In Research


Year: 2015
Published in: ICSEM Project
Cited as: Kuan, Y.-Y. & Wang, S.-T. (2015) “Social Enterprise in Taiwan”, No. 13.


The discourse concerning ”Social Enterprises in Taiwan: Characteristics, Development Trend, and Effect” zooms in on a period of about two decades, i.e. from the 1990s till now. This is a time when Taiwan society went through most rapid changes in the aspects of politics, economy and social needs. It is under such an environment that a wide variety of voluntary and non-profit organizations (NPOs) have gradually increased in number and developed. While competition between organizations for resources became gradually stringent, a wide range of policy incentives have been introduced by the government, which is keen to include NPOs as a partner in tackling serious unemployment issues and other social problems. The two factors combined have prompted a significant number of NPOs in Taiwan to continuously pursue a developmental path that features market orientation and industrialization while striving to fulfill their social welfare objectives. Consequently, “social enterprise” has found its applications in Taiwan, both as a notion and as a business model. In Taiwan, the emergence of social enterprise is a still new phenomenon, and no broad consensus has been reached yet over a formal definition of the concept. However, in the current conception of the notion, social enterprise is defined by the adoption of an entrepreneurial and business approach with a view to achieving social missions rather than purely economic objectives. Particularly noteworthy are the facts that the notion of social enterprise usually refers in Taiwan to commercial entities or activities set up by NPOs, and that social enterprises are often not distinct legal entities, but “units”—or even simply activities—operated by their founding NPO. More importantly, the development of social enterprises in Taiwan has been closely linked with the evolution of the political context, and especially with the institutional changes in the environment, which have profoundly affected the operational efficiency of social enterprise initiatives launched by NPOs. This paper consists of five parts. After the introduction, Section 2 gives an overview of the developmental course of social enterprises in Taiwan, exploring what social enterprise refers to and what the major factors that have contributed to the rise of social enterprises in Taiwan are. Section 3 proposes a typology of Taiwan’s social enterprises, elaborating on the features and functions of the five major types of social enterprise identified. In section 4, based on the findings of our 2006-2013 surveys, Taiwanese social enterprises are analyzed from the point of view of (1) their organizational characteristics, (2) their management, (3) their governance, (4) the role of the government, and (5) their social impact. Finally, section 5 offers a summary and conclusion in accordance with the above analysis.