Human-Centered versus People-Centered

Human-Centered versus People-Centered

Human-Centered versus People-Centered: Understanding the Difference, because words do matter

Macroeconomics is a branch of economics that studies how an overall economy—the markets, businesses, consumers, and governments—behaves. The focus is on metrics on output, not on the individuals who carry out the tasks to make these sectors work. On the other hand, human rights connect us through a shared set of rights and responsibilities. Every person has value and dignity.


In entrepreneurship and policymaking, two approaches are often used to address the needs of individuals and communities: human-centered and people-centered. While they share a common goal of improving the well-being of people, there are significant differences between the two approaches.


People-centered approaches tend to prioritize the needs and concerns of specific groups or communities, while human-centered approaches prioritize all individuals’ fundamental needs and values. While both approaches have benefits and drawbacks, it is essential to understand the distinctions to determine which method is appropriate for a given situation.


For example, consider the case of small businesses. A people-centered approach to small business policy might focus on the specific needs of small business owners and their communities, such as access to capital, tax incentives, and workforce development programs. While this approach can effectively address the concerns of small business owners and their communities, there may be more effective ways to ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of small businesses.

On the other hand, a human-centered approach to small business policy would prioritize the fundamental needs and values of all individuals involved in the small business ecosystem. This might include fair labor practices, environmental sustainability, and equitable access to resources and opportunities. A human-centered approach to small business policy can create a more sustainable and reasonable ecosystem for small businesses by prioritizing these fundamental needs and values.
It is important to note that a human-centered approach does not oppose the interests of specific groups or communities. Instead, it seeks to ensure that their interests are aligned with the interests of all humans and the greater good. By focusing on the well-being of all individuals involved in a particular ecosystem, a human-centered approach can create a more just and equitable society for everyone.

To achieve a more sustainable and equitable future for small businesses, it is crucial to adopt a human-centered approach that prioritizes the well-being of all individuals, regardless of their background or affiliation. As the world moves towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must shift our focus towards implementing people- and human-centered policies.

At the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), our focus on human-centered policies for MSMEs aligns with the UN SDGs and our commitment to sustainability. By prioritizing the needs and well-being of individual entrepreneurs and their communities, we can create a more prosperous and equitable future for all. Through our research, programs, and networking efforts, we aim to promote policies and strategies that prioritize the human element of small business ecosystems, ultimately leading to a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

For ICSB, being Human Centered is synonymous with promoting Humane Entrepreneurship. Humane Entrepreneurship is an approach to entrepreneurship that prioritizes the well-being of individual entrepreneurs and their communities. It seeks to create sustainable and equitable ecosystems that are profitable and socially responsible. Humane Entrepreneurship creates an environment where businesses can thrive, and communities can prosper by prioritizing the fundamental needs and values of all individuals involved in a particular ecosystem. ICSB believes that a human-centered approach to entrepreneurship, grounded in the principles of Humane Entrepreneurship, is essential to creating a more just and equitable society for everyone.

Ultimately, a human-centered approach is not only essential for sustainable development and social progress, but it is also a moral imperative. We must create a world that prioritizes all individuals’ well-being and fundamental needs, regardless of their background or affiliation. So let us work together to create a more just and equitable world where all conditions are met, and everyone has the opportunity to thrive.


Written by:
Dr. Ayman ElTarabishy
President & CEO, ICSB
Deputy Chair, Department of Management
GW School of Business

Rebuilding the sense of community

Rebuilding the sense of community

Rebuilding the Sense of Community

Tuesday, September 20, 2022, by Matt Cavicchia and Vicki Stylianou

The Institute of Public Accountants (IPA) is one of the three professional accounting associations in Australia, with 75 percent of our members being either advisers to Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) or SMEs themselves. The IPA’s reason is to improve small business quality of life, supported by a vision for every small business to have one of our members by their side. 

Following a year memorable for isolation and social distancing, the IPA decided it was appropriate to rejuvenate and restore the sense of community within our membership base for 2021 and beyond. This was signified early in the year when it was decided to redefine one of our strategic themes to reflect this revised direction:  

Build a professional community for the SME and SMP sectors.

