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4. The role of personal values in social
The importance of values to the social entrepreneur is widely acknowl-
edged in the social entrepreneurship literature. However, in- depth discus-
sion of values and how they motivate the social entrepreneur is extremely
rare. Most studies of entrepreneurial smotivation focus solely on eco-
nomic incentives and psychological constructs such as self- ecacy and the
need for personal achievement.
In this chapter, I examine the question of how an entrepreneur’s values
inuence the kind of venture she (or he) will create. I draw on values
theories from social psychology to explain the role of values as drivers
of entrepreneurial action with the purpose of creating social or environ-
mental benets over and above economic benets. I theorize that entre-
preneurs will place varying levels of priority on values focused on either
self- enhancement or self- transcendence and that these prioritizations will
strongly inuence the importance they place on creating economic or
social benets through their ventures. I provide a framework for under-
standing how values motivate social entrepreneurs to create non- economic
This chapter advances the study of entrepreneurship by reintroducing
values as an important topic for research. I show how values may provide
a way to determine who will become a social entrepreneur and who will
not. Also I demonstrate that, by understanding the unique value pri-
orities and blended social/economic goals of social entrepreneurs, social
entrepreneurship research may broaden our understanding of entre-
preneurship and the role of values in entrepreneurship more broadly.
Finally, I explore the practical implications of understanding values for
the social entrepreneur. Considering her own value priorities and those of
her rm’s stakeholders is critical to the success of the social entrepreneur
and her venture.
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88 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
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How do an entrepreneur’s values inuence the kind of venture she will
create? We typically assume that entrepreneurs select opportunities based
on whether they have a good chance of nancial success. But ask any
entrepreneur to describe her venture and it will be obvious that her actions
are driven by more than a simple economic calculation. It is clear that the
totality of the entrepreneur’s experience, emotions, self- concept, beliefs,
and values play a role in the opportunities she chooses to pursue and the
way she chooses to pursue them. Values have been described as ‘stand-
ards that guide our behavior and lead us to take a particular position
on social issues and inuence others’ (García Álvarez and López Sintas,
2001, p. 210). They represent a powerful force that drives our individual
beliefs, intentions, desires, and self- concept. The desire to express our
values through our behavior is one the strongest sources of motivation we
experience as human beings (Williams, 1979; Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987;
Hitlin, 2003). Thus, values should have a profound inuence on the goals
entrepreneurs hold and the opportunities they pursue, particularly when
those goals involve eecting social or environmental change.
Entrepreneurship scholars have long been interested in the characteris-
tics of the individual entrepreneur. The focus of research on the individual
has expanded well beyond the search for distinctive personal traits that
determine who will be an entrepreneur and who will not. Scholars are
now exploring the ways in which characteristics of the individual aect
entrepreneurial motivation, actions, and outcomes. Studies examining the
entrepreneur’s emotions (Baron, 2008; Foo, 2011), self- concept (Murnieks
and Mosakowski, 2007; Cardon et al., 2009; Farmer et al., 2011), prior
experience and tacit knowledge (Shane, 2000; Eckhardt and Shane, 2003),
cognitive processes (Gaglio and Katz, 2001; Baron, 2004; Gaglio, 2004),
and social group identication (Fauchart and Gruber, 2011) are just a few
examples of the way in which the study of the individual entrepreneur has
grown and advanced our knowledge of the venturing process.
Understanding the individual entrepreneur can help us better determine
not only why someone becomes an entrepreneur, but also what type of
entrepreneur they will become. For example, some entrepreneurs create
ventures with a distinctive social or environmental mission while others
focus solely on economic gain. Understanding the motivations and beliefs
of these entrepreneurs is particularly important for the emerging body of
research on social entrepreneurship because the personal values of the
entrepreneur are foundational to these motivations and beliefs. Social
entrepreneurship scholars frequently mention the important role of social
entrepreneurs’ personal values in driving their desire to eect societal
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 89
change (for example, Thompson, 2002; Dart, 2004; Hemingway, 2005;
Seelos and Mair, 2005; Austin et al., 2006; Cho, 2006; Weerawardena
and Sullivan Mort, 2006; Shaw and Carter, 2007; Van de Ven et al., 2007;
Coombs et al., 2008; Steinerowski et al., 2008; Moray and Stevens, 2009;
Short et al., 2009; Zahra et al., 2009). Likewise, values often appear as
an important factor in the broader entrepreneurship and management
literature, particularly in the study of business ethics, executive decision
making, and corporate culture (for example, Guth and Tagiuri, 1965;
England, 1967; Finegan, 1994; Anderson, 1997; Agle and Caldwell, 1999;
Joyner and Payne, 2002; Wade- Benzoni et al., 2002). However, in- depth
discussion of values is relatively uncommon in these studies and is very
rare in studies focused on entrepreneurship (but see Hemingway, 2005;
Moray and Stevens, 2009). Most of these studies merely acknowledge the
importance of values as part of a larger theoretical argument.
