Defining the Universe of Social Enterprise: Competing Metaphors

28 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2012 Last revised: 7 Dec 2012

See all articles by Dennis Young

Dennis Young

Georgia State University - Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

Jesse D. Lecy

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Public Affairs; Maxwell School of Syracuse University; Georgia State University - Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

Date Written: October 1, 2012

Abstract

After more than a decade of research in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, there is continued debate on the definitions of social enterprise, specifically in classifying populations. Several schools of thought contest the territory. The EMES network in Europe argues that there is an ideal type of social enterprise to which all social enterprise ventures should aspire. Another approach emphasizes the spectrum and trade-off between pure profit-making and social impact, locating organizations on this spectrum. A third approach takes innovation as its central focus, arguing that the research should placed emphasis how social entrepreneurs achieve material and social goals through innovation and disruption of the status quo. In this paper we argue that each falls short of providing an adequate framework for future research, policy, and practice. Instead we offer an alternative metaphor, that of a social enterprise zoo. The diverse universe of social enterprise forms and the “zoo” in which many different “animals” combine social and market goals in substantially different ways. Each species has distinct environments and needs, though. Using this framework we then reconsider the place of social entrepreneurs, viewing them as curators responsible for nurturing, breeding, and experimenting with the ever changing population of animals in the social enterprise zoo.

Keywords: social enterprise, social entrepreneurship, taxonomy

Suggested Citation

Young, Dennis and Lecy, Jesse D., Defining the Universe of Social Enterprise: Competing Metaphors (October 1, 2012). Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper No. 12-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2166459 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2166459

Dennis Young

Georgia State University - Andrew Young School of Policy Studies ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30302
United States

Jesse D. Lecy (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - School of Public Affairs ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ
United States

Maxwell School of Syracuse University ( email )

400 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

Georgia State University - Andrew Young School of Policy Studies ( email )

Public Management and Policy
35 Broad Street, 6th Floor
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

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