What is a Social Enterprise?

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Social Enterprise: An idea whose time has come

Source: British Council

There is no consistent or worldwide definition of social enterprise. The definition provided by The Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) in the USA is probably easiest to comprehend and defines a “social enterprise” as “an organization or venture that advances its primary social or environmental mission using business methods”.

Social Enterprises are organizations that:

  • Are led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit;
  • Trade to fulfill that mission;
  • Derive a substantial portion of their income from trade; and
  • Reinvest the majority of their profit in the fulfillment of their mission.

Generally, social enterprises are positioned in between the traditional businesses and charities, as can be seen from the figure below.

Source: Social Enterprise NL

We recommend the following websites and publications on social enterprise.

Support organizations for social enterprises:

Within The Netherlands:

Social Enterprise NL (in Dutch)

Outside The Netherlands:

UK: Social Enterprise UK

USA: Social Enterprise Alliance

Canada: Social Enterprise Council Canada

France: MOUVES and AVISE

Singapore: Social Enterprise Association

Other networks and organizations

  • Social Business Initiative, an initiative from the European Commission to improve the overall business environment for social enterprises in Europe
  • Ashoka: a support organization for social enterpreneurs
  • Skoll Foundation, a leading organization in promoting social entrepreneurship
  • B Corp, serves a global movement of entrepreneurs using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems
  • EMES, an international research network on social innovation
  • EURICSE, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprise
  • Social Enterprise Research Center, China

A book with some interesting case studies:

  • Hillen, M. en Verloop, M. (2014). Social Enterprise Unraveled: Best practice from the Netherlands’, translation of ‘ Verbeter de Wereld, Begin een Bedrijf)

Any suggestions for web sites and organizations to list here, please contact us.