The potential of values theory to signicantly advance our understand-
ing of social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in general has yet
to be realized. In this chapter, I develop a model explaining the role of
values as a driver of entrepreneurial action with the purpose of creating
social benets over and above economic benets. I focus on the individual
entrepreneur and the goals of the ventures they create to address the fol-
lowing question: how do an entrepreneur’s personal values aect the kind
of opportunities she will pursue?
In this chapter, I argue that values and their eect on the motivational
goals of the individual founder and the venture she creates are critical yet
largely ignored topics in entrepreneurship research. Social entrepreneur-
ship is an ideal context in which to consider the role of values in shaping
entrepreneurial goals and action. Since social entrepreneurs focus on
creating social benet for people and the environment beyond their own
interests, and do so over and above economic considerations, there is a
clear value- expressive character to the goals they pursue. At the same time,
these goals are not easily explained by theories of economic rationality or
egoistic motivational constructs. I draw on values theory for an alternative
explanation. Individual entrepreneurs prioritize dierent kinds of values
to varying degrees and the individual entrepreneur’s values can be located
along a continuum between self- enhancing and self- transcending motiva-
tional goals. The entrepreneur’s location on this continuum will predict
the degree to which she will pursue economic prot and/or public goods in
the opportunities she creates.
These ideas advance the study of entrepreneurship by reintroducing
values theory to the eld and paving the way for future research on the
eect of values on the venturing process. Values theory may provide an
empirically tractable way to distinguish between social and commercial
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90 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
entrepreneurs. Finally, I end the chapter by explaining how, through the
study of values, social entrepreneurship research can make a unique con-
tribution to the broader eld of entrepreneurship scholarship and discuss
implications for practicing and aspiring social entrepreneurs.
My analysis proceeds as follows. First, I briey discuss the distinctive
characteristics of social entrepreneurship and explain why it is an ideal
context in which to study value- expressive motivation. Next, I draw on
values theory to explain what values are, how they are formed, and how
they shape the entrepreneur’s self- concept and motivational goals. Finally,
I discuss the implications for theory and practice and the potential for
SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND MOTIVATION
The study of the social implications of entrepreneurship and the inuence
of socio- cultural factors on entrepreneurial action is still in its infancy
(Venkataraman, 1997). Although there is a growing interest in the phe-
nomenon of social entrepreneurship, broadly dened as the creation of
new ventures that explicitly focus on addressing social issues, there remains
a critical need for more established theories and streams of research to be
applied to this context (Austin et al., 2006; Mair and Martí, 2006; Short et
al., 2009; Dacin et al., 2010). Social entrepreneurship research also suers
from the lack of a clear and widely accepted denition (Dacin et al., 2010).
However, most scholars agree that social entrepreneurs are distinguished
from their commercial counterparts in that they espouse an enduring com-
mitment to solving societal or environmental problems over and above,
but not exclusive of, creating economic prot (Mair and Martí, 2006).
Hervieux et al. (2010) used discourse analysis to show that institutional
actors such as academics, consultants, and foundations are establishing
a denition of the legitimate social venture as an organization designed
to simultaneously pursue social and economic benet, seeking to eect
social change through market means. The presence of social goals and the
need to balance these with economic considerations requires a broader
view of entrepreneurial motivation than is often taken in the entrepre-
neurship literature. Typically, these studies assume that economic prot
is the dominant force in driving entrepreneurial action (Carland et al.,
1984; Shane, 2003; Aldrich and Ruef, 2006). Thus, they do not adequately
explain the existence of social ventures. Also, psychological theories used
to explain entrepreneurial motivation typically consider only self- focused
drivers such as the need for achievement, locus of control, and self- ecacy
(Johnson, 1990; Shane et al., 2003; Rindova et al., 2009). It is dicult to
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 91
explain the motivation to pursue socially benecial opportunities relying
solely on economic rationality and self- enhancement (Shamir, 1991).
