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Talking Back to the Wall Street Journal

The nation's business paper of record published a pretty negative article recently about nonprofits that get involved in commercial ventures. In the past couple days, a number of informed voices have responded to the Journal's article, called "Why 'Social Enterprise' Rarely Works."

The article by Ben Casselman draws on a new study from Seedco that notes few social enterprises are truly self-sustaining. To that criticism, Kris Prendergast of the Social Enterprise Alliance counters (hat tip, SEblog):


Viewing social enterprise solely from the perspective of the for-profit world misses the social goals of nonprofits, where the primary measures of success are social outcomes.

In his defense, Casselman makes at least one criticism about social enterprises that should be taken seriously:

...some experts say an overemphasis on creating a viable business can detract from an organization's social mission.

Here's a roundup of other reactions to the piece. The Seedco study focused on its own failed social enterprise. Thus, says the UK's School for Social Entrepreneurship blog:

The sad thing is that the WSJ article simply brands this [social enterprise] as a failure, and uses one example to generalise widely
And over at Xigi, a blog about social investing, they're pleased the concept of social enterprise is getting any ink at all in the Journal:
Social enterprise is hot enough that entrenched players like the old money Wall Street Journal are starting to attack the concept in a recent article. . . It’s good to see the guardians of old style thinking about money getting uncomfortable. We are getting under their skin.

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