This paper aims to move beyond stories and definitions by presenting practitioners with a conceptual framework—as rudimentary as it may be in its first version—to inform and inspire new thinking about social enterprise performance and impart strategy and management resources to help practitioners achieve high performing social enterprises.

The paper’s larger audacious goal is to engage practitioners, academics, donors, and other sympathizers in a debate that will move toward developing social enterprise methodologies and best practice. In presenting this foundational social enterprise performance framework we fully expect it to change, evolving both in content and form, while also inciting any number of tangential or niche frameworks and methodologies. And so begins the effort toward founding common performance parameters for social enterprise from which to evolve a methodology…

The paper is a sequel to the Social Enterprise Typology, a paper that elaborates the rich mosaic of highly differentiated and creative examples of social enterprise, and by doing so, served as a precursor to organizing these diverse approaches and strategies into a common framework.


For practitioners the frameworks are intended as management and planning tools: to help them plan strategically; to diagnose and analyze problems; to set objectives and measure outcomes; and to leverage synergies and manage tensions within a social enterprise in order to optimize organizational performance. For academics the frameworks offer fodder for debate and critical thinking, and aims to provide early theoretical constructs toward building a social enterprise methodology. For donors, the framework can be used as a performance measurement and monitoring tool, and for consultants to assist technical input.

This first version is made available as part of the www.4lenses.org website and practitioners and others are invited to add their comments, share their examples, challenge our assertions, and so on.

We fully expect the framework to evolve as more practitioners use it. As they do, revisions and updates will be posted along with new field tools and examples.