Social entrepreneurship is an emerging field of study that still faces the task of arriving at a universally-accepted definition, for itself and for the related concept of social enterprise. Western researchers call for the need for such definitions in order to make national and international comparisons of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise activities possible. However, some authors contend that narrowing things down to uniformly agreed-upon definitions may make them applicable to only a limited set of problems and issues. The debate is still on regarding this.
On October 30, 2014, the Benita and Catalino Yap Foundation organized a roundtable discussion on “Defining Social Enterpreneurship in the Philippine Context: Going to Asean Integration,” during which six speakers offered definitions of social entrepreneurship and social enterprise with a national focus.
Terri Jayme-Mora of Ashoka Foundation defined social entrepreneurship as a process that creates change and social impact, focusing on values such as empathy and collaboration across many sectors like business and education. I chose to see it as a process that identifies a social need through innovative use of resource combinations and may opt to use business tools, including profit, to create social value and impact. In the Philippines, the definition is nuanced by goals such as poverty alleviation and delivery of social services like education and healthcare.
Anton Yap of BCYF defined a social enterprise as a venture that has its intended social impact as part of the cost of doing business, as opposed to an after-tax cost. Ed Canela of SERDEF views it as an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well being, rather than profits for external shareholders. Social enterprises can be structured as for-profit or non-profit, and may take the form of a cooperative, mutual organization, social business, or charity organization. Miriam Azurin of FSSI commented that it is a social mission-driven organization with a triple bottom line, owned or participated in by the poor and engaged in the poorest subsectors in the value chain. She also offered the definition based on the PRESENT bill in Congress: It refers to a wealth-creating organization, of whatever legal form, whose primary stakeholders are marginalized sectors of society, engaged in providing goods and/or services that are directly related to its mission of improving societal well being. It is established to achieve triple bottom lines such as financial, social and ecological.
Gomer Padong of the Philippine Social Enterprise Network, concurred with the definition of BCYF, but added that a social enterprise emphasizes poverty reduction, creating opportunities for sectors like people with disabilities, fisherfolk and farmers. It also adopts the stakeholder approach where the poor are treated as suppliers, employees, or owners of the social enterprise.
The definitions combine the universally accepted concepts of addressing a social need, pursuit of a social mission, and creation of social impact, amidst a variety of organizational structures, commercial tools, and the triple bottom line. However, they introduced elements that are particular to the Philippine setting, such as the emphasis on poverty alleviation, the poor as primary stakeholders, and the inclusion of various marginalized sectors. These attempts are important steps for the further growth of social entrepreneurship in the country, and of its network of academicians, practitioners, civil sector groups, government, and other significant players.
Leah A. Macatangay is an assistant professorial lecturer at the RVR College of Business of De La Salle University and the Project Director of the Go Negosyo NMBK Program. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of DLSU, its administrators, and its faculty.