Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Katharine Shepherd


Changes are afoot in the nonprofit sector of the economy (James, 2003). Nonprofit leaders are adopting entrepreneurial business models to sustain or expand the scope of their mission work. This change is part of a counter-hegemonic shift toward a new economic paradigm in which blended business models create both social and financial value (Sabeti, 2009; Sahakian & Dunand, 2013). The current study explored how nonprofit leaders understand the shift toward a more enterprising and entrepreneurial nonprofit sector. Qualitative methods, along with a grounded theory framework were used to elicit leaders' perspectives on the emergence of social enterprise in nonprofits and the characteristics of successful nonprofit social enterprise. Findings include five themes of social enterprise understanding that offer structure for further research and professional discourse on the subject, including: 1) Social enterprise as a necessary and inevitable evolution of the nonprofit organization; 2) Social enterprise as a means of achieving a social mission; 3) Social enterprise as a true blending of business and social impact models; 4) Social enterprise as a business principle applied to a social mission context; and 5) Social enterprise as a market-driven approach to financial and social value creation. A secondary analysis points to the emergence of a social enterprise synergy effect in which the social and financial value generated by nonprofit social enterprises yield a third effect that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. The implications of these findings are limited to nonprofit social enterprises, but contribute to our understanding of this nascent field.



Number of Pages

115 p.