A Comparative Look at International Approaches to Social Enterprise

Note from the Digital Editor: In order to highlight the high-level of research and scholarship from the authors who have published in the William & Mary Policy Review’s peer-reviewed print journal, we have reproduced the abstracts from Volume 7, Issue 2 along with a link to an electronic copy of the full form of the piece. 

There is no global consensus on the meaning of the term “social enterprise.” Recent decades have witnessed an increase in the number of social entrepreneurs, those who seek to fill the social needs left unmet by traditional nonprofit and charitable organizations. The manner in which social entrepreneurs fill this gap varies according to a country’s social, political, economic, and cultural experiences. In some countries, the social enterprise label is only available to those entities formed as not-for-profit organizations, while in others, commercial for-profit ventures can be considered social enterprises. More recently, new types of hybrid entities that combine both the desire to aid society and the desire to make a profit have also been brought within the social enterprise umbrella in places such as the United States and the United Kingdom. This article seeks to identify common ground that transcends geographic and cultural boundaries by providing a look at the rise of social enterprise and exploring representative examples of international approaches to this sector in countries such as Brazil, Canada, China, and India. Having concluded that it is only supportive government efforts that will ensure the recognition of social enterprise as an indispensable aspect of a country’s landscape, this article provides an overview of government actions that can effectively be utilized to propel this sector into the mainstream.

Find the full version of this article in PDF form here.

Mystica Alexander is an Assistant Professor at Bentley University. The author thanks Katie Dunn for her research assistance. An earlier draft of this paper was submitted as part of the University of Connecticut Social Enterprise Symposium (April, 2015). Special thanks to Stephen Park and Robert Bird for this opportunity