In the literature, social enterprises are viewed in a very general way, that is, as hybrid entities blending economic (business) activities with a social mission, or the subject is confined to only one type of social enterprise – usually the work integration social enterprise (WISE). As a result, the role and impact of the mission a social enterprise serves, how it performs and its sustainability – seem to be underestimated.
In this study, arguments will be presented in support of a hypothesis that it is the social mission which determines, perhaps even decisively, a social enterprise’s chances of surviving and thriving in the market. In other words, the hypothesis states that due to these chances, social enterprises differ because their social aims, which form the basis for their existence and activities, also differ. The chances a social enterprise has of success are greater or smaller depending on the type of social mission it fulfills.
The wording of the above hypothesis is the primary cognitive outcome of qualitative empirical research conducted in late 2010 and 2011 on a group of about 40 Polish social enterprises. This is also why the arguments presented below will have a purely empirical character.
This paper consists of three parts. First, a brief summary is presented on the definition of a social enterprise adopted for this study and on the research itself. This information is needed to assess both the value of the empirical data collected as well as its interpretation. Then, a synthesis of the research results will be presented justifying the hypothesis outlined above. The paper concludes with the theoretical implications of the study.