The study of values in the eld of psychology is quite mature and current
theories have found very strong empirical support (Schwartz, 1992, 1994,
1996; Prince- Gibson and Schwartz, 1998; Gecas, 2000; Hitlin, 2003). The
importance of values is acknowledged almost universally in the social
entrepreneurship literature (for example, Thompson, 2002; Sullivan Mort
et al., 2003; Dart, 2004; Hemingway, 2005; Seelos and Mair, 2005; Austin
et al., 2006; Cho, 2006; Mair and Martí, 2006; Weerawardena and Sullivan
Mort, 2006; Shaw and Carter, 2007; Van de Ven et al., 2007; Coombs et
al., 2008; Steinerowski et al., 2008; Moray and stevens, 2009; Short et al.,
2009; Zahra et al., 2009; Meyskens et al., 2010; Nicholls, 2010). Values
theory has the potential to expand our understanding of social ventures
and of entrepreneurship more broadly by explaining how the personal
values of the entrepreneur drive her motivational goals and signicantly
inuence the kind of opportunities she will pursue. This should be par-
ticularly visible for entrepreneurs whose ventures have prominent non-
economic goals and especially for social entrepreneurs whose goals are of
an obviously value- expressive character. However, it seems likely that all
entrepreneurs are motivated by their personal values and pursue multiple
goals through the ventures they create. For these reason a comparison of
social and commercial entrepreneurs is an ideal context in which to con-
sider the eects of values on entrepreneurial motivation.
The study of values in the Western philosophical tradition can be traced
back to the earliest moral philosophers, Aristotle being perhaps the most
inuential (Jackson, 1996). In modern psychology research, discussions
of values have converged to oer a robust theoretical framework that
explains what values are, how they are formed, and how they shape the
self- concept and behavior of individuals.
What Are Values?
In simple terms, values are standards for judgment and behavior that
serve as guiding principles in our lives (Wright, 1971; Williams, 1979;
Prince- Gibson and Schwartz, 1998). Values are the beliefs that we hold
about what is good, right, and desirable for ourselves and others. Milton
Rokeach, a psychologist and pioneer in values research, provided perhaps
the most comprehensive denition of values:
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92 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
To say that a person has a value is to say that he has an enduring prescriptive or
proscriptive belief that a specic mode of behavior or end- state of existence is
preferred to an opposite mode of behavior or end- state. This belief transcends
attitudes toward objects and toward situations; it is a standard that guides and
determines action, attitudes toward objects and situations, ideology, presenta-
tions of self to others, evaluations, judgments, justications, comparisons of
self with others, and attempts to inuence others. Values serve as adjustive, ego-
defensive, knowledge, and self- actualizing functions. (Rokeach, 1973, p. 25)
The essential components of this denition are common to most deni-
tions of values in the psychology literature (Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987).
Values are higher- order systems of belief which are formed early in
life, are shaped by the whole of the individual’s life experience, and are
not subject to the immediate control of the individual. As such, they
transcend more concrete constructs such as desires and attitudes which
are transitory, situational, and can be denied or altered when necessary
(Hemingway, 2005). These and other lower- level constructs are more
instrumental, expressing the values with which they align. Values also
drive judgment, serving as a standard by which the individual can evaluate
objects, situations, the actions of herself, and of other people and groups.
Values represent the individual’s orientation toward fullling universal
human needs of biological survival, social interaction, and the welfare
of society (Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987). In this way, values concern both
one’s own benet and the welfare of others (Rokeach, 1973; Meglino and
Ravlin, 1998; Meglino and Korsgaard, 2004).
Values focus on what is desirable. They represent ideal end- states and
the best fulllment of individual and collective needs (Rokeach, 1973;
Schwartz and Bilsky, 1987). For this reason, values are hierarchical,
recognizing some behaviors and outcomes as being preferred to others
(Rokeach, 1973; Williams, 1979; Schwartz, 1992, 1994). The result is that
some values will be dominant and, since values are shaped by individual
heritage and experience, that hierarchy is idiosyncratic.
Values are trans- situational, enduring temporally and across contexts
(Rokeach, 1973; Hitlin, 2003). They are deeply held and are considered to
be foundational to the self- concept (Wright, 1971; Rokeach, 1973; Hitlin,
2003). In this way, they are linked to other dimensions of the self and espe-
cially to identity. Value- expressive behavior is, therefore, self- expressive
behavior that enhances self- esteem and positive aect (Wright, 1971;
Rokeach, 1973). Behavior that runs counter to one’s values causes guilt
and feelings of stress as the behavior is not consistent with the authentic
self (Wright, 1971; Burke, 1991, 1996; Meglino and Ravlin, 1998; Stryker
and Burke, 2000). For these reasons, the drive to express one’s values is
a deep- seated and powerful motivational force. Since values serve as a
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 93
standard to interpret the meaning of one’s own behavior and the behavior
of others at the individual, interpersonal, and societal level, they facilitate
judgment, preference, and choice (Williams, 1979).
Values and Entrepreneurs
These key components of values theory are foundational to understanding
the role of values in shaping the self- concept and motivational goals of the
entrepreneur. First, values are trans- situational and enduring standards
by which entrepreneurs judge the desirability and relative importance
of their actions. These judgments are made with respect not only to the
welfare of the entrepreneur but to the welfare of others as well. In this way,
values allow the entrepreneur to recognize dierences in the desirability of
pursuing dierent kinds of opportunities beyond a simple calculation of
potential economic prot and beyond the benet to herself.
