Innovation and Sustainability - The Future of the VCN as a Blended Model
One question we continually pose to any new initiative at the VCN is, “Is this sustainable?” Before championing new ideas or pushing through new barriers, we need to know how we can implement long-term change.
This applies to our organization as a whole, as well as different initiatives within the Virtual Counselor Network (VCN).
That’s why we are so excited to announce what is on the horizon for the VCN. We will be adopting a nonprofit-social enterprise blended business model.
The Next Phase: Social Enterprise
If you’re curious how a nonprofit that partners with multiple organizations to provide free counseling services can launch a socially conscious business, you’re not alone. To be honest, it wasn’t our idea.
In truth, it was our nonprofit partners that came to us with a proposition. Several partners wanted to acquire VCN’s virtual platform for their organization, then white label it as their own. This would give them the ability to integrate virtual counseling and host digital workshops throughout all areas of their organizations. Since they were already familiar with the platform, it would be a seamless integration to their other services.
This sparked the realization that what we had created had monetary value.
The Social Enterprise Model
Just so we’re clear, we are not changing the model of the VCN. We will still offer counselors to help clients with all of life’s transitions free of charge. Our nonprofit arm will remain intact, committed to furthering the mission we embarked on in 2008.
We are innovating in a different, new area.
In addition to equipping our partners with the virtual capabilities for their counseling sessions, we will also offer the option of purchasing our platform. This gives our nonprofit partners the ability to use our innovative technology outside of their VCN counseling. They can host workshops with small fees, connect virtually with their other partners, or offer extended services to their clientele.
Since this is our new social enterprise arm, we will offer this product to our nonprofit partners at a rate well below standard market rates. Effectively, they are enjoying a nice discount.
Meanwhile, by creating a revenue system, we can sustainably work to grow our network even more. While we will still look for fiscal partners and apply for grants, we will no longer be dependent on these outside financial sources.
This gives us more freedom and flexibility to continually innovate in the realm of virtual counseling, ensuring that we remain on the cutting edge of the industry.
The Need for Providing Quality Products
There’s an important aspect that shouldn’t be over looked here. It’s the commitment to creating a quality product from the start. Had we not doubled down on providing the best service possible and been committed to working with our partners to integrate this system into their organization, this new enterprise most likely would not have been possible.
Our partners would have shied away from embracing our technology. Not only would this have limited our effectiveness in growing the VCN, but no one would want to integrate that technology into more areas of their business.
Since we created such a top-tier product, our partners are excited to expand the uses into every area of their organization.
Launching the Next Chapter
Currently our technology teams are already busy behind the scenes striving to bridge the gap between our current platform and the product-based version capable of white labeling. While there are no guarantees in the technology space, we are anticipating this new product version to go live toward the end of 2017.
The VCN will become an ecosystem of service providers, who will be using the VCN not only as a white labeled product, but also as a connector to other partner agencies when their services are needed. (This is the blended model.)
Curious About Becoming a Partner?
If you would like access to our current VCN capabilities, and subsequently explore the ways that technology can increase your client base, consider joining the VCN as a partner. We are always looking to collaborate with organizations dedicated to helping families and individuals navigate life’s challenges. This could be anything from small business support to financial resources to affordable housing to work training and more.