The words "social enterprise" come up often these days. Many people are intrigued by the notion and many are misinformed. Venture philanthropist's eyes light up when the phrase is repeated. To them, it's philanthropy with a business twist....something easily understood, and far less daunting than the unfamiliar "nonprofit". Generating profit is generally what they do best.
Social enterprise is defined by Social Enterprise Alliance as “an organization or venture (within an organization) that advances a social mission through entrepreneurial, earned income strategies.” This often reflects a market-based effort to generate earned income in exchange for a product or service. Examples of social enterprise from SEA include:
Social entrepreneurs are defined by Ashoka as those who “act as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches, and creating solutions to change society for the better. While a business entrepreneur might create entirely new industries, a social entrepreneur comes up with new solutions to social problems and then implements them on a large scale.” Examples include:
A social purpose business is defined as a venture (generally for-profit) that seeks to “leverage business for a more just and sustainable world” (Social Venture Network) or “help create a better world by building healthy communities, promoting economic equity, and fostering a clean environment” (Social Investment Forum). In addition to generating a profit for shareholders, these businesses have goals in the areas of economic development, employment, environmental practices, or ethical business practices.
These terms are not just a question of semantics. They're important if we want to create and catalogue resources, find capital, share information, and strategies. This new wave of business and business person is here to stay. The contrbutions they make will have an enduring impact on society. How can they not? Looking for a good read on the subject, check out:The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World
By John Elkington and Pamela Hartig