In his article from 1998, J. Gregory Dees does a job of defining the social entrepreneur. First he introduces different views upon the entrepreneur in general, including those of Jean Baptiste Say, Joseph Schumpeter, Peter Drucker and Howard Stevenson. The social entrepreneur isn’t so different from the business entrepreneur – they posses much of the same qualities. But the social entrepreneur has the extra dimension of the social mission in her entrepreneurship. Making it more difficult to operate through the mechanisms of the market.
The definition that Dees ends up with is this:
Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in social sector, by:
Adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value)
Recognising and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission,
Engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning
Acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and
Exhibiting a heightened sense of accountability to the constitutencies served and for the outcomes created.
This is the ideal definition. Each social entrepreneur will exemplify these characteristics in different ways and to different degrees.