Second, the entrepreneur’s idiosyncratic value hierarchy determines
which values will be most dominant and will best express her distinctive
self- concept. In other words, entrepreneurs are heterogeneous in their
prioritization of values. Individual entrepreneurs will, therefore, prefer
dierent kinds of opportunities. Accordingly, both value structure and
value priority (Prince- Gibson and Schwartz, 1998) are critical constructs
through which the entrepreneur’s values can be conceptualized and meas-
ured. I draw on Schwartz’s (1992) theory of values to explain how the
structure and prioritization of the entrepreneur’s personal values aect her
goals and inuence the kind of opportunities she will pursue.
Building on earlier work by Rokeach (1973), Schwartz (1992, 1994) has
developed the prevailing model for classifying and measuring personal
values. Through his work, a comprehensive model of motivational value
types that are universally recognized and consistently understood across
all cultures has been developed and tested (Schwartz, 1992, 1994). In
Schwartz’s model, the meaning of a value is understood by its relationship
with other values (Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1992). Values with similar
motivational goals fall in the same or compatible value type groupings
and those with dissimilar goals will be grouped in conicting value types.
For example, values with the goal of conformity will be relatively more
compatible with values expressing tradition and relatively less compatible
with values expressing self- direction (Schwartz, 1992). The 10 value types
Schwartz identies are dened and their characteristics summarized in
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94 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
Prince- Gibson and Schwartz (1998) refer to the relationships between
value types and the meanings attributed through these relationships as
value structure. Schwartz maps value structure relationships visually in
his model, as shown in Figure 4.1. The spatial positioning of value types
is representative of their relationships with adjacent value types being
relatively more compatible and opposing value types being positioned on
opposite sides of the diagram.
In this format, the higher- order dimensions of value structure can
easily be seen. Schwartz identies two higher- order dimensions and
places opposing value types on opposite ends of these dimensions. The
Table 4.1 Schwartz’s motivational types of value
Denition Examplary values Value type dimension
Hedonism: self- centered
Pleasure, enjoying life Self- enhancement
Power: status and prestige,
control people and resources
Success, ambition Self- enhancement
Stimulation: encourage risk
taking and adventure
Varied life, exciting
Openness to change
Self- direction: autonomous
thought and action
Openness to change
Universalism: tolerance and
concern for welfare of all
social justice, equality
Benevolence: preserve and
enhance welfare of those
with whom one has personal
Conformity: self- restraint and
subordination of one’s
own inclinations to the
expectations of others
Tradition: traditional and
accepting my portion
Security: stability, safety,
and harmony of society,
relationships, and self
Sources: Adapted from Schwartz (1994) and Hitlin and Piliavin (2004).
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 95
‘conservation versus openness to change’ dimension is dened in terms
of ‘the extent to which [the values] motivate people to follow their own
intellectual and emotional interests in unpredictable and uncertain direc-
tions versus to preserve the status quo and the certainty it provides in
relationships with close others, institutions, and traditions’ (Schwartz,
1992, p. 43). For example, values in the security type such as safety and
stability are compatible with values in the tradition type such as humility
and accepting one’s position in life. These values motivate people toward
the goal of conservation which prizes stability and safety by preserving
the status quo. On the opposite end of this dimension are value types that
motivate people away from conservation and toward the goal of openness
to change, focused on independence and excitement in life. Values in the
self- direction type such as creativity and freedom are good examples.
The ‘self- enhancement versus self- transcendence’ dimension is dened
in terms of ‘the extent to which [the values] motivate people to enhance
their own personal interests (even at the expense of others) versus the
extent to which they motivate people to transcend selsh concerns and
promote the welfare of others, close and distant, and of nature’ (ibid.,
p. 43). For example, values in the power type such as authority and wealth
are compatible with values in the achievement type such as ambition and
Source: Adapted from Prince- Gibson and schwartz, (1998).
Figure 4.1 Schwartz model of relations among motivational value types
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96 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
competitiveness. These values motivate people toward the goal of self-
enhancement which is oriented toward advancing one’s own interests. On
the opposite end of this dimension are value types that motivate people
away from self- enhancement and toward self- transcendence; a concern
for the welfare of others. Examples include values in the universalism type
such as justice and equality.
