Entrepreneurial approach to non profits

Richard Branson sitting in a chair with plants behind him looking serious as he looks off camera
Image by Virgin.com
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 10 January 2020

The most successful businesses are usually ones that fix a problem and make the world better in one way or another.

At Virgin, we believe business should be used as a force for good and it’s wonderful to see charities we support like Big Change take the principles of entrepreneurship and apply them to the not-for-profit sector – something that our entrepreneurial foundation Virgin Unite has always believed in doing.  

Holly Branson on stage talking for Big Change
Image from Big Change

Big Change was created by Holly, Sam and a group of their friends to address some of the problems coming out of an increasingly outdated education system. Similar to how my business journey started with Student Magazine and protesting the Vietnam War, Big Change was born at the time of the 2011 London Riots, where the anger of marginalised communities reached a critical tipping point.

Big Change saw this struggle reflected in the UK’s education system, where your postcode is still one of the most accurate predictors of school performance.

They questioned the conventional model of charity, that often relies on unsustainable fundraising, and took on an entrepreneurial approach – finding individual pioneers and innovative projects that are tackling issues in education and helping them scale their ideas and transform the system. Big Change also has an appetite for taking risks and backing big ideas that haven’t been proven yet. This is an important element of entrepreneurship but a common hesitation in the not-for-profit world, so it’s great to see Big Change challenging the status quo.

Richard Branson with a group of cyclists at the starting line of the Strive challenge
Image by Adam Slama

Fast forward almost a decade and Big Change are now supporting 24 different projects that are tackling parts of the system that need the most change, and maximising their impact. This includes school exclusions, social inequality, early learning and teacher wellbeing. This ‘delegate and invest’ model means Big Change can be as effective as possible with the skills and resources they have and help ideas scale. Entrepreneurship 101! 

In essence, Big Change is all about solving problems, scaling solutions and constantly challenging assumptions so young people from all walks of life gain greater opportunities to learn and realise their potential in life. It also sets an example to prove that new approaches to education are both possible and powerful.

If there’s a better way of doing something, do it. Better still, if someone out there has already found a smarter solution, help them get their idea of the ground. This is how change happens.