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The Dialeb Hold-Up Example: Why Social Business?

Hello, I am Elsa Abi-Khalil Community Developer for MakeSense in Lebanon and the MENA region. I still live amidst the beautiful chaos in Lebanon because I believe social and environmental problems have solutions: business opportunities.

Social business is a cause-driven business. Social business is not a new concept; social enterprise sectors have emerged and developed due to the global economic crisis and an increased difficulty to access funds. As an emerging trend in the world today , NGOs and charitable associations are integrating the business model infrastructure into its organizational structure to reap the virtues of mainstream business revenue streams.

The concept of integrating social aims with profit-making is the main turning point and appeal, looking back to the high dependency and financial vulnerability most charitable associations have to a few large donors or fundraising events.

What is the solution that MakeSense suggests?

A real business model structure for social enterprises.

Hence, setting out values, mission and vision do not count independently, but a real social business model answers real questions. For instance:

  • What are the social and environmental issues you are trying to solve and what is the impact that you are proposing?
  • What activities inside the company are needed to deliver the solution? which activities will be continued, which ones will be added?
  • For who are you creating value? How do you answer their needs?
  • Where does the funding come from now, who is paying?
  • Which business units will be created, changed or dissolved?

Likewise, a real social business model map addresses the 10 areas of any social enterprise: social and/or environmental benefits, offer, clients/beneficiaries, distribution channel. client/beneficiary relationship, revenues, resources, activities, partners, and costs.

MakeSense Gangsters Sarah-Jane and Rea contributed to the organization of the first Business Model Hold-Up type in Beirut to find ways of turning Dialeb, the Lebanese National Diabetes Organization, into a self-sustainable and self-financing social enterprise.

During this solution-brainstorming workshop, the SenseMakers or participants firstly deliberate ideas on an inspiration wall, aspiring to innovative ways of making money as well as tech and business trends or sectors.

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Spider Web game: Gangster Rea and I planned an interactive warm-up with a paper roll to contribute more ideas on the inspiration wall. At first, the roll was thrown randomly to incite SenseMakers to come up and think of ideas. Soon, momentum built up and SenseMakers started to roll out ideas as they came storming from all directions. The spider web game also aims to show how ideas can lead to others and build within each other.

Secondly, the SenseMakers analyze the current social business model, where most of the times, the revenue component box is inconsistent, irregular, or empty for the NGOs, and then identify skills and expertise of the NGO.

In order to finally formulate the solution to the funding problems, groups of SenseMakers conceive a new feasible idea using a uniquely designed template for this specific Hold-Up session and NGO while answering a question as how to monetize the asset and expertise of the NGO.

The challenge of the Hold-Up shows itself when particular attention must be paid to crucial elements: the objectives and constraints making up the NGO structure today.

In Dialeb’s example, the president and founder wanted to absolutely keep all their awareness programs sponsored or for free, as well as keep all the testing for diabetes and the followup on type 1 and type 2 patients free of charge. This means that the focus of our solution was monetized through a different target audience or third party.

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Hence, during the Hold-Up, the SenseMakers have given priority to answering these questions, resulting in the setting up of new feasible business units within the organization.

Considering diabetes, attention to food and nutrition is central to the patient’s lifestyle. To answer this issue, Dialeb hosts several nutritionists and interns to be able to address the diabetic people with their needs.

One of the SenseMakers, Theo, also co-founder of the first Lebanese E-Commerce shopping destination, imagined a relevant business service by creating a coworking space with sharing facilities for nutritionist graduates to welcome their clients.

It is very important to note that the person who has diabetes is more liable to have a follow up on their food routine, consequently, Dialeb’s recommendation of nutritionist can prove helpful.

Based on the sharing information and the big data trend mentioned on the inspiration wall, Raja, an AUB student, conceived a plan to sell an anonymous Database to pharmaceutical companies that will serve as primary data for purchase and sales forecasts.

A word from the president of Dialeb!

Join us to our next “SenseDrink” gathering at BistroBar Live in Hamra next Monday, the 25th of January 2016!

If you are interested in joining our next Hold-Up, join our Beirut Hotspot group to stay updated with all our activities.

If you are a social entrepreneur reaching out for help or if you want and organize a Hold-Up to help a social entrepreneur like Sarah-Jane and Rea, contact me at

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Elsa is community developer for Lebanon and the MENA region;
if you’re a social entrepreneur or want to help one, get in touch with her at

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makesense est une communauté internationale de citoyens, d’entrepreneurs et d’organisations qui résolvent ensemble les défis sociaux et environnementaux

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