Social entrepreneurship is the application of entrepreneurial principles to address the deprivation of social rights. Social rights, in contrast with natural rights or legal rights, are the rights arising from a social compact and include health, education and employment or economic well being.
The notion that social entrepreneurship provides a social benefit and for profits do not is to misunderstand what makes great "for profit" companies. Great for profit companies are environmentally aware, create large amounts of new jobs (which frequently go to the disadvantaged--unemployed), encourage their employees to be active in community affairs, donate goods and services to those in need, do not kill, maim or cripple employees or people in the community in order to increase profits and generally make the world a better place. As Google says "do no harm"!
For example, when Wal-Mart opens a new store in rural Florida (or Guatemala, or Timbuktu) 300-500 people have jobs, the pride that goes with providing for their families, the options that come with income and a multiplier effect that benefits the whole community. This Wal-Mart opening addresses many of the same social deprivations as the social entrepreneur.
This semester in my entrepreneurship course there is a semester long project to develop a business model for an organization that teaches science to disadvantaged children in Miami. This organization is a classic example of social entrepreneurship. However, never once will I mention social entrepreneurship or "non-profit". I will, instead, stress that applying the principles of entrepreneurship is all that is necessary to make the science teaching organization an economically viable entity. By focusing on economic viability, we will achieve the larger objectives of the organization--the same objectives that should drive every company.
I have done several workshops related to non-profits. The more I think and study about the notion of social entrepreneurship, the more I think it is a meaningless distinction. Yes--it may make you feel good to say you are a "social entrepreneur", but stop stroking your ego and get back to making your organization economically viable so it can carry out its mission.
"Every startup has a chance to change the world, by bringing not just a new product, but an entirely new institution into existence. That institution will touch many people in its life: customers, investors, employees, and everyone they touch as well. I believe we have an obligation to ensure the resulting impact is worthy of the energies we invest in bringing it to life."
Eric Ries,Venture Advisor Kleiner Perkins