Concrete or Flexible Definition of Social Entrepreneurship

From what I understand, social entrepreneurship is based upon the principle of using innovation to generate the greatest impact in solving social issues. But I recognize my understanding as incomplete.

As I thought about this question, I quickly came to the conclusion that I would not attempt to engineer a silver-bullet definition for social entrepreneurship. I feel that a single, concrete, Oxford-sanctioned definition would do a disservice to the field of social entrepreneurship. Not having a unified and concrete definition creates the necessity for those involved in social entrepreneurship to define it for themselves. While there is a clear risk involved in giving such liberties to crazed innovators, like ourselves, there is also a clear benefit that comes from critically analyzing what it is that we are doing and why we are doing it. I believe that by going through such critical analysis and enduring the mental rigor of defining a large concept, we actually strengthen our foundation and further prepare ourselves to face the challenges that lay ahead.

Consider, hypothetically, the ultimate effects of providing a definition for these entrepreneurs. If such a definition was provided, those entering, studying, or otherwise involved in the field of social entrepreneurs will inevitably compare their efforts to this definition. A definition, especially if made by an authoritative organization implies a certain requirement to conform to the parameters set by the definition. Such a requirement of adherence and conformation would deprive the students, professors, investors, and entrepreneurs of the necessity to define it first for themselves. By not having this necessity, many will never even approach the question, “What is social entrepreneurship?” By never approaching this, and thereby never formulating a definition for themselves, those involved in the field of social entrepreneurship limit themselves in regards to their possible understanding of the field.

On the contrary, competing definitions compels us to consider the differences and understand their reasoning. Differing approaches open our minds to ideas, thoughts, epiphanies that can lead to countless possibilities and innovations. Comparing and contrasting definitions causes us to look inwards with the intent to discover what we believe to be the truth about social entrepreneurship.

From the more credible definitions we’ve discussed in class, I’ve recognized that there are reasons (and often good ones) to define social entrepreneurship the way they did. However, each definition only seemed to provide a degree of the definition that the others had not. While we may be able to accumulate all credible and reasonable definitions, dissect the best aspects from each of them, and then combine these carefully harvested truths to make one complete definition, I fear it would be . . . too wordy. By refraining from creating a strict definition, we generate a greater impact in terms of thought and, thus, inspire all of us to gain a greater understanding of the field of social entrepreneurship.

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