Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 111, Issue 3, pp 321–334 | Cite as

A Tale of Two Cultures: Charity, Problem Solving, and the Future of Social Entrepreneurship

  • J. Gregory DeesEmail author


Two cultures are at play in the field of social entrepreneurship: an age-old culture of charity, and a more contemporary culture of entrepreneurial problem solving. These cultures permeate activities from resource providers to front line operations. Both have roots in our psychological responses to the needs of others and are reinforced by social norms. They can work hand-in-hand or they can be at odds. Some of the icons of the social entrepreneurship movement have spoken harshly about charity, yet most of them rely to some degree, at least early in their development process, on resources that are given out of a charitable impulse. The success of social entrepreneurship requires an integration of values from each of these cultures, in which the satisfactions of giving are correlated with social benefits of rigorous problem solving.


Social entrepreneurship Charity Social enterprise Social innovation Philanthropy 



The author thanks the Skoll Foundation for its generous support of this work as part of a larger project.


  1. Aaker, J., Smith, A., & Adler, C. (2010). The dragonfly effect: Quick, effective, and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Aknin, L. B., Barrington-Leigh, C. Dunn, E. W., Helliwell, J. F., Biswas-Diener, R., Kemeza, et al. (2010). Prosocial spending and well-being: Cross-cultural evidence for a psychological universal. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series, September.Google Scholar
  3. Aknin, L. B., Dunn, E. W., & Norton, M. I. (2012). Happiness runs in a circular motion: Evidence for a positive feedback loop between prosocial spending and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(2), 347–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Banerjee, A. V. (2007). Making aid work. Cambridge, MA: Boston Review Book, MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Banerjee, A. V., & Duflo, E. (2011). Poor economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  6. Beito, D. (2000). From mutual aid to the welfare state: Fraternal societies and social services, 1890–1967. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  7. Berkshire, J. C. (2012). To lure baby-boomer donors, charities must prove their results. Chronicle of Philanthropy. February 23, 1.Google Scholar
  8. Bowen, W. G. (1994). Inside the boardroom: Governance by directors and trustees (especially Chap. 6, pp. 131–144). New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  9. Brooks, A. (2008). Gross national happiness: Why happiness matters for American—and how we can get more of it. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  10. Clinton, B. (2007). Giving: How each of us can change the world. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  11. Conkey, C. (2006). Strings attached: Along with their big bucks, rich donors want to give charities their two cents. Wall Street Journal, July 3, B1.Google Scholar
  12. Corbett, S., & Fikkert, B. (2009). When helping hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor…and yourself. Chicago: Moody Publishers.Google Scholar
  13. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  14. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996a). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  15. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996b). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  16. de Waal, F. (2009). The age of empathy: Nature’s lessons for a kinder society. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dees, J. G. (2009). Social ventures as learning laboratories (Special edition for the World Economic Forum at Davos, January, pp. 11–15). Boston, MA: Innovations.Google Scholar
  18. Dewey, J. (1908). Ethics. In J. A. Boydston (Ed.), John Dewey: The middle works, 1899–1924 (as reprinted in full as volume 5 in a series, 1978). Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Ellerman, D. (2005). Helping people help themselves: From the World Bank to an alternative philosophy of development assistance. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  20. Fisher, I. (2001). Can international relief do more good than harm? New York Times Magazine, February 11.Google Scholar
  21. Fisher, J. D., Nadler, A., & Whitcher-Alagna, S. (1982). Recipient reactions to aid. Psychological Bulletin, 91(1), 27–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gilbert, D. (2006). Stumbling on happiness. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  23. Harbaugh, W., Mayr, U., & Burghart, D. (2007). Neural responses to taxation and voluntary giving reveal motives for charitable donations. Science, 316, 1622–1625.Google Scholar
  24. Harford, T. (2011). Adapt: Why success always starts with failure. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  25. Hauser, M. D. (2006). Moral minds: How nature designed our universal sense of right and wrong. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.Google Scholar
  26. Himmelfarb, G. (1991). Poverty and compassion: The moral imagination of the late Victorians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.Google Scholar
