The Social and Economic Mission of Social Enterprises: Dimensions, Measurement, Validation, and Relation


  • We would like to thank Jan Lepoutre for insightful discussions and suggestions on the paper and Anneleen Van Boxstael and Marie-Astrid Balcaen for supporting the data collection. Geoffry Kistruck, Ute Stephan, and James Wallace helped by reviewing earlier versions of the paper. We thank Reitske Megank and Yves Rosseel for assisting with the data analysis. Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the feedback of the session participants at the Babson Entrepreneurship Research Conference 2010 and the Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management 2010.


Social entrepreneurs have a dominant social mission and generate revenue to ensure financial viability. However, most research treats the extent to which social entrepreneurs actually adhere to social and economic mission as a black box. Performing higher order confirmatory factor analysis on a sample of social enterprises (N∼270), this study identifies dimensions and validates measures for understanding and delineating social and economic missions, and shows how the two constructs relate to each other. The theoretical untangling and the empirical validation of social and economic missions as distinct constructs—and multiple potential constellations of attached relative importance—opens up opportunities for quantitative hypothesis-testing research in social entrepreneurship.