The Flourishing Enterprise Innovation Toolkit has been developed through a rigorous program of systemic design science / action research starting in 2011.  This research program continues to this day.

The Flourishing Business Canvas was originally conceived as part of a graduate thesis at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and Schulich School of Business between 2010 and 2013.  It was then refined by members of the Strategic Innovation Lab at the Ontario College of Art and Design University.

Specifically, the Flourishing Business Canvas stands on the shoulders of the 2004 PhD by Alexander Osterwalder where he defined the first Business Model Ontology.  This was then developed into the Strongly Sustainable Business Model Ontology defined by Antony Upward in 2013. The Strongly Sustainable Business Model Ontology “powers” the Flourishing Business Canvas.

The following are the key items arising from the research program to date.  All citation counts are as of September 2022 from Google Scholar.

  • Original masters thesis – citations 74 (very high for a masters level thesis) Upward, A. (2013). Towards an Ontology and Canvas for Strongly Sustainable Business Models: A Systemic Design Science Exploration (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). York University Libraries.

    For a short video summary of this research please watch this video:
  • Summary of masters thesis – citations 535 (very high for a paper in its field; one of the top papers for citations in this highly ranked journal ever – this from the editor; citation count growing by ~150/year for past 3 years): Upward, A., & Jones, P. H. (2016). An Ontology for Strongly Sustainable Business Models: Defining an Enterprise Framework Compatible with Natural and Social Science. Organization & Environment, 29-Special Issue: Business Models for Sustainability: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Transformation(1), 97–123. DOI:10.1177/1086026615592933
  • Flourishing Enterprise Strategy Design Method – Peer reviewed book chapter for leaders of established organizations that describes a method for the use of the  Canvas to develop enterprise strategies that aim to flourish: Upward, A., & Davies, S. N. (2019). Strategy Design for Flourishing: A Robust Method. In T. Wunder (Ed.), Rethinking Strategic Management: Sustainable Strategizing for Positive Impact (pp. 149–175, Chapter 8). Springer International Publishing. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-06014-5_8

    To our knowledge this is the first and so far only book on strategy which acknowledges the need for a scientific basis for sustainability (aka strong sustainability), and indeed that the real goal needs to be flourishing.  The opening chapter of the book, by the editor, links the science of sustainability to the design of business strategy in a unique and important way.
  • Connection of Canvas to Future-Fit Business Benchmark and leadership – citations 178 (moderate level for a paper in this very highly ranked journal)  Kurucz, E. C., Colbert, B. A., Lüdeke-Freund, F., Upward, A., & Willard, B. (2016). Relational Leadership for Strategic Sustainability: Practices and Capabilities to Advance the Design and Assessment of Sustainable Business Models. Journal of Cleaner Production, 140(1-Special Issue: Systematic Leadership Towards Sustainability), 189–204. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.03.087
  • Introduction to the Canvas explicitly and connection to leadership and appreciative inquiry – citations 40 (high for a paper in this minor journal): Elkington, R., & Upward, A. (2016). Leadership as Enabling Function for Flourishing by Design. Journal of Global Responsibility, 7(1), 126–144. DOI: 10.1108/JGR-01-2016-0002 
  • Report on the use of the canvas in a masters-level classroom – citations 47 (low/moderate level in this very highly ranked journal) Hoveskog, M., Halila, F., Mattsson, M., Upward, A., & Karlsson, N. (2017). Education for Sustainable Development: Business Modelling for Flourishing. Journal of Cleaner Production, 172(Special Issue on Education for Sustainable Development), 4383–4396. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.04.1122
  • Report on strongly sustainable business modelling and business models which includes the Canvas as a valid design tool: Baue, B., & Thurm, R. (2018). Blueprint 4: New Business Models—Business Model Design for Catalyzing Regenerative & Distributive Economies (Blueprint 4; R3.0 Blueprints, p. 122). R3.0.
  • Flourishing Startup Method (Forthcoming) – Report on the testing of a method for starting flourishing organizations that include recommendation to use the Canvas for business modelling work: Hogeboom, O., Hoveskog, M., Upward, A., Jones, P. H., & Fath-Kolmes, E. Lean Startup Supporting Sustainability-as-Flourishing during the Early Stages of Enterprise Development. 

The Canvas has also been featured in approx. 3 other textbook / anthology chapters by others…including:

  • Hope, A. (2018). Tools for Developing Responsible Business Models. In L. Moratis, F. Melissen, & S. O. Idowu (Eds.), Sustainable Business Models: Principles, Promise, and Practice. Springer International Publishing. 

The Canvas has also been the main subject of, or mentioned in, a significant number of masters and PhD thesis… two of note are:

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