This article critically considers distinctions between, social enterprise and social entrepreneurship from a theoretical perspective. Using case study analysis of 10 non-governmental organisations the paper explores these concepts empirically. Findings on social enterprise reveal a focus on the purpose of social businesses, while findings on social entrepreneurship reveal an emphasis on the processes underlying innovative and entrepreneurial activity for social purposes. Discussion of these findings indicates important developments relevant to informing the growing area of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship research. Implications extend to understanding the need for action to achieve social change, and an acceptance of risk when existing actions fail to achieve their intended outcomes.