To Uproot and Tear Down…To Build and to Plant: Building a Digital Platform

Like many seminaries accredited by the Association for Theological Schools (ATS) Winebrenner Theological Seminary submitted a request to the Lilly Endowment for Phase One of the “Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative.” Winebrenner’s request is for the creation of a “digital platform” that will accompany our $300/month tuition recently approved by the Board of Trustees.

Each organization will interpret and apply the business model canvas (BMC) in a slightly different fashion.  It’s timely that we received confirmation of the approval of this grant request in the same week that I’m writing about this topic concerning the BMC.  Within Winebrenner, this week’s topic of customer relationships reveals itself to be an integrative component because it builds upon our exploration of stakeholder segments by providing another channel to deliver value propositions.

My goal in these posts is not to be exhaustive, but to continue illustrating how the BMC can assist in identifying the core components of a theological seminary in such a way that allows us to disassemble the parts as we know them to exist within a “traditional” format and re-assemble around emerging understandings of mission and strategy.  An organization is continually organizing and reorganizing around mission and strategy.  In this spirit, I’ll use the idea of a digital platform to explore this component of the business model canvas.

This post is focused upon the relationships Winebrenner Seminary has with specific groups identified previously as our primary stakeholders; this reconfirms that our primary stakeholders are students, donors, and partners.

Let’s consider how the digital platform plays a role in these unique relationships.  The basic idea is that we’ll be creating a digital environment in which both professional and user-generated content will be available for the purpose of theological education. So the digital platform will serve as a channel that delivers content from Winebrenner Seminary to stakeholders.  The digital platform also serves as a value proposition because it will assist in solving problems for a student as content as content becomes available (think about a new pastor able to view a 30 minute video created by an experienced pastor on leading a funeral).

The value of the business model canvas is that it allows for more targeted questions such as how does the digital platform engage and serve donors? It does so by providing a forum for donors to access quality content to demonstrate the work we do at Winebrenner Seminary.  Or, how does the digital platform engage and serve partners? After initial launch we are planning to make this platform available for churches, denominations, and ministry organizations, who are seeking to delivery their own content, which enhances their relationship with Winebrenner and their own stakeholders.

There are many ways in which an organization can engage stakeholders. Having clarity about the unique aspects of each stakeholder relationship strengthens an organization’s ability to evaluate current practices, respond to current needs, and plan for the future.

While a digital platform may not be what immediately comes to mind when someone thinks about theological education, at Winebrenner Theological Seminary it will provide a useful tool to further engage and serve students, donors, and partners.

The next post will explore how “revenue streams” fit within the larger context of the business model canvas and apply to Winebrenner Seminary and theological education.

– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President
– Image from Pexels, accessed on Adobe Spark

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