The Oneness of Social Entrepreneurship

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)32_Refereed conference paper (no ISBN/ISSN)peer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2018


TitleInternational Conference on Entrepreneurship and Family Business (ICEFB 2018)
LocationInstitute of Technology Bombay
Period8 - 10 January 2018


The Oneness of Social EntrepreneurshipChristina Sue-Chan and Alex FongCity University of Hong Kong“Why do people become entrepreneurs?” is a question that non-entrepreneurs and scholars of entrepreneurship have long pondered. The former do so to determine whether they have within themselves the key attributes possessed by successful entrepreneurs and turn to the biographical works of notable successes, such as the founder of Paypal (e.g., Thiel & Masters, 2014) to find answers to their questions. The latter, scholar of entrepreneurship, are motivated to find differentiating environmental and personal characteristics (e.g., Mody, Day, Syndor, & Jaffe, 2014) that determine why, for example, 11.7%, 14.9%, 16.3%, and 21.3% of individual in the United States, India, Hong Kong, and China, respectively, reported intending to undertake the risk of founding an organization within the next 3 years (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2016). Some have examined whether national culture plays a role in influencing whether an individual will pursue the entrepreneurial route (e.g., Desa, 2012).Despite the growing literature examining individual difference and cultural factors that are associated with social entrepreneurship (e.g., Dacin, Dacin, & Tracey, 2011), to the authors' knowledge, there are no studies that have examined whether entrepreneurs’ moral cultivation influences their entrepreneurial behavior. We propose that the Neo-Confucian concept of oneness, the degree to which an individual perceives she or he is one with others and the universe (Tien, 2012; Wang, 1963), plays a role in why individuals are motivated to become entrepreneurs. Oneness is the notion that each individual is part of everyone and everything and was argued by neo-Confucian scholar Wang Yangming to be a motivator moral behavior (Tien, 2012; Wang, 1963). There is the understanding that everyone is an interconnected part of the same universe; therefore, if I am helping others, I am helping myself.We argue that oneness is a driving force in entrepreneurs' founding decision but the expression of oneness in terms of the type of enterprise founded is influenced by cultural value differences. The national cultural values of individualism and collectivism (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, Gelfand, 1995) are of particular relevance. Chinese and Indian culture have been described as ones of vertical collectivism (“I would sacrifice an activity that I enjoy very much if my family did not approve of it.”) in which individual view members of their own families or clans and close friends as their trusted network of social relations with whom they identify and consider part of themselves. Thus, oneness in these two cultures is the extent to which an individual is part of his/her family and vice versa. In contrast to the vertical collectivism of the Chinese and Indian cultural context, vertical individualism is more characteristic of the American cultural context as individuals in this culture are more concerned with improving their individual status. This drives American entrepreneurs to found organizations to realize individualist ideals. However, oneness in the American context is the extent to which an individual is part of his/ her society as the United States was founded on the notion of people working together to achieve the ‘common good’. This principle was famously exemplified by President John F. Kennedy who used his inaugural address to challenge Americans to perform public service: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country”.These different concepts oneness, we argue, results in Chinese entrepreneurs founding organizations for the benefit of their families. In contrast, oneness in the American context causes entrepreneurs to found organizations that are driven by passion for their idea or solution to a problem confronting society. We examine our basic propositions by examining ventures in China and the United States. In the Chinese context, we examine a Chinese family business and in the American context, we examine an enterprise founded by an entrepreneur who had a passion to help others obtain organically sourced foods from the local community in which they live. We supplement our analysis with an analysis of archival data that captures the founding statements of entrepreneurs.We conclude our study with a discussion of how cultural differences in the expression of oneness shape entrepreneurial expression. Generalizability of our findings to other cultural contexts, such as Southeast Asia and transitioning economies are also discussed.ReferencesDacin, M. T., Dacin, P. A., & Tracey, P. 2011. Social Entrepreneurship: A critique and future directions. Organization Science, 22(5): 1203-1213.Desa, G. 2012. Resource mobilization in international social entrepreneurship: Bricolage as a mechanism of institutional transformation. Entrepreneurship Theory& Practice: 727-751.Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. 2016. Economy profiles (, Accessed 14 April 2017.Mody, M., Day, J., Sydnor, S., & Jaffe, W. 2016. Examining the motivations for social entrepreneurship using Max Weber’s typology of rationality. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 28(6): 1094-1114.Singelis, T. M., Triandis, H. C., Bhawuk, D. P. S., & Gelfand, M. J. 1995. Horizontal and vertical dimensions of individualism and collectivism: A theoretical and measurement refinement. Cross-Cultural Research, 29(3): 240-275.Thiel, P. & Masters, B. 2014. Zero to One: Notes on startups, or how to build the future. New York: Crown.Tien, D. W. 2012. Oneness and self-centeredness in the moral psychology of Wang Yangming. Journal of Religious Ethics, 40(1), 52-71.Wang, Y. 1963. Instructions for practical living and other Neo-Confucian writings by Wang Yangming. Based on Wang Wenchenggong quanshu edition of 1572. Translated with notes by Wing-tsit Chan. New York: Columbia University Press.

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The Oneness of Social Entrepreneurship. / Sue-Chan, Christina; Fong, Alex.

2018. 1-3 Paper presented at International Conference on Entrepreneurship and Family Business (ICEFB 2018), Mumbai, India.

Research output: Conference Papers (RGC: 31A, 31B, 32, 33)32_Refereed conference paper (no ISBN/ISSN)peer-review