Defining Social Entrepreneurship

Saul Garlick: Social entrepreneurship is an evolving field.


social entrepreneurs: (n.) Society's change agents: creators of innovations that disrupt the status quo and transform our world for the better.

- Skoll Foundation


Hear from the experts

The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship

by J. Greg Dees

October 1998

The Citizen Sector Transformed

by Bill Drayton

October 2007

The Case for Definition

by Sally Osberg

Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2007


field working definitions

As social entrepreneurship is a relatively new field, you may encounter many different variations. We're starting from the working definitions below:

social entrepreneurship: an emerging field focused on formation and growth of ventures (nonprofit, for-profit or hybrid) that have at their core a mission to have a positive social or environmental impact on the world. The field includes founders, funders, intermediaries, academics, board members and more.

social enterprise: a social purpose venture with a business model that relies primarily (or exclusively) on earned income to cover its operations.

impact investing: investing that aims to solve social or environmental challenges while generating financial profit.


Social entrepreneurship is just one of many ways to leave your positive mark on the world! Here are a few places around Stanford for more information about social entrepreneurship as well as other approaches to social innovation:


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