Simplify your planning and go with the flow (canvas)


Malawi learner tutor

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” - Albert Einstein.

On 19th March 2018, the Social Enterprise Academy held a 3 day ‘Flow Canvas’ programme at the Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe.

As SEA tutor Jones Ntaukira explained: ‘In order to build an effective team, it is better to know yourself first’. With that in mind, we look at how the flow canvas can be a useful tool to know yourself and your team better in order to make more effective decisions.

What is the flow canvas?

A tool created in South Africa, the flow canvas aims to make planning easier, clearer and more effective through using a one page business planning model.

The flow canvas identifies five types of ‘energy’ that are needed for the success of a team. Do you recognize any of these characteristics in yourself or your team?

Wood – The innovators who are stubborn, rule breaking and express themselves creatively

Metal – Results oriented, plan well ahead in advance, don’t like change

Fire – Energetic and impulsive. Their sociable qualities allows them to be good facilitators of networks

Water – The inquisitive types who analyze a situation before jumping into it - cautious but well prepared

Earth – They have nurturing qualities and are people-oriented

To find out your own qualities and traits, you can take the test at:


Creating your team: The importance of energy balance

Malawi Christoff Flow Canvas

After taking this test, you should be more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, your qualities and your character. You should be able to put a team together which complements your qualities.

Richard Branson says “Business needs to be a driving force in helping us to create a better world”, but before the business is able to make its mark on our communities it must first make a mark on paper as a plan.

Interestingly enough the energies also translate as questions which can be integrated into a simple business plan, for example:

Wood asks the question: What is your idea?

Every business must have a unique value which it offer to the market

Metal asks the how: How will this idea be implemented?

How does the business deliver upon its promises?

Fire asks: Who are the stakeholders? (e.g. customers, employees, suppliers)

From whom will this business need support from? (This can also include the government and investors.)

Water asks: Why does the business exist?

Does your business exist to support the community? Why do you do what you do?

Earth asks: Where will your business operate?

Where does your business transact and exchange value?


Iyeza Health: Putting the Flow Canvas into practice

Learners looked at Iyeza Health from South Africa as an illustration, a social enterprise which uses bicycle couriers to deliver medicine to patients thus saving the patients time and money in transport costs whilst decreasing congestion at hospitals and pharmacies.

This is what learners identified about Iyeza Health:

Wood | what: delivering medicines

Metal | how: bike courier

Fire | who: the patients, the clinics, pharmacies and hospitals

Water | why: a service which the people depend on

Earth | where: the community


How can I implement the flow canvas in my organization?

The flow canvas requires two main things:

1) A consistent approach towards activity and review

2) Commitment towards continuous improvement - very similar to what the Japanese call the “Kaizen Philosophy”.

This way of working ensures that the business is productive with limited resources whilst maintaining high quality out-put. In addition, social entrepreneurs are able to respond to changes in the business or its environment quickly and adjust course.

Eugene Moura, a learner with the Academy explained this perfectly when she said:“the time we are living in requires entrepreneurs to be quick in response”.

To be the first to hear about upcoming Social Enteprise Academy programmes, sign up to our newsletter here.