In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing
Cited as: Weaver, R. L. (2019). “Social Enterprise and the Capability Approach: Exploring How Social Enterprises Are Humanizing Business.” Journal of Nonprofit & Public Sector Marketing: 1-26.


This mixed-method empirical study applies the capability approach, a multidimensional framework for evaluating human development, to survey 115 social enterprises on their social activities. Findings reveal that social enterprises create services and programs that seek to meet an average of three types of human needs and are more likely to target some human needs more than others. Research implications include the creation of a model and a tool for applying the capability approach to examine social value creation in social businesses. Findings contribute to practice by introducing a tool that leaders of social organizations, consultants, or training institutions may use to design the social activities of social enterprises and other social businesses and organizations.


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Social Entrepreneurs

Practitioners such as social entrepreneurs, educators, accelerator programs, and impact investors funders may utilize the Social Capability Intervention Model to guide their understanding of how social enterprises may be designed, as there is a need for such models to guide their work (Weerawardena & Mort, 2006). For example, social entrepreneurs may use the tool to develop social programs and services in relation to one or more levels of positive social change related to different types of social capabilities or within specific core areas of human need. Educators and accelerators may also use the tool to illustrate how businesses can strive to combat social problems on macro and micro levels. Lastly, impact investors may use the guide as a reference when making decisions about the businesses they want to invest in.

Future Research

The central list of social capabilities is a guide that researchers may use for
understanding and measuring the diversity of social capabilities that social
enterprises and other organizations may create. Furthermore, the Social
Capability Measure may be used in future research studies to assess how
social enterprises and other social organizations create social capabilities and
social functionings. Specifically, scholars can use the Social Capability
Measure in other surveys of social enterprises for case study research, inter-
views, or focus group research. Applying this instrument to assess social
capabilities using different methodological techniques may foster deeper or
different insights on how social enterprises seek to meet human needs.