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Fundamentals for an International Typology of Social Enterprise Models

  • Jacques Defourny
  • Marthe Nyssens
Original Paper

Abstract

The quest for a widely accepted definition of social enterprise (SE) has been a central issue in the last two decades. However, it only seems feasible today to identify a few criteria that were most debated: the specific role of individual social entrepreneurs, the place of social innovation, the search for market income and the issue of governance. The arena of conceptualization efforts should now be fed with more contributions starting from bottom-up approaches built upon a hypothesis that could be termed “the impossibility of a unified definition”. In this paper, we develop a theoretical framework combining principles of interest (mutual, general and capital interest) and resource mixes to identify institutional trajectories generating four major SE models. We then show that all four SE models may address the actual diversity of SE’s social missions. Finally, we suggest that such social missions may be enhanced differently depending on the respective governance mechanisms.

Keywords

Social enterprise Principles of interest Institutional trajectories Social mission Governance 

Résumé

La quête d’une définition largement acceptée de la notion d’entreprise sociale constitue, depuis deux décennies, un enjeu central. Cependant, tout ce qu’il semble possible de faire à l’heure actuelle est d’identifier les quelques critères qui ont fait l’objet du plus grand nombre de travaux et de débats : le rôle spécifique des entrepreneurs sociaux individuels, la place de l’innovation sociale, la quête de ressources marchandes et la question de la gouvernance. Le champ des efforts de conceptualisation doit maintenant être alimenté par davantage de contributions s’appuyant sur des approches « bottom-up », construites sur la base d’une hypothèse que l’on pourrait désigner comme « l’impossibilité d’une définition unifiée ». Dans le présent article, nous élaborons un cadre théorique combinant différents principes d’intérêts (mutuel, général et capitaliste) et différentes combinaisons de ressources pour identifier des trajectoires institutionnelles générant quatre principaux modèles d’entreprise sociale. Nous montrons ensuite que ces quatre modèles peuvent couvrir la diversité effective des missions sociales desdites entreprises. Nous suggérons enfin que ces missions sociales pourraient être plus ou moins renforcées en fonction des mécanismes de gouvernance adoptés par les entreprises sociales.

Zusammenfassung

Die Suche nach einer weitgehend akzeptierten Definition von Sozialunternehmen ist ein zentrales Thema. Es erscheint heute nur angebracht, einige der am häufigsten diskutierten Kriterien zu identifizieren: die spezifische Rolle einzelner Sozialunternehmer, den Ort der sozialen Innovation, das Streben nach Markteinnahmen und das Problem der Steuerung. Die Bemühungen zur Konzeptualisierung sollten nun mit weiteren Beiträgen ergänzt werden, ausgehend von Bottom-up-Ansätzen, die auf einer Hypothese beruhen, welche als „die Unmöglichkeit einer einheitlichen Definition“bezeichnet werden könnte. In diesem Beitrag entwickeln wir ein theoretisches Rahmenwerk, das die Grundsätze des Interesse (beiderseitiges, allgemeines und kapitales Interesse) und Ressourcenmixe miteinander verknüpft, um die institutionellen Entwicklungen zu identifizieren, aus denen vier wesentliche Modelle des Sozialunternehmens hervorgehen. Anschließend zeigen wir, dass alle vier Modelle auf die tatsächliche Diversität der sozialen Missionen der Sozialunternehmen eingehen können. Letztendlich schlagen wir vor, dass diese sozialen Missionen abhängig von den entsprechenden Steuerungsmechanismen unterschiedlich ausgeweitet werden können.

