- BACKGROUND: Many people living with mental illness want paid work, but finding and maintaining mainstream employment remains challenging. In recent decades, social enterprises have emerged as one alternative site for paid employment. Existing research has examined the experiences of people with mental illness working in social enterprises, but less is known about the organizational character of these workplaces. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this paper is to develop a better understanding of social enterprises as organizational contexts for workers with mental illness. METHODS: The research employed a qualitative methodology, conducting semi-structured interviews with executive directors and managers at 42 organizations operating 67 social enterprises across CanadaRESULTS:While there are strong similarities in organizational mandate to create meaningful employment there are also important variations between social enterprises. These include variations in size, economic activity and organizational structure, as well as differences in hours of work, rates of pay and the nature and extent of workplace accommodation. These variations reflect both immediate organizational contexts as well as broader economic constraints that enterprises confront. CONCLUSIONS: Understanding the varied nature of social enterprises is important for thinking about future enterprise development, and the capacity of such organizations to create meaningful employment for people living with mental illness.