Social entrepreneurship is increasingly challenging the traditional idea of doing business just for the sake of profit, and social enterprises are developing around the world, even if in statistical terms they are still a niche form of business.

Social entrepreneurship is still a field of novelty for many, not only in the education systems, but also in economies. A lot of definitions exist and a wide variety of organisational forms are adopted by social enterprises around the world. This makes it difficult to establish international comparisons. However, here are some of the more accepted definitions of social entrepreneurship:

“The social entrepreneur, however, neither anticipates nor organises to create substantial financial profit for his or her investors – philanthropic and government organisations for the most part – or for himself or herself. Instead, the social entrepreneur aims for value in the form of large-scale, transformational benefit that accrues either to a significant segment of society or to society at large. Unlike the entrepreneurial value proposition that assumes a market that can pay for the innovation, and may even provide substantial upside for investors, the social entrepreneur’s value proposition targets an underserved, neglected, or highly disadvantaged population that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve the transformative benefit on its own. This does not mean that social entrepreneurs as a hard-and-fast rule shun profitmaking value propositions. Ventures created by social entrepreneurs can certainly generate income, and they can be organised as either not-for-profits or for-profits. What distinguishes social entrepreneurship is the primacy of social benefit, what Duke University professor Greg Dees in his seminal work on the field characterises as the pursuit of “mission-related impact.””[1]

“Social entrepreneurs are people who realise where there is an opportunity to satisfy some unmet need that the state welfare system will not or cannot meet, and who gather together the necessary resources (generally people, often volunteers, money, and premises) and use these to “make a difference”.”[2]

“A social enterprise is an operator in the social economy whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involves employees, consumers and stakeholders affected by its commercial activities.”[3]

Social enterprises differ from traditional business in a number of ways which are beneficial to the community:

  • Social enterprises are more likely to innovate and experiment than traditional models of business, because they are usually designed to fill a gap in existing services that cannot or will not be delivered by the public and private sectors;
  • Social enterprises can reach socially excluded people by providing volunteer, training, and employment opportunities;
  • Social enterprises are usually set up to retain and reinvest profits back into the local economy.

We will certainly see more social entrepreneurs in the future in Europe. More and more platforms and programmes like Euromentor have started empowering young people to launch their own companies, in this way helping solve social problems. For a sustainable impact in this area, young people should receive access to the real experience of how entrepreneurship works in their own country, as well as in the EU overall.

By understanding where social entrepreneurship stands and identifying the requirements and needs of this specific type of business, young people can create the economy of the future.

In the tabs below, you can find more information on the state of the art of social entrepreneurship in the partner countries, as well as some inspirational examples of functioning social enterprises.

[1] Martin, R. and Osberg, S. (2007) Social Entrepreneurship: The Case for Definition. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Available from: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/social_entrepreneurship_the_case_for_definition

[2] Thompson, J. et al (2000) Social entrepreneurship – a new look at the people and the potential. Management Decision, Vol. 38 Issue: 5, pp.328-338, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1108/00251740010340517

[3] European Comission definition. Available from: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/social-economy/enterprises_en


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus + programme under Grant Agreement No 2016-2-RO01-KA205-024839.
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