Thought Leadership: Building Positive Health Outcomes Through Social Entrepreneurship

After studying the drivers of poor health outcomes over the past few months, it seems like humanity invests half its resources in making people sick and the other half in trying to make them well again.  The challenges are huge, multi-faceted and complex. The areas of possible improvement are multiple, diverse, and often complicated.
It’s for this reason that RADIUS has decided to apply our work to the prevention and early detection of chronic disease.  For the next two years, RADIUS is accelerating ventures that help people live healthy lives. Applications are open now.
We’ve taken a deep dive to refine both the Trampoline Business Validation Program and the Slingshot Accelerator (which now includes a $25K investment in every venture) and are working equally hard on defining a health focus that maximizes impact.  In this post, we share a bit of the behind the scenes process at RADIUS.

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The RADIUS Way and Healthy Lives

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For the past four months our team has been diving deep into the complexity of the health system and identifying opportunities for social entrepreneurs to contribute meaningfully to chronic condition prevention.
Getting to the unique elements of a person’s health context is like peeling the layers of onion, but medical practitioners operate within very real constraints: a short window in an appointment to listen, diagnose, and act; and a narrow scope of available solutions.  The best solution is to avoid the problem by addressing the health risk conditions well in advance.
To unpack the complexity of healthy living and understand both the challenges and opportunities for high value interventions, we’re putting ourselves through much of the same process we take RADIUS cohorts through.
We set out to understand where we can be helpful in promoting better health outcomes through our venture incubator work. We’re driven by three questions:

  1. Who can we serve?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. What can we offer them to meet these needs?

If we are to achieve positive impact, our focus needs to be clear correct and targeted.  

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Finding Focus in Social Innovation

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To peel the onion methodically and ultimately find the necessary focus, we work through a four-part process to define a problem statement – the challenge we’ll seek to address by developing and accelerating a cohorts of health-focused RADIUS Ventures.

  1. Define the possible universe

Going into this we knew our focus area was limited to influencing behavior that addresses risk factors for chronic disease. RADIUS interviewed every healthcare practitioner and health expert that we could get our hands on. Humility and curiosity are key to unlocking critical learning.

  1. Identify leverage points where new, enterprise-based solutions can contribute

This meant understanding the specific places where new enterprise-based tools could provide and reward pro-health options. Factors like income, education levels, and other social determinants of health have a massive influence, but might require policy or advocacy solutions. An app rewarding a teenager for choosing an apple over chips is useless, for example, if that local store only sells salty snacks, which they stock because their customers’ educational and income challenges prevent them from demanding nutritional options. We needed to understand the leverage points in the health field that could be effectively addressed by RADIUS launching and accelerating social ventures. This alignment is key for any social venture pursuing both revenue and impact.

  1. Assess relevant strengths (and weaknesses)

Next we assessed where our unique attributes could be most useful. We engaged the RADIUS team to map core competencies, networks and previous lessons learned. This stage is about the internal work required to understand our capacity to operate effectively on a new project.

  1. Define qualifying problem areas with sizeable markets

Finally – and this is the work we’re currently doing at RADIUS – we need to pull it all together to define a focus. That focus needs to play to our strengths, target a meaningful leverage point that can be affected by market based solutions and exist squarely within our possible universe. AND it needs to have a sizeable market. For us, this means that there must be a cluster of emerging and early stage ventures seeking to address this problem, and that the market those ventures target must be big enough to sustain them.
RADIUS works to build the capacity of Radical Doers, and to help them to scale their solutions.  Without dozens of entrepreneurs grappling with the problem from different perspectives, we don’t have the cohort participants to form a diverse, high quality program.  
At the end of this process we frame a problem statement. The problem statement will guide all aspects of the RADIUS Venture’s program, as it should all aspects of any participating social venture.

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RADIUS Ventures Recruitment is Open Now 

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RADIUS is so close to defining the problem statement that will focus the work we do accelerating ventures that help people live healthy lives in the 2017-18 year. We are hosting a roundtable with health experts today (May 23) and are carefully considering venture applications to 2017 cohorts.
If you’re interested in learning more or contributing to our discovery process, please email the Ventures team at
Early stage ventures that are working to help people live healthy lives can apply to a 2017 RADIUS Ventures cohort now.