The Concept of Sustainable Entrepreneurship

The Concept of Sustainable Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship as an Algorithm: Is Social Enterprise Sustainable? E:CO Issue Vol. 10 No. 3 2008 pp. 65-85


Complexity and Philosophy Social Entrepreneurship as an Algorithm: Is Social Enterprise Sustainable?
Jeff Trexler
Pace University, USA

Social enterprise is charity’s web 2.0—a would-be revolution as open to interpretation as a Rorschach blot. For social enterprise to be more than the latest passing fad in doing good, we need a rigorous re-assessment of the link between system dynamics and social institutions. To that end this article has three distinct yet related aims. First, I want to offer a new definition of social enterprise, one that reflects its essential nature as a simple rule with complex results. Besides re-defining social enterprise, my next goal is to provide an explanation for organizational altruism that goes beyond latching onto the latest popular trends. My alternative approach is to find the basis for corporate charity within corporate identity itself—in particular, the historic function of organizational form as a means of modeling emergent patterns. This article’s final aim is to explain how social enterprise can have its greatest sustainable impact—by making itself obsolete.



ocial enterprise is a simple term with a complex range of meanings. Some experts say that a social enterprise is any venture that generates earned income for public benefit; others argue that the term denotes nonprofits that utilize efficient business metrics; still more see it as a movement not intrinsically business-like at all, but rather, entreTrexler

preneurial in the sense of pursuing innovative solutions to social problems. On the surface these definitions appear contradictory, yet each has a fair claim to the phrase (see the paper by Massetti in this volume for a discussion of the ambiguities involved in defining social entrepreneurship and her diagramic construct of the Social Entrepreneurship Matrix...

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