These dimensions and Schwartz’s theorized relative positioning of value
types along them have strong empirical support (Schwartz, 1992, 1994,
1996; Prince- Gibson and Schwartz, 1998; Hitlin, 2003). This lends valid-
ity to Schwartz’s argument that value structure is universally understood
and accepted across cultures and individuals. The meanings of individual
values both in absolute terms and in relationship to each other, are essen-
tially the same for everyone. In other words, we all agree on which values
exist, what they mean, and how they t together. Recent studies using this
model assume the validity of Schwartz’s value structure and focus on the
varying degrees to which dierent values and value types are important to
dierent people. Recognizing individual dierences in value prioritization
is the key to understanding heterogeneity in value- driven motivation and
The interaction between values of (in)compatible type has ‘psychological,
practical and social consequences’ (Prince- Gibson and Schwartz, 1998,
p. 53). In other words simultaneously holding incompatible values is dif-
cult while holding compatible values has relatively positive eects. Just as
value structure is universally understood, the consequences of dierences
in value prioritization are also universally recognized. For example, just as
the meaning of benevolence and achievement value types are recognized
more or less across all cultures, so is the conict between them (Schwartz,
1992, 1994; Prince- Gibson and Schwartz, 1998). For this reason, individu-
als prioritize values, arranging them hierarchically, emphasizing the values
that are most important to them and de- emphasizing the values that are
incompatible with their more dominant values (Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz,
While value structure is universal, value prioritization is idiosyncratic.
Any group of people will substantively agree, for example, on the mean-
ings of benevolence and hedonism and will recognize that these two
value types are basically incompatible, but they will dier in terms of the
relative importance those value types hold for them. Therefore value pri-
oritization creates individual dierences in the way values are expressed.
Recent studies of these dierences demonstrate heterogeneity of value
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 97
prioritization among individuals due, in part, to the many facets of their
social context (see Hitlin and Piliavin, 2004 for a summary). These studies
support the idea that individual dierences in value priorities can be meas-
ured along Schwartz’s higher dimensions of conservation versus openness
to change and self- enhancement versus self- transcendence. This idea will
be the basis for my theoretical propositions.
The economically oriented entrepreneur
Since my theory seeks to explain why some entrepreneurs pursue the
creation of social and environmental benets over and above economic
rents, while others do not, I focus on the prioritization of values along
the self- enhancement versus self- transcendence dimension of Schwartz’s
model. Self- enhancing values will aect the entrepreneur’s goals related to
personal economic and professional gain. The self- enhancing value types
(power, achievement, and hedonism) are complementary and represent
motivational goals with a common beneciary, the entrepreneur herself.
For this reason I group them conceptually in this chapter. I expect that
entrepreneurs with dominant self- enhancing values will pursue entrepre-
neurial opportunities with a primary goal of creating economic benet.
I refer to these individuals as ‘economically oriented’ entrepreneurs and
view them as traditional commercial entrepreneurs who take the role of
prot maker for themselves and the rms they found. I expect that these
entrepreneurs will place relatively little emphasis on creating social benet
through their ventures. Stated formally:
Proposition 1: Entrepreneurs with dominant self- enhancing value types
are more likely to be economically oriented, placing greater emphasis on
creating economic prot and relatively little emphasis on creating social or
environmental benets through the ventures they create.
The serial entrepreneur may be the prototypical example of the economi-
cally oriented entrepreneur. Serial entrepreneurs can be dened as rm
founders who either found and sell multiple businesses in succession or
found multiple rms which they retain, building a portfolio of rms over
time. Westhead and Wright (1998) suggest that serial founders view entre-
preneurial opportunities as an avenue for personal fulllment through
economic achievement. They demonstrate that serial entrepreneurs prize
power, individualism, and personal recognition. Interestingly, the rms in
their study founded by serial entrepreneurs did not exhibit signicantly
greater growth or protability than those founded by novice entrepre-
neurs. These characteristics of serial entrepreneurs suggest that their
motivations and actions are not predicated merely on simple economic
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98 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
rationality. Rather, there is a clear element of self- enhancement under-
lying the choices these entrepreneurs make in pursuing particular kinds
of opportunities. I suggest that dominant self- enhancing values play an
important role in motivating serial entrepreneurs, causing them to repeat-
edly pursue economic opportunities in order to create personal wealth and
to satisfy a need for self- enhancement through achievement, recognition,
The socially oriented entrepreneur
Unlike the dominant self- enhancing values of the economically oriented
entrepreneur, self- transcending values will aect the entrepreneur’s moti-
vational goals related to the welfare of others and to the creation of
societal and/or environmental benets. However, there is an important
distinction between the benevolence and universalism self- transcending
value types. While both types represent motivational goals that benet
entities beyond the entrepreneur, they dier in the scope of the motiva-
tional goals they represent. Universalism is associated with a broader
scope of goals. This value type is associated with the welfare of all people
and the natural environment. I expect that self- transcending values asso-
ciated with universalism will aect the entrepreneur’s motivational goals
related to society at large; extending beyond the people with whom she
has personal connections. This perspective can be most closely associated
with an orientation toward activism and social entrepreneurship. Thus,
the entrepreneur who seeks to express universalism may not be content
to start a ‘traditional’ business, but rather, seeks to engage in a venture
explicitly focused on providing a social good, such as renewable energy
(Sine and Lee, 2009; Meek et al., 2010) or micronance (Battilana and
Dorado, 2010). For this entrepreneur, the goal of the business is directly
linked to social or environmental benets. I expect that entrepreneurs
with dominant self- transcending values associated with universalism will
pursue entrepreneurial opportunities with a primary goal of creating
social benet. I refer to these individuals as ‘socially oriented’ entrepre-
neurs and view them as social entrepreneurs who take an activist role for
themselves and the rms they found. I expect that these entrepreneurs will
place relatively little emphasis on creating economic benet through their
ventures. Stated formally:
Proposition 2: Entrepreneurs with dominant self- transcending value types
associated with universalism are more likely to be socially oriented,
placing greater emphasis on creating social or environmental benets and
relatively little emphasis on creating economic prot through the ventures
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 99
A well- known example of a socially oriented entrepreneur is
Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy, founder of the Aravind Eye Hospital.
