Jargon-mania: A Social-Enterprise Lexicon

Jargon Cloud


There’s nothing like a conference to breed and spread fresh jargon. At the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship, they’ve included “impact,” “accountability,” “social business,” that old standby “best practices,” and of course “social entrepreneurship.” Paul Farmer, of Mountains Beyond Mountains and Partners in Health fame observed wryly in his panel discussion that “metrics is the second-most fetishized word here after scale.”

Over the three days of the Skoll Forum, I’ve collected new (to me) and noxious terms that popped up in the panel discussions I attended. I’ll be clear: It’s not the concepts that offend me so much as the gobbledygookishness of these phrases, which somehow is directly proportional to the likelihood they’ll enter wider industry use.

I’ve added more terms culled from #swf09 tweets as well as other delegates’ keen ears. Consider this a public service announcement: Beware these terms. (Definitions provided where possible.) Thanks to @jessicashortall for her assiduous hunting as well. And if you’ve got more, please comment!

Disconnected ambiguity

Empowerment coefficient


Humanity scouts – people who go ant-like ahead of others and show the way forward. Syn.: pioneer.

Humanizing capitalism – as in, capitalism that humanizes.

Interconnected prosperity – “Hope, joy, empathy, community.” Kumbaya!

Justice entrepreneur – I do not have a clue what this means. Someone who makes money from justice? Sells justice? Makes money from getting justice for others?

Participative capital


Spinternet – Spin + internet.

Spontaneous community – Syn.: slum.

Strategic apex – Not to be confused with the nonstrategic kind.

Toxic accountability – “The problem is not a lack of accountability, but too much of the wrong kind.”

About the author

Jeff Chu writes on international affairs, social issues, and design for Fast Company. His first book, Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in America, was published by HarperCollins in April 2013.