Promoting Social Enterprise through Public Policy

Welcome!  The following is my Honors Thesis from the 2010-2011 academic year through the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.   Thank you for visiting and taking the time to read my work.

My thesis is a product of the mission of the Mendoza College of Business at Notre Dame to “ask more of business.”  I am deeply grateful for the University’s commitment to utilizing business for the greater good.  Thank you to all who contributed to the creation of this paper, especially, my adviser Melissa Paulsen, and all the social entrepreneurs and policy professionals that graciously shared their time with me.

-Chris Rhodenbaugh


Why did I write about social enterprise?

Many believed the election of President Obama in 2008 was a critical juncture for the United States.  His election personified this generation’s response to economic crisis; a desire for a better political discourse, more effective and efficient governance, and a step out of the entrapped arguments of past generations.  Unfortunately the optimism and idealism of the campaign disintegrated into one of the most divided and vitriolic political atmospheres Americans have ever seen.  Instead of being the solution to America’s problems, the election of President Obama in a moment of crisis continues to reveal the most ubiquitous fault line dividing politics in the United States – the conflict between free markets to promote individual opportunity and government involvement to ensure a standard of living.  Political opponents are entrenched in a fruitless tug of war between regulation and taxes to promote social and environmental programs, and a resolute faith in the capacity of the free market to create the best possible societal outcomes.  For-profit social enterprises are a new way forward, built on America’s core values of opportunity through the free market and caring for one another.



A new type of company, for-profit social enterprises, are emerging in the U.S. with the potential to revolutionize the way business, society and government interact.  For-profit social enterprises reflect the American character, a duality of impassioned desire to do good and care for a neighbor, with a profound belief in the value of the opportunity for financial success through hard work and competition.  They are the market’s response to an evolving consumer that is demanding more from companies than pursuit of the financial bottom line.  Through interviews with social entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy experts, as well as a thorough survey of available research, this paper illustrates the extraordinary opportunity of social enterprise, while developing policy proposals carefully designed for business to catalyze growth in the sector.

Read online:

Promoting Social Enterprise through Public Policy

Download as a pdf:

Promoting Social Enterprise through Public Policy

Download appendices as a pdf:



This paper attempts to:

Define the evolving spectrum of business models

Explain the value of social enterprise

Advocate for a more effective rating system and method of quantifying social and environmental return

Propose federal and state policies to accelerate growth in the social enterprise sector

  • SBA Loans
  • Employee education and training
  • Payroll tax cut
  • Government procurement preferences
  • Capital gains tax cut
  • Revenue neutral carbon tax
  • PACE Financial Program


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