Venkataswamy created Aravind to provide comprehensive eye- care serv-
ices to all people but with a specic mission to eliminate curable blindness
that would otherwise go untreated because patients could not aord the
relatively routine procedures required. He was responsible for numerous
innovations that signicantly improved the quality and reduced the cost
of eye surgery procedures (Trivedi, 2010). He also insisted that Aravind be
economically self- sustaining so that prots could be reinvested to further
the organization’s social mission. Venkataswamy was driven by dominant
values of justice and compassion for all humankind. The overarching goal
of Aravind was to benet society and to change the way in which the busi-
ness of treating curable disease is done in the developing world.
The relationally oriented entrepreneur
In contrast to universalism, benevolence is specically associated with the
benet of other people with whom the entrepreneur has personal connec-
tion. Self- transcending values associated with benevolence will aect the
entrepreneur’s motivational goals related to the welfare of others with
whom she has a personal connection – family, friends, neighbors, employ-
ees, partners, and so on etc. For example, an entrepreneur may seek to
pay higher wages, provide good health insurance and support her family
as a reection of benevolence. She may be content to start a ‘traditional’
business, but the way she conducts her business will produce social benet.
Therefore, I expect that entrepreneurs with dominant self- transcending
values associated with benevolence will pursue entrepreneurial opportuni-
ties with a primary goal of creating economic prot, but will also balance
the pursuit of social and economic goals more equally. I refer to these indi-
viduals as ‘relationally oriented’ entrepreneurs and view them as commer-
cial entrepreneurs with an orientation toward social and/or environmental
responsibility for themselves and the rms they found. Stated formally:
Proposition 3: Entrepreneurs with dominant self- transcending value types
associated with benevolence are more likely to be relationally oriented,
placing primary emphasis on creating economic prot but also emphasizing
social or environmental concerns; especially to the extent that those concerns
aect the people with whom they have a relational connection.
Family- owned businesses are often examples of ventures founded by rela-
tionally oriented entrepreneurs. These businesses may not have a particu-
lar social mission but their founders may be strongly motivated to provide
for their family for generations to come (García Álvarez and López Sintas,
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100 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
2001). Another variation of the entrepreneur with dominant values of
benevolence is the founder who explicitly integrates her values into the
venture to emphasize high ethical standards and corporate responsibility.
S. Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick- Fil- A fast food restaurant chain
is a prototypical example. Cathy’s religious values are evident in corporate
policies and even appear explicitly in the company’s mission statement.
Also, the company is in partnership with and funds many philanthropic
organizations (Carroll, 1998). These examples illustrate self- transcending
values of benevolence expressed as byproducts of primarily commercial
entrepreneurial ventures. They also demonstrate some of the ways in
which entrepreneurs may prioritize and balance both economic and social
goals as a result of the hierarchy of their personal values.
A Typology of Entrepreneurs Based on Values
The theoretical propositions advanced in this chapter underscore the
diverse value priorities and resulting motivational goals that drive dif-
ferent types of entrepreneurs and shape the ventures they create. These
dierent entrepreneurial types capture the dierent ways in which entre-
preneurs prioritize and balance the pursuit of economic prot for them-
selves and the creation of social benets for the good of others, society at
large, and the natural environment. Some entrepreneurs will emphasize
economic goals much more heavily, some will lean more toward social
goals and some will strike a relatively even balance between the two. These
three ideal scenarios can be viewed as a typology that reects the diversity
of entrepreneurs and their values along the self- enhancement versus self-
transcendence dimension. Table 4.2 summarizes the key characteristics
that dierentiate the three entrepreneurial types.
