Just What is Social Enterprise?
Social enterprise can be challenging to define. The concept has been evolving rapidly in recent years and increasingly blurs the lines of the traditional business, government and nonprofit sectors. A social enterprise is an organization or initiative that marries the social mission of a non-profit or government program with the market-driven approach of a business.
WHY Social Enterprise?
One reason for the rise of Social Enterprise is simple – people want change in the world, people want to make a difference – and people want to contribute to a better world with what they do everyday, in their job, in the products and services they buy, in where and how they get their energy. Trends in global discourse on life and business now include words like empathy and mindfulness, and people understand more than ever that their world and the people in it are increasingly interconnected.
Despite progress, big issues to fix still remain in the world – systemic issues of poverty, inequality, concentration of wealth and power, access to basic goods and services, global consumption of resources and rising population, climate change, and human rights abuses to name a few. All of these large complex problems require creative and sustainable solutions to make real progress. This is where social enterprise comes in. Social enterprise has proven a powerful force toward confronting these global challenges. One of the most interesting and exciting aspects of social enterprise’s evolution is the growing variety of issues being addressed by market-oriented solutions.
Today, social enterprises are disrupting markets across every industry and tackling social challenges throughout every corner of the world.
Recognize any of these businesses?
They’re all social enterprises.
DC Central Kitchen / www.dccentralkitchen.org DC
Central Kitchen is a nationally recognized “community kitchen” that recycles food from around Washington DC and uses it as a tool to train unemployed adults to develop work skills while providing thousands of meals for local service agencies in the process.
TOMS Shoes / www.toms.com
Toms is a for-profit company that sells shoes and other products and creates social good through its “Buy One Give One” (BOGO) model. For example, when Toms sells a pair of shoes, a new pair of shoes is given to an impoverished child, and when Toms sells a pair of eyewear, part of the profit is used to save or restore the eyesight for people in developing countries.
Greyston Bakery www.greyston.com
Greyston Bakery provides employment for the homeless in a bakery that makes brownies for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. As Greyston says, “we don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” It is known for its “open hiring” practices, where anyone can sign up regardless of background. All profit from the company go to the Greyston Foundation, which uses it for low-income housing, day care open to the community, a medical center for those with AIDS, and other community endeavors.
Interested in Learning More?
Here are our recommended reading picks on social entrepreneurship:
- How to Change the World by David Bornstein
- The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz
- Creating a World Without Poverty by Muhammad Yunus
- Mission in a Bottle by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff
And take a look at the Summerfuel Social Entrepreneurship programs for a hands-on venture development opportunity. SE at Stanford / SE at Georgetown