A quick introduction to Social Entrepreneurship, Part 1


This article series will attempt to briefly sum up several Social Entrepreneurship terms and definitions in a simple structure which can be used by academics and businesspersons without prior knowledge of the topics alike.

Being a comparatively young concept there has yet to emerge a clear shared language of frameworks and theories among practitioners and researchers. Depending on professional or academic circles the terms may have different names and characteristics, if they are precisely coined or social entrepreneurship itself even known about. While this will most likely consolidate in the future as more time and research are devoted to it, for now there is often overlap or contradictions between theories.

This creates confusion both in- and outside the social entrepreneurship community, understandably since it can be difficult to define what social entrepreneurship is, business theory, social science or something third, and its academic theories touching on many subjects at once such as economics, sociology, politics and psychology to name a few.

This confusion can make it difficult for outsiders to understand or implement the ideas which Social Entrepreneurship offers. Even if a businessperson wishes to use or learn more, for example how their own business relates to a social enterprise model, the sometimes conflicting explanations or lack of a clear description can be a strong deterrent.

  • This article series will try to present a step-by-step explanation of Social Entrepreneurship and its relation to the classic idea of business. Afterwards it will then attempt to combine the definitions given by using three existing companies as examples on how different business models are categorized by Social Entrepreneurship.
  • The second part will define what Social Entrepreneurship is and the types of companies which can or cannot be called social enterprises. They will be categorized on a sliding scale of resources devoted to social causes versus profit generation, from charities to the more common definition of a company.
  • Thirdly  it will attempt to define the aspect of the problems which the social enterprises or companies state to attempt to solve. This will be set in the context of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, ranging from the more basic issues of human survival such as disease and hunger to the realization of human potential such as education or civil liberties.
  • Fourthly it will explain the differences in efficiency of the stated goals on a scale ranging from patch solutions, i.e. temporary alleviation of detrimental effects to projects aiming to combat the root causes of problems.
  • Fifthly it will then define the different types of value created by each method, how directly it affects a given target or community and how one effect further create value in other, sometimes unexpected, areas. This last chapter will also explain how companies which have no stated social purpose can still create, or claim to create, social value.
  • Finally, as mentioned above, all these terms will then be demonstrated and explained in combination by categorizing and defining three different types of companies, their stated goals and the final value created by each.