Negotiating tensions: How do social enterprises balance social and commercial considerations?

Social enterprise is presented as a potential policy solution to homelessness, particularly as regards the employment of homeless people. This policy focus relies on an assumption that social and commercial goals can be successfully combined. This implies that by pursuing profit-maximizing behaviour social enterprises can also maximize social benefits. However, this paper shows that social enterprises are hybrid organizations facing a trade-off between social and commercial considerations. The paper identifies strategies used by work integration social enterprises in the homelessness field to balance mission-related goals with financial sustainability. The six case study organizations drew upon a hybrid range of economic resources transferred from other sectors of the economy. This enabled them to compete with private sector organizations, by effectively transferring the additional cost of employing homeless people from the social enterprise to consumers, government, philanthropic donors, and other organizations providing social support to homeless people.
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