Social Enterprise Primer for Development Professionals

First in the Social Enterprise in International Development Paper Series

For the past few decades, economic development actors of all varieties have employed market-based approaches—engaged markets using commercial methods—as a means to reduce poverty in developing countries. Inspired in part by the success of microfinance as well as by a desire to find innovative solutions to problems of intractable poverty, there is a rising tide of entrepreneurial strategies practiced in the social sector. This convergence of business methods and social interests to effect social change has spawned a new hybrid field—part social and part business—social entrepreneurship, and with it a new type of institution, social enterprise.

Using the new international economic development emphasis on capitalizing on the power of markets to combat poverty this paper attempts to delineate the boundary conditions and guiding principles for social enterprise, filling a notable gap in the international development literature. It compares social enterprise to other similar development approaches for a better understanding of their relationship to each other—their differences, similarities and overlaps. In doing so, it offers a conceptual framework within which to position social enterprise in relation to the broader field of market-based approaches to development.

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