The purpose of this typology is to elaborate the rich mosaic of highly differentiated and creative examples of social enterprise, and by doing so, to inspire innovative approaches to create greater value for people and the planet. The typology is also intended to advance the field of social enterprise by organizing these diverse approaches and strategies into a common framework. The occupation of identifying and defining operational models as well as organizational and legal structures is to provide a conceptual framework for efforts occurring in the field.
A basic premise used in this typology is that of a spectrum, which avoids bifurcating the landscape into opposing functions: one, the for-profit world whose raison d'être is to create economic value; and the other, the nonprofit world whose purpose is to create social value. In practice, these dichotomies are increasingly coming together through the application of methods that marry market mechanisms to affect both social and economic value resulting in total value creation. The emergence and the subsequent propagation of corporate social responsibility, business for social responsibility and social enterprise evidences this trend, and the social enterprise lens brings into focus this convergence through its methodological paradigm.
Value creation is the backbone of social enterprise and serves as a fundamental and unifying principle between different social change and economic development approaches. To this end, the typology is not intended to straightjacket practitioners into a prescribed set of formulas, but rather recognize and embrace the abundance of possibility under the umbrella of a larger vision.