diagramThe terminology used to describe various facets of the social economy is vast, not surprising given the diversity of overlapping social, environmental, and political themes involved in conceptualizing alternative economic theory. Below are some of the more common terms found in academic literature and governmental policies (from wikipedia):


Civil Society

Civil society is composed of the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state (regardless of that state’s political system) and commercial institutions of the market.” [WIKI]

Community Development

Community development (CD), informally called community building, is a broad term applied to the practices and academic disciplines of civic leaders, activists, involved citizens and professionals to improve various aspects of local communities.” [WIKI]

Community Economic Development

Community Economic Development (CED) is action taken locally by a community to provide economic opportunities and improve social conditions in a sustainable way.” [WIKI]

Participatory Economy

Participatory economics, often abbreviated parecon, is an economic system proposed by activist and political theorist Michael Albert and radical economist Robin Hahnel. It uses participatory decision making as an economic mechanism to guide the production, consumption and allocation of resources in a given society.” [WIKI]

Social Capital

Social capital is a sociological concept used in business, economics, organizational behaviour, political science, public health and the social sciences in general to refer to connections within and between social networks that contribute to social cohesion and personal investment in the community.” [WIKI]

Social Economy

“Social economy refers to a third sector in economies between the private sector and business or, the public sector and government. It includes organisations such as cooperatives, non-governmental organisations and charities.” [WIKI]

Social Enterprise

Social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profits whose primary purposes are social.” [WIKI]

Solidarity Economy

“The solidarity economy can be seen a) as part of the “third sector” in which economic activity is aimed at expressing practical solidarity with disadvantaged groups of people, which contrasts with the private sector, where economic activity is aimed at generating profits, and the public sector, where economic activity is directed at public policy objectives, or b) as a struggle seeking to build an economy and culture of solidarity beyond capitalism in the present.

The still evolving term solidarity economy is an English translation of a concept represented by the French économie solidaire and similar terms in several other languages. As such it is sometimes translated by other expressions such as solidarity-based economy.” [WIKI]

Sustainable Business

Sustainable business, or green business, is enterprise that has no negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy—a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line. Often, sustainable businesses have progressive environmental and human rights policies.” [WIKI]

Third/Voluntary/Civic Sector

“The voluntary sector (also non-profit sector) is the sphere of social activity undertaken by organizations that are for non-profit and non-governmental. This sector is also called the third sector, in reference to the public sector and the private sector. Civic sector is another term for the sector, emphasizing the sector’s relationship to civil society.” [WIKI]


Charities and Foundations

“A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). The term is relatively general and can technically refer to a public charity (also called charitable foundation, public foundation or simply foundation) or a private foundation. It differs from other types of NPOs in that its focus is centered around goals of a general philanthropic nature (e.g. charitable, educational, religious, or other activities serving the public interest or common good).” [WIKI]


“A cooperative (also co-operative; often referred to as a co-op or coop) is defined by the International Co-operative Alliance’s Statement on the Co-operative Identity as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise . It is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit.” [WIKI]

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

“Non-governmental organization (NGO) is a term that has become widely accepted as referring to a legally constituted, non-governmental organization created by natural or legal persons with no participation or representation of any government. In the cases in which NGOs are funded totally or partially by governments, the NGO maintains its non-governmental status and excludes government representatives from membership in the organization.” [WIKI]

Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs)

“A nonprofit organization (abbreviated NPO, also not-for-profit) is an organization that does not distribute its surplus funds to owners or shareholders, but instead uses them to help pursue its goals. Examples of NPOs include charities (i.e. charitable organizations) , trade unions, and public arts organizations. Most governments and government agencies meet this definition, but in most countries they are considered a separate type of organization and not counted as NPOs.” [WIKI]