There are a myriad of definitions and opinions on what social enterprise is and isn’t depending on what circle you run in.  I’ve heard if a non-profit uses sophisticated metrics to measure its impact, then it is a social enterprise.  I’ve heard if a company has a philanthropic branch or if a non-profit has a revenue generating arm, then they are a social enterprise.  I personally believe that  those definitions of social enterprise are superficial and probably do more harm than good.  I’ve heard social enterprise only pertains to microfinance and green companies are not social enterprises.   I think those opinions are either too exclusive  or not inclusive enough. The working definition I maintain is: a social enterprise is an enterprise that works to solve social, ecological, and economic problems through market solutions.  Social enterprises come in many different sizes and flavors.  They can be a for-profit entity or a non-profit entity. They can focus on a particular function(s) of an enterprise like human resources, supply chain, product management, etc.  (more on that later). The overall goal of social enterprise is to do the most good and be financially sustainable entity while doing it.

SE Toolbelt, a free open-content community resource center for social entrepreneurs, has some good information on social enterprise if you’re interested in learning more basic background information on social enterprise.