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Carroll School of Management

Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise


A social enterprise tackles the root cause of a social problem by adopting a business management mindset. This can involve taking an innovative approach to partnerships, funding, resources and the supply chain. The structure of the enterprise could be a for profit, a non-profit or a hybrid. Social entrepreneurs understand the context of the community they are trying to help, and involve the people in the community in the solution using “design thinking.” Social entrepreneurs are committed to generating measurable impact, and to finding a way to build scale once the proposed solution has been tested.

Three characteristics distinguish a social enterprise from other types of businesses, non-profits, and 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