This chapter surveys the literature on social enterprises in order to understand the tensions that they face as hybrid organisations. I show that there are three classes of concerns about social enterprises – what I call consonance, trustworthiness and morality concerns – and argue that scholars have been more successful at addressing the first two than the last. I conclude that, although social enterprise might be characterised as a flawed proposition, it is not hopelessly so, and recent scholarship provides insights into how the challenges inherent to social enterprise might be addressed. A social enterprise is a unique kind of hybrid organisation. For the purposes of this chapter, hybrids are organisations that combine different organisational elements under the same metaphorical roof (Galaskiewicz and Barringer, 2012; Mair et al., 2015). These elements might be practices, internal structures, goals or cultural logics embedded within organisations that do not typically coexist in the same organisation. Following Battilana et al. (2015, p. 3), social enterprises are a special case of hybrid that ‘pursue a social mission while engaging in commercial activities to sustain their operations’. As the definition implies, this chapter takes seriously the possibility that there are, indeed, commercial organisations with genuinely prosocial ambitions.
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