A Definition of Social Enterprise

A Definition of Social Enterprise
Social Enterprise Alliance
18.06.12

As the membership organization for social enterprise in North America, Social Enterprise Alliance promotes a very simple definition of social enterprise:  A business whose primary purpose is the common good.  Three characteristics distinguish a social enterprise from other types of nonprofits, from “socially responsible” businesses, and from government agencies:

•  It directly addresses an intractable social need and serves the common good, either through its products and services or through the number of disadvantaged people it employs.

•   Its commercial activity is a strong revenue driver, whether a significant earned income stream within a nonprofit’s mixed revenue portfolio, or a for profit enterprise.

•   The common good is its primary purpose, literally “baked into” the organization’s DNA, and trumping all others.

SEA has a more complete description available on its website, at https://www.se-alliance.org/why.  As a partner to npEnterprise, we also have a brief download available which combines SEA’s position paper on Social Enterprise with an excerpt from Mission, Inc., the book I co-authored with Julius Walls, Jr. in 2009.  This excerpt includes multiple references to other definitions of social enterprise.  For the download, visit https://se-alliance.org/definition-pape