  27. Hitchens, C. (1995). The missionary position: Mother Teresa in theory and practice. New York: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  28. Hubbard, R. G., & Duggan, W. (2009). The aid trap: Hard truths about ending poverty. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Jones, G. S. (2005). An end to poverty?: A historical debate. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Karlan, D., & Appel, J. (2011). More than good intentions: How a new economics is helping to solve global poverty. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  31. Keizer, G. (2004). Help: The original human dilemma. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  32. Kelley, T. (2005). Rediscovering vulgar charity: a historical analysis of America’s tangled nonprofit law. Fordham Law Review, 73(6), 2937–2946.Google Scholar
  33. Maathai, W. (2009). The challenge for Africa. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  34. Marshall, A. (1893). Preliminary statement and evidence before the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. In J. M. Keynes (Ed.), Official papers by Alfred Marshal (1926). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  35. Martin, R., & Osberg, S. (2007). Social entrepreneurship: The case for a definition. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 10(Spring), 28–39.Google Scholar
  36. Mauss, M. (1950). The gift: The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies [Quotes come from Halls’ translation from the French (1990)]. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. McKnight, J. (1995). The careless society: community and its counterfeits. New York: Basis Books.Google Scholar
  38. Morino, M. (2011). Leap of reason: Managing to outcomes in an era of scarcity. Washington, DC: Venture Philanthropy Partners.Google Scholar
  39. Moyo, D. (2009). Dead aid: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.Google Scholar
  40. Pagel, M. (2012). Wired for culture: Origins of the human social mind. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  41. Pope Benedict IV. (2009). Encyclical letter. Caritas in veritate. Issued July 29.Google Scholar
  42. Ridley, M. (1996). The origins of virtue: Human instincts and the evolution of cooperation. New York: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
  43. Robert, R. (2000). Low risk, high return: Starting and growing your business with minimal risk. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  44. Rosenberg, C Jr. (1994). Wealthy and wise: How you and America can get the most out of your giving. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.Google Scholar
  45. Rosenfeld, J. (1999). Giving back. December: Fast Company.Google Scholar
  46. Sawhill, J., & Williamson, D. (2001). Mission impossible? Measuring success in nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit Management & Leadership, 11(3), 371–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shapiro, J. (1994). No pity: People with disabilities forging a new civil rights movement. New York: Three Rivers Press.Google Scholar
  48. Sharot, T. (2011). The optimism bias: A tour of the irrationally positive brain. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  49. Shershow, S. C. (2005). The work & the gift. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  50. Singer, P. (2010). The life you save. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  51. Small, D., & Loewenstein, G. (2003). Helping a victim or helping the victim: Altruism and identifiability. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 26(1), 5–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Small, D., Loewenstein, G., & Slovic, P. (2007). Sympathy and callousness: The impact of deliberative thought on donations to identifiable and statistical victims. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 102(2), 143–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Smith, A. (1759). The theory of moral sentiments (Quotes from reprint of the “New Edition” published by Henry Bell in London in 1853). Indianapolis: LibertyClassics, 1969, and 1976.Google Scholar
  54. Thoreau, H. D. (1852). Walden [Quote from version edited by Thomas, O. (1996)]. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  55. Tierney, T. J., & Fleishman, J. L. (2011). Give smart: Philanthropy that gets results. New York: Public Affairs. Google Scholar
  56. Trout, J. D. (2009). The empathy gap: Building bridges to the good life and the good society. New York: Viking Penguin.Google Scholar
  57. Waldfogel, J. (2009). Scroogenomics: Why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holidays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Walzer, M. (1983). Spheres of justice: A defense of pluralism and equality. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  59. Yunus, M. (1999). Banker to the poor: Micro-lending and the battle against world poverty. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar
  60. Yunus, M., & Weber, K. (2010). Building social business: The new kind of capitalism that serves humanity’s most pressing needs. New York: Public Affairs.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, Fuqua School of BusinessDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations