Social enterprises are businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas.
Three characteristics distinguish a social enterprise from other types of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies:
It directly addresses an intractable social need and serves the common good, either through its products and services or through the number of disadvantaged people it employs.
Its commercial activity is a strong revenue driver, whether a significant earned income stream within a nonprofit’s mixed revenue portfolio, or a for profit enterprise.
The common good is its primary purpose, literally “baked into” the organization’s DNA, and trumping all others.
*From the social enterprise alliance