Social Entrepreneurship

Defining Social Entrepreneurship

This presentation defines and explains 5 different forms of social entrepreneurship (project, non-profit organization, co-operative, social enterprise and social purpose business) and gives examples that exemplify each type.

Social Entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to address social, environmental and economic problems.

Social Entrepreneurs are Changemakers – those driven to develop innovative solutions to today’s most pressing social, environmental and economic issues by combining entrepreneurial skills with a passion for positive impact. Social entrepreneurs in the truest sense have had contact with a social injustice and are compelled to do something about it.

Social Entrepreneurs seek to make change through all different avenues. They may choose to put their energy towards a community project or starting a non-profit organization. Alternatively, a social entrepreneur may look to develop a co-operative, social enterprise or social purpose business.

Whatever avenue they choose, social entrepreneurs use innovation, collaboration, diverse skills and experiences to make the change they want to see.

A social enterprise, typically initiated by a non-profit, uses business operations and strategies to generate revenue from the private market to assist in sustaining the organization’s primary services. Different forms of Social Enterprise can include:

  • Training for those with challenges in facing the workforce
  • Employment creation for marginalized populations
  • Non-profits that house social enterprises with the goal of subsidizing their services
  • Non-profits/private sector business partnerships that support the goals of the non-profit
  • Businesses owned and operated by Indigenous communities

Armstrong, A., Mook, L., and Quarter, J. (2009). Understanding the social economy: A Canadian perspective. University of Toronto Press Incorporated: Toronto, ON. (pp. 107-109)

A social purpose business is a profit making enterprise that also has a positive social and/or environmental impact. Another way to describe a social purpose business refers to having a blended value or triple bottom line: people, planet, profit.

Why social entrepreneurship?

  • New approaches are needed to respond to community needs.
  • Opportunity to creatively address social/cultural/environmental issues in your community or on a larger scale;
  • Provides non-profit organizations an alternative way to generate funds;
  • Increasing interest of entrepreneurs in social/cultural/environmental returns and impact – become part of a movement;
  • Employ people in your community who typically face barriers to employment & empower.


To find out more about the types of social entrepreneurship, check out the various categories on the ‘Types of Social Entrepreneurship‘ page.