Mapping social enterprise in Australia: Conceptual debates and their operational implications
In the last ten years, there has been growing interest in social enterprise by governments, the not for profit sector and philanthropy in Australia The drivers of this interest have been variously understood to be: increasing demands for innovative responses to social and environmental problems; pressures on non-profit organisations to diversify their income sources; and increasing emphases by government on the role of civil society actors in partnering around social policy agendas. Whatever its genesis, very little is known about the scale and scope of the emerging social enterprise sector. In order to research the scope of the sector, an important first step involves understanding just what social enterprise is, and how it may be operationalised. This paper presents the findings from the first stage of a national research project conducted by the authors in conjunction with a new social enterprise development company. The purpose of the project was to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the social enterprise sector in Australia. In this paper, we focus on the definitional debates arising from our workshop discussions, what these mean for understanding contemporary discourses of social enterprise, and their implications for research, policy and practice.