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Social Enterprise Business (SEB)

An SEB can be a for-profit or nonprofit enterprise; it explicitly intends to address a social problem by using earned revenue strategies; this may be any type of business so long as:

  • its products or services themselves directly address a social need and are paid for by customers (i.e., a customer-focused social enterprise), OR
  • it employs a significant number of the people it serves — at least 50 per cent of the company’s direct labor force (i.e., an employee-focused social enterprise)

The focus is on providing social value but with a strategy in place to eventually achieve sustainability through earned income. During the startup phase in both types of businesses, financial resources may also include a mixed revenue stream that includes “unearned income” (e.g., donations, fundraisers, corporate grants, charitable contributions from philanthropists, public sector subsidies) to help meet expenses.

A nonprofit social enterprise is not the same as nonprofit organization (NPO) or nongovernment organization (NGO). For an organization to be considered a viable SEB, it cannot rely solely on grants, fundraisers donations, and public sector subsidies. To be competitive as a SAGE SEB, the organization must show that it has a long-term strategy that includes earned income.

Teams that enter the SEB tournament should do their best to meet the following four judging criteria:

Social Enterprise Business (SEB) Judging Criteria Written Annual Report Oral Presentation
1. Does the business have measurable and proven impacts? Has the organization succinctly defined exactly what change it is trying to achieve? How has the organization measured the desired changes, and demonstrated that they are caused by the actions/interventions of the organization? 10 10
2. What are the community resources obtained by the business in helping it achieve its mission, and how were these resources employed (e.g., earned income; sources and uses of unearned income; cooperation from community organizations, volunteers, local government; note: at least 50% of the financial resources during the first year of business must come from earned revenue and the business must have a clear plan to eventually achieve profitability from earned revenue alone)? 10 10
3. Has the business exhibited sustainable business practices? Does the business meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs? Has the SAGE team understood the importance of being responsible stewards of the environment in a market economy, either through its products or services, or by its actions in the community? 10 10
4. Is there evidence that the business has a succession plan in place?  In other words, has the team demonstrated that the business continue after the current year? Will the team carry on over the summer, winter and spring? Is there a chance that this organization’s effectiveness can be expanded locally and replicated in new settings? 5 5
5. How effective was the SAGE team in utilizing mass media and social media to publicize its activities and enhance the visibility of SAGE (e.g., newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, billboards, newsletters, a website devoted to their SAGE business; Facebook)? Note: teams may insert samples, such as newspaper articles, with their annual report. 5 5

Here is a handy summary of the five criteria:

  1. Measurable impacts
  2. Community resources
  3. Sustainable business practices
  4. Succession plan
  5. Media (mass and social)

To see a detailed explanation of each SAGE criterion, go to Interpretation of SAGE Judging Criteria – Social Enterprise Business (SEB).