This article examines the issue of social enterprises making money. Although these enterprises stress the importance of making money, they always have a more important goal.
A wave of new regulations, activities and developments in 2014 mean that the outlook for the social enterprise industry is bright. However, the author points out an unresolved conceptual barrier: what are Chinese social enterprises? Are they companies, NGOs or something else?
Successful social enterprises like Can You (残友集团) and the Fuping Domestic Service Center (富平家政) class themselves as companies. But government sees social enterprises as NGOs, while some academics see them as a new sector entirely.
Although both Can You and Fuping prioritise their financial health, this has come into conflict with their aspirations to serve the public good. The author uses the metaphor of a car to explain how these social enterprises operate, with business as the chassis and public welfare as the engine.
China’s public welfare sector is in line to receive a large inflow of capital. However, the author remains worried whether or not the sector is developed and well conceptualised enough to receive it.