that had made him so successful as chief of the city’s transit police.

In 2000, Charles Best (Yale College ’98), a social studies teacher at an alternative public high school in the South Bronx, found himself frustrated because his school did not have access to many of the resources available in other New York City public schools. Best and his colleagues were able to secure basic materials, but they were unable to bring many creative classroom projects to fruition, because they lacked financial support.

This case was produced through the Yale SOM Goldman Sachs Foundation Partnership on Nonprofit Ventures. In this case, Benhaven, an organization serving the needs of autistic children, struggles with the role of its consulting arm. This branch, called The Learning Network, seeks to provide revenue for the larger organization by selling its expertise to local school districts. But the organization quickly finds that there is sometimes a tension between providing quality services and profitability.

Based on the idea that many community programs have some small budgets with which to purchase books, the FBMP was dedicated to stretching those dollars as far as possible, allowing programs to buy quality books in larger quantities than ever before while still earning a profit that would be used to support the First Book mission.

For Americans who cannot afford a standard home mortgage, one alternative to renting an apartment is to buy a mobile home. Also known as manufactured housing, mobile homes are built in a factory and then transported by tractor-trailer to the site where they will be occupied. They provide permanent housing at prices that are less than half the cost per square foot of regular “site-built” houses.

A nonprofit organization has established a for-profit venture to sell donated and discounted technology products. The venture is now profitable and ambitious goals have been set for the future. This case focuses on how the general manager of a nonprofit must develop a communications strategy to build sales through different channels.