Social enterprises–businesses that work for social benefit rather than for the maximization of financial returns to shareholders or owners–could potentially prove to be an innovative and sustainable way of tackling ‘upstream’ social determinants of health. However, empirical work focusing upon how, and to what extent, social enterprise-led activity may impact upon health and well-being is still relatively scarce. This study examines how social enterprises portray their impact, and how such impacts may be considered in health and well-being terms. Through analysing evaluative reports of the work of social enterprises in Scotland (n = 17) utilizing a ‘process coding’ method, we investigate both the self-reported impacts of the work of social enterprises and the mechanisms by which these are said to be derived. Revisiting previous conceptualizations in the extant literature, this work allows us to present an ‘empirically-informed’ conceptual model of the health and well-being impacts of social enterprise-led activity, and thus presents a significant advance on previous hypothetical, theoretically-based conceptualizations. It is considered that these findings further improve our overall knowledge of ways in which social enterprise and other parts of the third sector could be considered as potentially valuable ‘non-obvious’ public health actors.

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