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 10: Social innovation in the zoo

Thema Monroe-White and Jesse D. Lecy

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


Innovation offers another way of organizing the animals in the social enterprise zoo. Narrow definitions of innovation are limited to the adoption or generation of new or novel behaviors and technologies. These definitions do not adequately account for the pragmatic and solution-oriented organizations found in the social enterprise zoo, often operating under environmental conditions (i.e., low human capital, lack of resources, cultural factors) that prohibit entirely new and novel adaptations aimed at addressing social problems. Here we examine the relevance of different types of innovation (e.g., product, process, marketing) offered by animals in the social enterprise zoo, the adoption of existing innovations, and the internal generation of innovations, and we describe two innovation-related dimensions around which those animals in the social enterprise zoo introduced by Schumpeterian entrepreneurs can be organized: by their theories of social change and by categories of innovation itself (product, process, market, institutional, and ecological innovations). With these dimensions, a new taxonomy of social enterprise animals is developed that illuminates how social entrepreneurs, policymakers and funders shape the ecology of the zoo through the pursuit of social innovation.

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