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Defining Social Entrepreneurship

October 24, 2011

The term “social entrepreneurship” is being thrown around so carelessly that a disambiguation of the term is well needed. Widely referenced features a few especially helpful pages that help us understand social entrepreneurship and enterprises. We’ll summarize their definition below, but feel free to explore their site, and its extensive list of link to others.

Social enterprises use a “market-driven business model to address critical social and environmental issues.” Social enterprises may provide goods and services to seek profit, similar to a traditional business. What distinguishes social enterprises from traditional business enterprises, though, is that the pursuit of social and/or environmental goals supersedes the pursuit of profit. Profit merely plays a supporting role. The priority of the “mission” over profit distinguishes social enterprises from a standard business.

What then, distinguishes a social enterprise from a non-profit (not-for-profit) organization or a non-governmental organization? Just as businesses can fit the definition of social enterprise, so too can non-profits and NGOs. Many non-profits and NGOs utilize social entrepreneurship to produce profits that they can re-invest in their organizations to better achieve their goals. Here lies the justification behind the movement to use the term “not-for-profit” in place of “non-profit.”

There are great benefits to profit-seeking. A social enterprise need not depend entirely upon donations from individuals, organizations, or governments to operate. Dependence upon donations exposes organizations to the unpredictable whims of their benefactors. Donations may be harder to secure in tough economic times. Governments may have specific requirements controlling the distribution of grants. And donations from these sources have quantitative limits. The independence afforded social enterprises allows them to scale up and meet the needs of a greater portion of society with the reinvestment of profit, thus transcending the limits of outside-funding.

As we continue, this definition of social entrepreneurship only constitutes a foundation upon which we can build. Questions still remain, including: How much profit need a social enterprise generate to constitute a success? What are the consequences when the line between social enterprise and for-profit business becomes blurred? Does a social enterprise’s responsiveness to market forces strengthen or weaken its ability to serve its goals?


Triangle Residential Options For Substance Abusers, Inc.

October 4, 2011

Here are the raw basics on TROSA, for all you strangers. These can likewise be found on TROSA’s website: We will certainly be investigating all these issues more thoroughly as this blog progresses, but this post may serve as the most basic explanation of the main focus of this case study.

TROSA provides a rehabilitation program for substance abusers, involving, among other things, “vocational training, education, communication, peer counseling, mentoring, leadership training and aftercare” in a multi-year residency program. It has become the largest state licensed therapeutic community in North Carolina.

According to the organization, approximately 93% of the substance abusers accepted by TROSA have a criminal record. In fact, around a third faced incarceration at the time they joined with TROSA as an alternative. And for many, these aren’t even the greatest of their difficulties. Some of those who come to TROSA have serious problems with their health; some cannot read or write; over 35% claim homelessness; around half do not have a high school diploma.

More than a traditional rehabilitation program, TROSA operates businesses whose workforces are comprised of TROSA residents. These businesses (which include a moving service, lawn service, and a grocery store) provide vocational training to TROSA residents while fostering responsibility and leadership skills, among others. The program’s graduates are further provided assistance in seeking employment and in obtaining drivers licenses, as well as in the acquisition of cars and low-cost TROSA-owned housing.