I had the following exchange recently:
Questioner: Do you think that successful engagement in SE requires a diminished commitment to the profit motive as we usually think of it within the context of contemporary capitalism?
ME: Great question and thank you for it. Is this a nonprofit context? Startup individual social entrepreneur context? For-profit organization? Or any and all…
Questioner: Any, given that a part of my basic understanding of SE is the dual goal of profit and social impact.
ME: IMHO, the ideal social enterprise is one that, where the mission side makes progress, the initiative does better financially and vice versa. The two aspects of mission-money consideration work in tandem. For example, in a training and employment initiative, more customers (profit motive) yields more opportunity to train and employ (mission motive).More training and employment—presumably—means more customers.
In the for-profit instance, this balance is maintained by the ownership and whatever constructs he/she establish to govern decisions.
In the nonprofit context, as you well know, initiatives MUST be mission-aligned (at least enough). So, this should act as the ultimate hedge against $$ superseding mission. Whether it does or doesn’t in a given instance is a separate question.
Beyond this, in a larger sense, the question of successful engagement depends on how one defines it and, importantly, who is defining success. That is, I tend to frame success for an organization as to whether or not and effort (initiative, program, enterprise, etc.) helps them realize a priority strategic objective. That is going to be personal to a given organization, and on their terms. I, from the outside, could deem it weak, strong, silly or otherwise, but, that’d merely be my judgment.