Resumen

La búsqueda de una definición ampliamente aceptada de la empresa social ha sido una cuestión central. Sólo parece factible en la actualidad identificar algunos criterios que fueron muy debatidos: el papel específico de los emprendedores sociales individuales; el lugar de la innovación social, la búsqueda de ingresos de mercado y la cuestión de la gobernanza. El campo de los esfuerzos de conceptualización debe ser alimentado ahora con más contribuciones comenzando con enfoques de abajo-arriba basados en una hipótesis que podría ser calificada como “la imposibilidad de una definición unificada”. En el presente documento, desarrollamos un marco teórico que combina los principios de interés (interés mutuo, general y del capital) y las mezclas de recursos para identificar trayectorias institucionales que generan cuatro modelos de empresa social (SE, por sus siglas en inglés) principales. Después mostramos que los cuatro modelos de SE pueden abordar la diversidad real de las misiones sociales de la SE. Finalmente, sugerimos que dichas misiones sociales pueden ser mejoradas de manera diferente dependiendo de los mecanismos de gobernanza respectivos.

Chinese

对普遍认可的社会企业定义的探索成为中心问题。当前,似乎仅可确定一些最具争议的标准:单个社会企业家的特定角色;社会创新的位置,市场收入的研究和治理问题。现在,应为概念化工作领域提供更多贡献,从自下而上的方法开始,基于“无法获得统一定义”的假设。在本文中,我们开发了理论框架,其中组合了相关原则(共同、一般和资本利益)和资源,确定生成四种主要SE模式的机构轨迹。然后,我们显示所有四个SE模式都可能针对SE社会使命的实际多样性。最后,根据各自政府机制的不同,我们认为此类社会使命可能得到不同的增强。

Japanese

社会的企業で広く受け入れられている定義の追求 は、中心的な課題である。今日、最も議論されている評価の自営業の特定の役割、社会的革新の場所、市場の収支の探索、ガバナンスの問題を特定することは可能なようである。中央集権化の努力は、「統一した定義の不可能性」の仮説を構築するボトムアップのアプローチから始まるが、多くの寄与はない。本論文では、利潤(相互的で一般的な資本)の原則を結合した理論的枠組みと主要な4つのモデルを生み出す組織的な軌道を特定する供給の混合を構築する。さらに4つのSEモデルは、SEの社会的なミッションの現実的な多様性を特定する。最終的に、そのような社会的ミッションは、それぞれのガバナンスの機構に依存しながら異なって遂行される。

Arabic

من المعايير التي نوقشت أكثر من غيرها: الدور المحدد لأصحاب المشاريع الاجتماعية الفردية؛ مكان الإبتكار الإجتماعي، البحث عن دخل السوق التجاري ومشكلة الحكم. ينبغي الآن أن تتغذى ساحة جهود وضع المفاهيم بمزيد من المساهمات بدءا"

إطار نظري يجمع بين أصل الفائدة (المتبادلة ، العامة ورأسمال الفائدة) ومزج الموارد لتحديد المسارات المؤسسية لإنتاج أربعة نماذج مشاريع إجتماعية (SE) رئيسية. بعد ذلك، نبين أن جميع نماذج المشاريع الإجتماعة (SE) الأربعة قد يعالج التنوع الفعلي للمهمات الإجتماعية الخاصة بالمشاريع الإجتماعية (SE). أخيرا"، نقترح أنه يمكن تعزيز هذه المهمات الإجتماعية بشكل مختلف تبعا" لآليات الحكم المعنية.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of this paper have been presented at various meetings related to the “International Comparative Social Enterprise Models” (ICSEM) Project in Albania, Belgium, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Poland, South Korea and Switzerland as well as at the 5th EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise (Helsinki, July 2015), at the 7th International Social Innovation Research Conference (York, September 2015) and at the 12th International Conference of ISTR (Stockholm, June 2016). The authors gratefully acknowledge comments and suggestions made by the many participants to these events, especially S. Cornée, B. Huybrechts, A. Périlleux, M. Gawell, R. Dudley-Duff and D. Young.

This research has been carried out with the support of an Interuniversity Attraction Pole funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office under the title “If not for profit, for what? And how?”

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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CES, HEC Management SchoolUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.CIRTES, Economics School of LouvainCatholic University of LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium

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