3. Comparison SE with others forms of social activities

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Comparison SE with others forms of social activities

Despite the established definition nowadays, social entrepreneurship remains a difficult concept to define, since it may be manifested in multiple forms. In defining social entrepreneurship, it is also important to establish boundaries and provide examples of activities that may be highly meritorious but do not fit our definition. Failing to identify boundaries would leave the term social entrepreneurship so wide open as to be essentially meaningless. There are two primary forms of socially valuable activity that we believe need to be distinguished from social entrepreneurship. The first type of social venture is social service provision. The difference between the two types of ventures – one social entrepreneurship and the other social service – isn’t in the initial entrepreneurial contexts or in many of the personal characteristics of the founders, but rather in the outcomes. A second class of social venture is social activism. In this case, the motivator of the activity is the same – an unfortunate and stable equilibrium.

Figure 1: Pure forms of social engagement

What is different is the nature of the actor’s action orientation. Instead of taking direct action, as the social entrepreneur would, the social activist attempts to create change through indirect action, by influencing others – governments, NGOs, The three definitions can be seen in their pure forms in the diagram to the right. but in the real world there are probably more hybrid models than pure forms.

What does not constitute as social entrepreneurship?

Also there are other forms which are not in nature of social entrepreneurship.


A successful business man or woman who, upon retirement, has decided to help the less privileged in society and “give back”. To do so, s/he endows a foundation to support early childhood education and to set up hospitals in poor countries.  Such a person is a philanthropist who has set up a charity. Philanthropists are critically important in society – and many of them support social entrepreneurial activities.  But don’t confuse philanthropic largesse with social entrepreneurship. 


A passionate animal rights activist, who at an early age volunteered in an NGO to lobby the government to ban whale hunting. Subsequently, he worked to boycott garment companies using the fur of baby seals to make winter coats. As a young adult, s/he founded Bambi to raise money to lobby governments to protect the rights of laboratory animals. This person an activist working to bring pressure on policy makers and the public to stop a specific practice. No alternative options are proposed. We need activists – but they are not social entrepreneurs.

Companies with a Foundation

As example - Foodmart is a global discount grocery & household products chain that has been rated by the International Better Business Bureau as one of the top companies to work for in the world. The World Health Organisation has designated Foodmart as a “Healthy Workplace” for worker safety and wellbeing. The company encourages its staff to engage in community activities and provides them with company time to do so.  The company established the Foodmart Foundation to support activities in maternal and child nutrition.