When ‘social enterprise’ can mean more than one thing

Alexa Clay, Olivia Khalil, and Erin Weed  Guardian Professional

Photo: Sophia Evans for the Observer



A few days ago we learned that Salesforce is calling itself a social enterprise – and moreover referring to its clients as such. Salesforce advertises its utility as “CRM software and cloud computing for the social enterprise”. For those not familiar with Salesforce count yourself lucky. You have a far more interesting job than us mere mortals dependent on database and contact management systems.

But as women working in the social entrepreneurship field, the flagrant co-option of one of our most precious labels was disconcerting. On the one hand, it makes total sense. Suggesting you are a social entrepreneur or work for a social enterprise often sounds a bit silly to first-time listeners. “Is that a fancy way of saying you’re a party planner?” Or “Oh, so you’re on Facebook a lot?” are popular responses to the introduction of our profession.

It makes sense. In the popular imagination – and for many – a social enterprise is strictly a business that is network heavy and likely leverages social media and social networking tools. But to us, and to many others, social enterprise is defined not by tweeting ability, but by a very specific mission-driven objective. A social enterprise is a for-profit or non-profit organisation that looks to address societal issues – that chooses to “do good” rather than remain complacent.

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