The theoretical arguments and typology of entrepreneurs and their values
advanced in this chapter have important implications for the study of
entrepreneurship. First, I introduce values as an important theoretical
framework for understanding entrepreneurial motivation and, by exten-
sion, entrepreneurial action. Understanding the nature of values and
the mechanisms by which they shape motivational goals and orient
the entrepreneur’s desires, judgments, and choices allows for a richer
understanding of entrepreneurs themselves and the ventures they create.
Assuming that entrepreneurs focus solely on nancial prot is, at best, an
oversimplication. In reality, entrepreneurs’ goals are manifold and are
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 101
heterogeneous to the same degree that heterogeneity exists between indi-
vidual entrepreneurs. I suggest that the entrepreneur’s dominant values
and overall value structure are an important addition to this list of char-
acteristics and should be considered in future studies; particularly those
focused on individual dierences.
Future research in this area should focus on measuring the relative
importance of dierent value types to individual entrepreneurs using
established value frameworks such as Schwartz’s. This would allow for
the development and empirical testing of typologies of entrepreneurs
such as the one advanced in this chapter. Using values to measure real
dierences between individuals and their motivational goals may provide
a fresh approach to comparative studies of entrepreneurs of dierent
types and individuals in related contexts. For example, values may shed
light on dierences between female and male entrepreneurs, minority and
non- minority entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs from dierent countries or
cultures, entrepreneurs of dierent ages or generations, serial and novice
entrepreneurs, necessity- and opportunity- driven entrepreneurs, lifestyle
entrepreneurs and hobbyists, or social entrepreneurs and political/social
activists. Further study focused on the eects of value dierences among
entrepreneurs may also change the way we look at many dierent aspects
of the venturing process. For example, an entrepreneur’s values may
inuence the opportunity recognition process. Entrepreneurs’ dominant
values will aect their view of uncertainty about the market potential of
opportunities, their willingness to pursue those opportunities, and the
methods, resources, and partners they see as necessary and appropriate
to exploit those opportunities. Value dierences may also help explain
Table 4.2 Typology of entrepreneurs based on values
Socially oriented Relationally
Self- enhancement Self-transcendence Self- transcendence
Prot seeking Activism, social
Care for family/
Venture goals Economic Social Economic/
Serial entrepreneur Social entrepreneur Founder, family-
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102 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
the way dierent entrepreneurs engage in and maintain relationships with
stakeholders, manage risk, choose an organizational form, develop strate-
gies, obtain funding, make equity and ownership decisions, and plan exit
Values theory can provide not only a richer portrait of the social entre-
preneur, but also an empirically tractable way to address the question of
dening social entrepreneurship. In this chapter, I provide a theoretical
explanation of the role personal values play in social entrepreneurship.
Virtually every denition of social entrepreneurship has at its core, the
idea that social entrepreneurs focus on creating new products or services
that will benet people, society, and/or the natural environment beyond
themselves. Self- transcendence is foundational to the social dimension of
these denitions. I argue that the motivational goals of all entrepreneurs
can be understood in terms of the degree to which their values support self-
transcendence versus self- enhancement. This being the case, how we dene
who is a social entrepreneur – and who is not – may be largely a question
of understanding dierences in value prioritization.
Future empirical work should focus on measuring the relative impor-
tance of values and their eect on the economic and social goals of the
entrepreneur. Fortunately, instruments to measure the full spectrum of
an individual’s personal values are well- established in the psychology lit-
erature, have excellent psychometric validity and reliability, are relatively
fast and inexpensive to administer, and can easily be transplanted to the
entrepreneurship context. Further theoretical work is also necessary to
develop a more rened understanding of the relationships and interactions
among related values. This chapter is limited to a relatively basic typology
of entrepreneurs based on extreme examples of dominant personal values
and motivational goals. As in all typologies, the dimensions of socially
oriented, relationally oriented, and economically oriented entrepreneurs
described here are ideal types (Weber, 1949). In reality, of course, the
degree to which a particular value type is dominant will vary widely
between individuals and will also depend on the importance of other
related values. The same will be true of the relationship between goals. It is
unlikely that many entrepreneurs will distinguish and prioritize so clearly
between dierent types of goals. Therefore, further theorizing about the
ways in which entrepreneurs balance multiple goals is needed.
Finally, this chapter demonstrates how social entrepreneurship research
can shed new light on the broader eld of entrepreneurship. Because of
the emphasis on the entrepreneur’s commitment to creating both social
and economic benets, the social entrepreneurship context necessarily
complicates our view of the entrepreneur’s goals and actions. However, I
do not argue that the motivational processes of the economically oriented
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 103
entrepreneur are somehow simpler or that her self- concept is somehow less
sophisticated. On the contrary, I hold that all entrepreneurs are driven by
their idiosyncratic hierarchy of personal values which causes them to pri-
oritize multiple types of goals. Because of this, a one- dimensional under-
standing of any entrepreneur’s values, motivations, goals, and actions is
problematic. The social entrepreneurship context provides a unique set of
assumptions and boundary conditions that can help to uncover the com-
plexities underlying entrepreneurial action.
