Social Enterprise 101

“Social Enterprise -- so that’s like social media, right?” is often the question that follows my introduction as a social entrepreneur. In this relatively new sector,  there is no consensus on the definition of social enterprise among scholars and practitioners. Many wonder why I chose to practice in a field that isn’t well defined. The short answer: I’m an idealist who believes in the potential of a view of capitalism that is human-focused rather than profit-driven.  

The generic definition of social enterprise is a revenue-generating organization whose mission is to alleviate a social problem. This definition leaves room for anyone with a “do-good” mission statement to benefit from the positive press that can result. I therefore argue that social enterprises have a moral imperative to catalyze social change that is both systematic and measurable. In other words, most social entrepreneurial initiatives should exist to not exist.  

Social Enterprise is the culmination of over a half century of postmodern thought. Human and environmental capital are no longer viewed as pawns to be used by business entities to enrich a small elite. The purpose of social enterprises is to take capitalism to a new level of accountability and sustainability. It’s to make capitalism better by attempting to use market mechanisms to solve the world’s most intractable problems. Social enterprise lies at the intersection of business, philanthropy, and activism.

In an effort to foster a more robust discussion on social entrepreneurship, DC+Acumen, Hatch International, Unsectored, and various other organizations are sponsoring DC’s first Social Enterprise Week April 14 - 17, 2014. Social Enterprise Week brings together social change agents from across the world to foster learning, collaboration, and innovation. Events range from design workshops to happy hours, each with a unique theme and perspective on how to make a world a better place. To learn more about Social Enterprise Week click here.

This blog post was written by Marc Carr, a Masters in Social Enterprise with a focus on impact investing candidate at The American University School of International Service, the educational lead for DC+Acumen, and founder of Social Solutions, an initiative focused on increasing the role of social financing in West Africa.