About this Typology

This typology breaks down the traditional boundaries between the nonprofit and private sectors and draws definition to this new institutional animal--part business-part social--the social enterprise. In doing so, the typology explores how institutions have combined a mix of social values and goals with commercial business practices and how they have come up with ownership models, income and capitalization strategies, and unique management and service systems designed to maximize social value. The illustrative typology classifies different models of social enterprise in order to navigate readers through the currently ill-defined, diverse and dynamic landscape of this emerging field.

This typology is an outgrowth of a paper commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2003 entitled: "Social Enterprise: A Typology of the Field Contextualized in Latin America." For this reason many of the examples are from Latin America, however, social enterprise models are applicable worldwide.

The typology is a work in progress, and whttps://updated with new models, examples, and case studies. We invite you to send us your comments and examples of your social enterprises that we can https:// here.


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The Author


Kim Alter has endeavored to bring business practices to nonprofit organizations and international development agencies, encouraging their sustainability through earned income, in more than 30 countries worldwide for over a dozen years.

She is founder and Principal of Virtue Ventures, a management consulting firm specializing in social enterprise.


The Inter-American Development Bank must be recognized for commissioning the original version of this paper entitled: “Social Enterprise: A Typology of the Field Contextualized in Latin America,” (September 2003) to commemorate the 25 years of innovation through their Small Projects Fund and Social Entrepreneurship Program (SEP). Without the support provided by the Inter-American Development Bank this work simply would not have been possible.

Foreword to the original version, by Jed Emerson

The ability to create, to break the mold, to engage in enterprise is perhaps one of the greatest attributes of humanity.

Our capacity for shortsightedness, bias, and provincialism is perhaps our greatest weakness.

This document gives evidence of the first, and foreshadows the coming of the second.

While its roots are deep in our past, over the last three decades we have witnessed an explosion of innovation as a growing international community of individuals has experimented with a great variety of approaches to fulfilling one basic idea:


  • Alter, Sutia Kim, Case Studies in Social Enterprise: Counterpart International's Experience, Counterpart International, Washington DC, 2002
  • Alter, Sutia Kim, et al, Generating and Sustaining Nonprofit Income, forthcoming from Jossy-Bass, Spring 2004.
  • Alter, Sutia Kim, Managing the Double Bottom Line: A Business Planning Resource Guide for Social Enterprises, Pact Publications, Washington, DC, 2001.
  • Berenbach, Shari, From SRI to Community Investment, Calvert Foundation, 2002.