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Partners and stakeholders

Differences and impacts on a social enterprise’s business model

Whether we talk about partners or stakeholders, we always refer to companies (or individuals) potentially able to affect a firm’s business model. Yet, sometimes it’s not clear how to properly distinguish the two. To help you get the distinction right, we here discuss the main differences between partners and stakeholders in the context of social entrepreneurship.

Partners and Stakeholders: what is the difference?

Let’s begin with the first group: partners. We can consider “partners” those entities or individuals that have stable work collaborations with the firm. In fact, the two sides create a partnership either through a formal or informal commitment, in order to combine their assets on an ongoing basis and achieve agreed goals. Because of that, a partner directly contributes to the business model (BM), by helping design, develop and/or sell a firm’s value proposition. Obviously, a solid partnership succeeds in providing mutual value: this means that both sides (firm and partner) get value and evident, tangible benefits out of it.

partners and stakeholders

On the contrary, a stakeholder can be anyone potentially affected by a company’s business activity. Stakeholders get indeed directly impacted by the firm’s decisions, actions and behaviors. Even though they don’t have ongoing working relationships with the organization, they still have some interest towards it. Such interest often relates to the products/services sold, the people involved, or the social impact mission pursued. Keep in mind that stakeholders do not equal to “shareholders (those actually owning part of the firm’s equity).

How do they impact a social enterprise’s BM?

Broadly speaking, partners actively contribute to a company’s business model, whereas stakeholders get affected by it. However, in the context of entrepreneurship things can get a little bit different.

As a matter of fact, stakeholders usually have a bigger influence on social enterprises compared to traditional businesses. Social matters are indeed particularly sensitive topics. That’s why stakeholders like governments, local communities or foundations may influence, condition or even block a social firm’s activities. Therefore it becomes crucial for the organization to first map its stakeholders, understand the position they’re in and what power/interest they they have on the business. From there, it then gets easier to define management strategies accordingly.

Stakeholder management and partner analysis will be the focus of our upcoming articles, so.. stay tuned! 🙂

partners and stakeholders


In this article, we dug into the main differences between partners and stakeholders. On one hand, partners take active part in a social firm’s business model, through stable work relationships. They help implement it and put it to work. On the other hand, stakeholders can influence or have interest in a firm’s activities, although they do not directly participate to it.

As you know, we’re on a mission to provide changemakers with tools/techniques to succeed in their business model design process. Because of that, we are continuously writing new content and building new canvases, including those that may help you map partners and stakeholders, analyze what’s in it for them and decide the best ways to approach them. Keep coming back to our website and be among the first ones using them!

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