My propositions also have important practical implications for entre-
preneurs and for social entrepreneurs in particular. The realization that
one’s personal values profoundly aect the kind of opportunities she will
pursue may be quite important to the way the entrepreneur forms her
venture. This is especially critical in terms of her interaction with a diverse
pool of stakeholders. Recognizing that individual stakeholders’ goals are
driven by their dominant values and beliefs about themselves can pro-
foundly inuence the entrepreneur’s ability to work eectively with those
stakeholders. Likewise, the entrepreneur may gain a greater appreciation
for involving stakeholders with values that complement the venture’s
goals. This point is of particular importance for social entrepreneurs as
blended goals and a commitment to social mission are inherent to the
social venture (Hervieux et al., 2010).
Implications for Social Entrepreneurs and Practitioners
My theoretical arguments about the eect of personal values on moti-
vation and entrepreneurial action also have important implications for
practicing social entrepreneurs and those people and organizations who
work with them. First, social entrepreneurs should be aware that their per-
sonal values are a powerful driver of their behavior and decision making.
Entrepreneurs, in general, should be wary of pursuing opportunities that
are not compatible with their values. This is especially important for the
social entrepreneur creating opportunities about which she must consider
both social and economic goals simultaneously. She must be both idealis-
tic and pragmatic in pursuit of these goals and understand that their rela-
tive importance may change in dierent situations and at dierent stages
in the life of her venture. If her value prioritization is at odds with the com-
promises necessary to pursue these blended goals, her eorts may be better
applied toward nonprot work or commercial entrepreneurship. Also, the
social entrepreneur must be alert to the possibility that the prominence of
her self- transcending values may cloud her judgment about the economic
feasibility of a socially relevant opportunity. More often than not, social
opportunities arise from known market failures in an institutional void
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104 Patterns in social entrepreneurship research
(Mair and Martí, 2009). The opportunity to create social benet is usually
obvious. If economic viability were equally obvious, commercial entre-
preneurs would certainly have already stepped in. The social entrepreneur
must not confuse the social attractiveness of the opportunity with its eco-
In addition to acknowledging and understanding her own values, the
social entrepreneur must account for the value priorities of other stake-
holders associated with their venture. Value compatibility between the
entrepreneur and these stakeholders may be essential to the survival and
success of the venture. Shepherd and Zacharakis (2001) argue that the
t between entrepreneurs and investors is important to establishing and
maintaining trust between the two. Having similar value priorities at the
outset of the relationship helps to build trust more quickly and, over time,
the values and beliefs the two share will be strengthened (Sheppard and
Sherman, 1998; Shepherd and Zacharakis, 2001).
Employees are another example of stakeholders with whom value align-
ment is important. Since social ventures rarely have the nancial resources
to compensate employees at a level that is competitive with commercial
ventures, the employee’s belief in the social mission of the venture as a way
to express her prominent self- transcending values becomes paramount
(Austin et al., 2006).The value priorities of the entrepreneur, embodied in
the venture, may form a distinctive culture for the rm. This may give the
social rm an advantage in non- pecuniary incentives, allowing it to recruit
employees that it might never be able to attract with money.
Partnerships with other stakeholders such as government agencies,
non- governmental organizations, social movements, political groups,
and other social ventures are also aected by value priorities and the
compatibility of the prominent values of the entrepreneur and these other
stakeholders. The importance of self- transcending may, for example, lend
legitimacy to the social venture in the eyes of decision makers in nonprot
organizations and activist groups. This may give the social entrepreneur
access to the support and resources of these groups which they may not
be willing to provide to a commercial venture. Also, social rms may par-
ticipate more fully in cooperative action with each other, viewing other
social ventures as partners rather than competitors due to their shared
self- transcending value priorities (ibid., 2006).
Values dene who we are, what we desire, what we do, how we think,
and how we see ourselves, others, and the world around us. Values infuse
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The role of personal values in social entrepreneurship 105
our higher- level thoughts and feelings and shape (and are shaped by)
the course of our lives. This chapter represents a rst step in uncover-
ing and understanding the profound eect of values on the entrepre-
neur and the venturing process. It opens the door for future studies to
broaden our understanding of the individual characteristics of entre-
preneurs, the nature of entrepreneurial goals, and the practice of social
* I gratefully acknowledge the support of the Robert H. and Beverly A. Deming Center for
Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, Boulder for this research and the assist-
ance of the Deming Center sta: Patty Gra, Paul Jerde, and Jody Reale. I also extend
special thanks to Je York and Tyler Wry for their feedback.
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