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Social entrepreneurship has recently received greater recognition from the public sector, as well as from scholars. However, the lack of a unifying paradigm in the field has lead to a proliferation of definitions. Moreover, several approaches of the phenomenon, as well as different schools of thought, have emerged in different regions of the world.

At first glance, because of different conceptions of capitalism and of the government's role, there seems to be a difference between the American and the European conceptions of social entrepreneurship. The objective of this paper is to clarify the concepts of ‘social entrepreneurship’, ‘social entrepreneur’ and ‘social entrepreneurship organization’ and to examine whether there is a transatlantic divide in the way these are conceived and defined. After having justified the need for a definition, we present the different geographical perspectives.

North American and European literatures on social entrepreneurship are critically analysed by means of Gartner's four differentiating aspects: the individual, the process, the organization and the environment. We show that there is no clear-cut transatlantic divide, but that, even within the US, different conceptions coexist. We propose definitions for the main concepts associated with social entrepreneurship and, finally, discuss implications for future research.

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