The IPA has always been committed to making the small business count. This strategic shift to focus on creating and maintaining a professional community reaffirms the magnitude of the IPA’s passion to enhance the longevity and well-being of MSMEs. In addition, in 2021, the IPA strengthened its strategic focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), selecting the following eight Goals as being the most relevant to our vision, strategy, and stakeholders:

  • SDG 3:   Good Health and Wellbeing
  • SDG 4:   Quality Education
  • SDG 8:   Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities (including a focus on SDG 5 – Gender Equality)
  • SDG 11: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

This report will look closely at our chosen Goals, highlighting how the IPA has contributed to them in 2021 from the perspective of MSMEs and thereby reinforcing and rebuilding our sense of community.  

SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing

Before the pandemic, mental health was already recognized as a significant issue facing small business people, including professionals and many accountants. The IPA has an existing partnership with a clinical health provider to offer initial clinical support to members with mental health concerns. To do more and help more small business people, including the clients of members and members themselves, the IPA partnered with Deakin University (based in Melbourne, Australia) to research the role played by accountants and other professional advisers in improving the mental well-being of small business people. Preliminary research indicated that using a business professional helped to improve the mental well-being of small business owners and operators. It was decided that it was worthwhile to extend the research and develop a training program that could be scaled for use in other jurisdictions and across various economic sectors. 

The program known as Counting On U was born with a host of partners, including other professional associations, mental health groups, and highly regarded medical professionals from Deakin and other universities. It attracted the attention of the Australian Government, which provided grants of over AU$3 million. At this stage, Counting On U offers mental health training for accountants, financial planners, bookkeepers, and other business advisers, providing tools to identify signs and assist their SME clients with accessing professional support. It has also been designed to help the adviser themselves, as they are often vicariously impacted and can develop anxiety and other mental health concerns.   

While the Covid-19 response in Australia focused on protecting physical health and our hospital system, there is widespread acknowledgment of the challenges that ensued for mental health. This, in addition to the IPA’s existing awareness and promotion of mental health, led us to compile numerous additional resources and tools dedicated to mental health and resilience, including access to a range of Corporate Social Responsibility partners, free education and training, and materials from (amongst others) Australia’s RUOK, an organisation dedicated to asking the simple question – “are you okay?”.  

Mental health is not only a medical issue but also an economic one with broad implications for the whole economy. The IPA has been vocal on many fronts, including advocacy, where we have promoted recommendations to enhance the mental well-being of small business people. The effects of mental health can impact a person’s ability to participate and prosper in the community and workplace. For business owners and operators, it can affect their employees and the ongoing viability of their business (business failure/ exit also has a negative health impact). Reforms must extend across workplaces, education institutions, the judicial system, the health system, and the community.

SDG 4: Quality Education

The IPA is undergoing an ‘education transformation’ by designing future education aligned with a sustainable accounting and finance profession. The rate of change occurring within most sectors of the global economy is unprecedented, significantly outpacing the adaptability of units and courses offered by many higher and vocational education institutions. The outcome of the transformation will be a relevant approach to education that supports lifelong learning and focuses on competency. 

Identifying the role of short courses and micro-credentials in the future of education, the IPA released its first digital short course in 2021: Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Accountants. The course introduces the principles and ethical considerations underpinning AI and machine learning, focusing on the challenges and opportunities for small-to-medium practitioners and SMEs. 

The course is delivered online with live workshops, promoting engagement and a sense of community between peers and educators. This is one example of the IPA’s investment in new learning platforms and systems which promote sharing and questioning. This has been enabled by partnering with progressive and experienced educators and encouraging more involvement by members and other professionals in the learning experience.    

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

This Goal is directly linked to the IPA’s advocacy, policy, and research work, which is heavily centred on economic policy.  Underpinning this effort is the work of the IPA Deakin SME Research Centre, a joint venture between the IPA and Deakin University. The Centre produces a diverse range of research exploring issues that impact small businesses and SMEs. 

