Declan Jones has raised some important issues that arise around the lack of an agreed definition for ‘social enterprise’. The full article is worth a read.
This definitional problem has disturbed me for quite a while and we have yet to resolve the matter to any degree. Further, there is the question of social enterprise or social business and profit versus not-for-profit. Again a matter that remains unresolved.
“There is no consensus about what is and isn’t a social enterprise because there is no shared frame of reference between all the players in the wider social economy.
Some social entrepreneurs eschew defining social enterprise because it is too awkward and troublesome. They prefer ambiguity and complexity because inclusion is seen as more important than differentiation. The latter is deemed to create an undesirable hierarchy of types of social enterprise and the sticking points that cause all the grief are de facto independence from the state, profit and governance. The result of this avoidance is deficient policy-making, barriers to investment and stakeholder confusion.
Avoiding definition has also allowed social enterprise to be co-opted by others. We now witness public sector municipalists and private sector opportunists masquerading as social entrepreneurs. The former are zealous mini-state status quo defenders. The latter want to make money on their investments. Neither group are social entrepreneurs but both are nifty and inventive when it comes to using charitable, trust and social enterprise business structures and models when it suits them.”