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Innovation Glossary

Selected Definitions

The Providers' Council recognizes that many definitions exist for the terms surrounding social innovation, entrepreneurship, and enterprise.  Here are just a few:

Innovation
A process or outcome that must meet two criteria. The first criterion is novelty: Although innovations need not necessarily be original, they must be new to the user, context, or application. The second criterion is improvement.

Stanford Social Innovation Review

Social Innovation
A novel solution to a social problem that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just than existing solutions and for which the value created accrues primarily to society as a whole rather than private individuals.

Stanford Social Innovation Review

Social Entrepreneurship
The art of persistently and creatively leveraging resources to capitalize upon marketplace opportunities in order to achieve sustainable social change.

Social Enterprise Institute

Social Entrepreneur
Acts as the change agents for society, seizing opportunities others miss and improving systems, inventing new approaches and creating sustainable solutions to change society for the better. However, unlike business entrepreneurs who are motivated by profits, social entrepreneurs are motivated to improve society. Despite this difference, social entrepreneurs are just as innovative and change-oriented as their business counterparts, searching for new and better ways to solve the problems that plague society.

Social Enterprise Institute


Social Enterprise
An organization or venture that achieves its primary social or environmental mission using business methods.  Social enterprises harness the power of the marketplace to solve critical social and environmental problems.

Social Enterprise Alliance

A mission-based business and includes any organization or venture that advances its social mission through entrepreneurial earned income strategies.

Social Enterprise Institute

Social Purpose Enterprise
A social purpose enterprise is a revenue-generating venture founded by a not-for-profit to create jobs or training opportunities for very low-income individuals, while simultaneously operating with reference to the financial bottom-line.

Social Enterprise Institute

Earned Income
Payments received in direct exchange for a product, service or privilege. [Earned income for a nonprofit includes such elements as tuition and fees for service, commercial products or services, government contracts, consulting fees, membership dues (when dues purchase tangible benefits), sale of intellectual property, agreement to use the nonprofit’s identity, property rentals, etc. Earned income does not include such sources as corporate, foundation or government grants or subsidies, contributions from individuals, or in-kind donation of products or services.]

Social Enterprise Alliance