Case Detail

Case Summary

World Bicycle Relief: Social Enterprise Business Model

Case Number: 5-318-501, Year Published: 2018

HBS Number: KE1090

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Authors: Jan A. Van Mieghem; Vadim Glinsky

Key Concepts

Business Process Improvement, Entrepreneurial Finance, Growth Strategy, International Business, Logistics, Manufacturing, Nonprofit Management, Operations Management, Performance Measurement, Social Responsibility, Supply Chain Management


In this case, students assume the roles of FK Day and Dave Neiswander, leaders of the social enterprise World Bicycle Relief (WBR), which donates and sells bicycles in sub-Saharan Africa. As a social enterprise, WBR combines not-for-profit and for-profit activities. Starting as a traditional not-for-profit organization formed to donate bicycles after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, WBR eventually added a for-profit arm to facilitate growth and reduce its dependence on donations and grants. As a result, by 2017 WBR had distributed around 400,000 bicycles, primarily to schoolgirls, entrepreneurs, and health workers. As the organization grows, its leaders are interested in optimizing operations and entering new countries in Africa. What is the optimal distribution of WBR's resources between its for-profit and not-for-profit operations? How should it define the objective of its operations: should WBR maximize its social impact or the total number of bicycles in the field? Which countries should it enter?

To answer those questions, students are required to analyze the social enterprise business model. This analysis starts at the strategic level and ties into the operational level. If desired, this analysis can be followed by an Excel optimization of WBR's operations. The case contains historical data on the organization and poses questions that can be analyzed from the perspectives of a number of academic fields. It can be used in various types of courses including strategy, not-for-profit organizations, operations, and finance. The instructor materials include a prepared Excel model that can be used to make the quantitative analysis accessible to students without quantitative backgrounds, videos from WBR, and a video that shows FK Day and Dave Neiswander answering questions in the inaugural use of the case at Kellogg.

Learning Objectives

After analyzing the case, students will be able to: formulate the business model of a social enterprise, including the synergy between not-for-profit and for-profit operations; understand and evaluate the operational and financial advantages of the social enterprise structure for a not-for-profit organization; explain the operations of a global not-for-profit and social enterprise organization; and create a simple optimization problem and solve it in Excel using linear programming techniques.

Number of Pages: 15

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Operations

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Global

Industry: Bicycles

Organization Name: World Bicycle Relief

Organization Size: Small

Decision Maker Position: Cofounder/Chairman

Decision Maker Gender: Male