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Woods Bowman, Thad Calabrese and Elizabeth Searing

The nonprofit charitable sector owns more than $3.3 trillion of assets – resources used in the provision of goods and services. Here, we describe the various types of assets used by nonprofits, and how these assets are distributed among industries. We then outline theories about asset composition in the nonprofit sector; as the sector changes and increasingly reflects the entrepreneurial spirit of social enterprise, theories about asset composition also are changing. Nonprofit organizations have unique asset ownership issues. Specifically, nonprofits own privileged assets – those resources that nonprofits might be unable to alter; restricted assets – those resources that donors limit to use or time; and endowments – those investments that are expected to generate further revenues for the nonprofit. Research on nonprofit assets is limited by both positive and normative elements. On the one hand, data are of limited availability; on the other, asset accumulation in nonprofits is widely viewed with skepticism.

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Jesse D. Lecy and Elizabeth A.M. Searing

This chapter examines each stage in the life cycle of social enterprise animals and implications of life cycles for the social enterprise zoo as whole. We separate the life cycle of social enterprise organizations into five potential stages: nascent (conceptualization and market entry), newborn (the liability of newness during the first few years), adolescence (strong growth trajectories and strategies), maturation into young adulthood (when organizations reach full size and grow large), and maturity (struggles against inertia). We focus primarily on the importance of different resources and entrepreneurial and managerial activity at each stage required to maintain a thriving social enterprise organization. We examine both nonprofit and for-profit aspects of social enterprise and ask how these combine in various inhabitants of the social enterprise zoo. Though we rely primarily on nonprofit social enterprise financial data, which allows us to observe the inner workings of an entire species over time, we also examine research in other social enterprise contexts to reflect the breadth of the zoo. Several findings are worth special attention: organizations tend to grow slowly with substantial inertia in moving from one life stage to another, and growth itself is a highly challenging process, with enterprises more likely to close than to grow at each life stage. Even mature organizations are more likely to die than to successfully retrench. Overall, awareness of challenges over the life cycle of social enterprise organizations is essential for successful management of the social enterprise zoo.

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Elizabeth A.M. Searing and Dennis R. Young

This chapter first describes the different financial resources that are available to nourish the for-profit, not-for-profit, cooperative, and other (hybrid) enterprises in the social enterprise zoo. Each type of financial source, instrument or method is described in some detail, including its traditional and potential applications. This includes the several new types of financial resources designed or adapted specifically for social enterprise, such as program-related investments (PRIs) and social impact bonds. We then apply benefits theory to assess where in the zoo, and to which types of social enterprise animals, these various kinds of financial sustenance are most likely to apply.

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

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

This content is available to you

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

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Elizabeth A.M. Searing, Jesse D. Lecy and Fredrik O. Andersson

The complexity of organizational ecology is similar to that of the natural world, with networks of individual and environmental characteristics that are both dynamic and unique. The emergence of several new species within the social enterprise zoo signals that the social enterprise context contains resources sufficient to sustain growth and innovation of new organizational types. This chapter explores the species-level dynamics that dictate daily life in the niches of the social enterprise zoo. In particular, the three phases of niche development are discussed – emergence, expansion, and maturity – and two case studies of social enterprise activity – microfinance and school vouchers – are analyzed. Organizations (animals), resources, institutions, and a host of other factors influence the ebb and flow of enterprises in the social enterprise zoo. The zoo, and each of its habitats, must therefore be understood as whole complex systems rather than just collections of specific organizational animals or species.

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Jung-In Soh, Elizabeth A.M. Searing and Dennis R. Young

In this chapter, we apply resiliency theory to examine the stability, transformation or demise of animals in the social enterprise zoo, and their adaptability, resistance to, or inability to cope with environmental change. Specifically, we consider the reactions of nonprofit enterprises in the Atlanta housing subsector to the federal budget sequester of 2013. Analysis of these nonprofits reveals several factors affecting resiliency: diversification of income sources allows these enterprises to minimize risk; embeddedness in host communities and in service systems provide safety nets for these organizations; slack resources serve as insurance against disruptions; and leadership and governance can also serve as key protections against instability.

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

The zoo concept incorporates an element of design while accommodating organic development and diversity. Thus the zoo metaphor allows us to flesh out the nature of social enterprise diversity itself, including the different legal forms, the various political and economic environments in which social enterprises operate, the diversity of governance structures that oversee social enterprise, the different combinations and varieties of social purpose and market success that social enterprises can embody, the diverse resources that can sustain them, and the alternative approaches to innovation or theories of social change they may adopt. We argue here that the emergence and nature of social enterprise can be understood by extending market failure theory to include the new niches in the social economy that social enterprises fill. Looking to the future, the social enterprise zoo metaphor suggests a rich agenda of research questions including: How can social efficiency be improved by altering the mixes of animals in the zoo and the ways in which each species or subspecies is nurtured and protected? Where should the fences be placed to separate some social enterprise animals from others, and what rules, regulations and incentives should constitute these fences? To what extent can zookeepers actually control what happens in the zoo? What might be the unintended consequences of policies designed to alter the zoo, or exert control over it? And how can we better assess the societal impacts of the social enterprise zoo?

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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.