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Mixing business and social: what is a social enterprise and how can we recognise one?

Authors: Rogerson, A., Green, M. & Rabinowitz, G.
Publication date: 2013

​This Working Paper seeks to clarify what a social enterprise is in a developing-country context. It is written from a broad public interest perspective rather than one of an investor in such enterprises.

The paper reviews some of the alternative descriptions in the literature to offer a relatively narrow definition, combining the primacy of the enterprise’s social intent with robust financial viability thresholds. It then proposes a rough-and-ready questionnaire tool and scoring scale that tries to locate candidate enterprises on these twin axes of social impact and financial sustainability.

The paper concludes that this modest effort illustrates both the difficulties and the value of clarifying concepts and definitions, and suggests it be extended to broader portfolios of candidate enterprises to refine the methodology.