Weaver's Social Enterprise Directory

Definition of Social Enterprise

The definition and characteristics of social enterprises in Weaver’s Social Enterprise Directory stems from the results of Dr. Weaver’s empirical study of the social, economic, and legal activities of 115 social enterprises across the United States. This study is the first large scale study of social enterprise activities and characteristics in the nation. Its findings ultimately led to the development of and investment in this national directory.



A social enterprise is an organization that operates under any legal form and that uses commercial business activities to combat one or more social problems (Weaver, 2017). They are social interventions in that they aim to create positive social changes in society (Weaver, 2019).


Typical Characteristics of Social Enterprises in the United States

  • They have a dual bottom-line consisting of creating social value and economic value.

  • They are mostly locally embedded organizations, but they are also large-renown companies (because they grow over time).

  • They seek to address a diversity of social problems. There is no one social issue that social enterprises combat. Social enterprises are often “locally grown” organizations that seek to address issues the social entrepreneurs have faced themselves or have witnessed.

  • They have a flexible organizational structure in that they can be for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, or a combination of both. Social enterprises may also be established under new “hybrid laws” such as the Benefit Corporation or the Limited Liability Company (L3C). 



Weaver, R.L. (2019). Social enterprise and the capability approach: Exploring how social enterprises are humanizing business. Journal of Nonprofit and Public Sector Marketing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10495142.2019.1589630


Weaver, R. L. (2017). Social enterprise and the capability approach: Examining the quest to humanize business. (Doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University-Camden Graduate School).