"A social enterprise is a business with primary social objectives whose surpluses are re-invested, for that purpose, in the business or in the community rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders or owners."DETI
Social enterprises operate as a business as a vehicle for achieving wider social goals. They differ from other businesses or enterprises in that they have the following characteristics:
The social enterprise sector is incredibly diverse, encompassing co-operatives, development trusts, community enterprises, housing associations, football supporter's trusts, social firms and leisure trusts, among others.
As a result social enterprises use a wide variety of legal forms: some incorporate as companies while others take the form of industrial and provident societies. From July 2005, social enterprises have also been able to register as Community Interest Companies and a new form, Charitable Incorporated Organisations, will soon be available.