Humane Entrepreneurship

A new theory about entrepreneurship for a better future?

Always on the lookout for new theories of entrepreneurship, we were excited to encounter Human Entrepreneurship after it was brought to our attention by a colleague. As the name implies, humane entrepreneurship is a theory that focuses on people, but also has a tone of ethics and morality built in. To be humane is already a judgement call informed by values and norms.

According to Kim, ElTarabishy and Bae (2018; p. 12):

“This new theory in entrepreneurship research, HumEnt, we define as a “virtuous and sustainable integration of Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and HRM, in which successful implementation leads to a beneficial increase in wealth and quality job creation, perpetuated in a continuous cycle.”

The theory draws from three distinct areas of managerial literature that are usually in separate research silos. The authors bring together arguments from all three to form their theory.

Parente, ElTarabishy, Vesci and Botti (2018) suggest that :

“The study proposes that HumEnt (as ESP) may be defined by the integration of three dimensions: [Entrepreneurial Orientation] EO, [Sustainability Orientation] SO, and [Human Resource Orientation] HRO.”

As the name implies, the main emphasis of the theory is on humans and how they are treated. It has a relationship to stakeholder theory in entrepreneurship, which emphasizes relationships with stakeholders.

From a stakeholder perspective an entrepreneurial orientation is really about the entrepreneurs themselves, as well as their relationships with customers’ needs and wants and financiers seeking returns. A sustainability orientation adds communities and the natural environment as key stakeholders that should not be ignored. The HR orientation brings in employees and managers.

We are therefore, after considering nearly every conceivable stakeholder, left with a comprehensive theory, though perhaps not parsimonious, theory of entrepreneurship.

The authors suggest that when all three orientations are triggered they create a virtuous circle. This is very consistent with instrumental versions of stakeholder theory that emphasize that doing good leads to doing well too.

There are no empirical tests of the theory yet, but it brings together several concepts that have empirical support in their own sub-disciplines.


Kim, K. C., ElTarabishy, A., & Bae, Z. T. (2018). Humane entrepreneurship: How focusing on people can drive a new era of wealth and quality job creation in a sustainable world. Journal of Small Business Management56(sup1), 10-29.

Parente, R., ElTarabishy, A., Vesci, M., & Botti, A. (2018). The epistemology of humane entrepreneurship: Theory and proposal for future research agenda. Journal of Small Business Management56(sup1), 30-52.

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