The Social Enterprise Zoo

The Social Enterprise Zoo

A Guide for Perplexed Scholars, Entrepreneurs, Philanthropists, Leaders, Investors, and Policymakers

Edited by Dennis R. Young, Elizabeth A.M. Searing and Cassady V. Brewer

The Social Enterprise Zoo employs the metaphor of the zoo to gain a more comprehensive understanding of social enterprise – especially the diversity of its forms; the various ways it is organized in different socio-political environments; how different forms of enterprise behave, interact, and thrive; and what lessons can be drawn for the future development and study of organizations that seek to balance social or environmental impact with economic success. Recommended for students, researchers, policymakers, entrepreneurs and managers of social purpose organizations.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Dennis R. Young and Cassady V. Brewer

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, non-profits


Social enterprise is a broad and diverse set of phenomena that has emerged in recent decades to address a variety of social issues and problems not sufficiently addressed by traditional governmental, nonprofit or private sector solutions. As such it can be initially understood by extending market failure theory past its current three-sector focus of market, government and voluntary failure into the remaining areas of social concern not sufficiently well served by the three traditional sectors. However, social enterprise does not easily fit the “sector” model; indeed its diversity and complexity require a more embracing conceptual frame of reference. Hence we employ the metaphor of the social enterprise zoo to help define the boundaries and composition of social enterprise. Using this perspective, this book examines the concepts and content of the social enterprise zoo, how the zoo functions as an interactive collection of diverse animals in various habitats, how the zoo is managed and governed by its curators and zookeepers, and how we can assess the performance of the social enterprise zoo in terms of innovation, economic resilience, and overall social impact.