The recent and current work program covering impactful research and academic papers includes: 

  • Productivity: Small Business White Paper 3.0 focuses on innovation policy, including the most effective levers to boost Research & Development (R&D) (see below under SDG 11).
  • Sustainability: Looking at the SDGs with a focus on defining and measuring outputs and capturing intangibles; and how these apply to SMEs. 
  • Innovation: This project focuses on patents filed by SMEs and small businesses as a measure of innovation. The outcomes can be used in several ways to promote small business innovation, including matching the different players in the innovation/ patent ecosystem, such as patent attorneys, investors, government, and others.  
  • Exporting: The Research Centre has explored the linkages between innovation, exports, and productivity, including the role of intangible resources in SME export performance. The research report notes:

“Results suggest SME firms that innovate and have the required technical [or] managerial ability skills have a greater propensity to export. Indeed, technical skills are relatively more important for propensity to export than business skills. Furthermore, when SMEs are incentivized to innovate by using either government support or R&D collaboration, the propensity to export by SMEs increases significantly. Results also show that Australian small business exports and innovation are significantly reliant on five industry sectors. At the same time, SMEs with foreign ownership have a higher propensity to export compared to SMEs with no foreign ownership.”

These five industry sectors are:

  • Mining
  • Manufacturing 
  • Wholesale trade
  • Information media and telecommunications
  • Public administration and safety.


  • Funding: Research has been undertaken based on an international comparison of small business agencies, focusing on the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the United States. The objective is to identify and apply the most compelling features and elements worldwide to design an appropriate model for Australia. The centralised capital access assistance programs are of particular interest given the lack of this feature in the Australian landscape. This research has translated into policy recommendations that the office of the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) should evolve into a centralised small business hub comparable to the SBA.   

The ASBFEO is an independent government agency that advocates in the best interests of the small business community. However, limitations of the model have been identified by the Research Centre as follows: 

“Indeed, the Ombudsman is unable to “… duplicate the operations of other agencies … [, and] must transfer a request for assistance to another Commonwealth, State or Territory agency, if that agency could deal with the request” (ASBFEO Act 2015, Division 2, Sections 66-70).  These limitations mean that the Ombudsman’s office can only advocate for the small business sector. Still, it is unable to administer and thereby provide centralised and widespread support to the small business sector in Australia.”

  • Alternative funding: Other avenues for funding, both public and private are being examined, including their efficacy with small business performance. Developing a viable venture capital sector is a particular focus of the research.

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

Various research and commentary over many years have focused on the systemic socio-economic challenges and institutional barriers which limit opportunities and pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia to build sustainable businesses or to enter professions. Recognizing the problems that exist, the IPA began its ‘Reconciliation’ journey through the compilation of our first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). A RAP is a corporate document that marks a commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Within our sphere of influence as a professional accounting body, we have identified the following as the key objectives of our RAP:

  • Conduct cultural awareness training and other education to address unconscious biases within our organisation and membership. 
  • Increase awareness of the inequality faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and explore ways to create opportunities to increase equality. 
  • Review perspectives on Australia’s history, including the barriers that prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from establishing a sustainable business or pursuing a career in the professions. 

SDG 11: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

This Goal is linked to SDG 8, and the work and outputs which we have noted above are also relevant to the achievement of SDG 11. This is especially concerning industry and innovation, which are critical to achieving decent work and economic growth. 

The year 2021 marked the release of the IPA’s third Small Business White Paper, titled Post COVID Policy Options to Enhance Australia’s Innovation Capabilities. As stated in the executive summary:

“…the White Paper presents a series of recommendations on how some judicious fine-tuning of government policies and regulations aimed at encouraging world-class innovation and R&D – particularly in the lagging small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector – could unlock this potentially rich future source of growth and prosperity, and ultimately help to secure the Australian economy against over-reliance on its currently narrow and potentially unstable foundations.” 

The eight recommendations of this flagship thought leadership project informed various policy positions of the IPA in 2021 and leading up to the Federal Election in May 2022. The main focus has been increasing productivity growth through boosting innovation by changing tax levers; promoting more effective collaboration between SMEs and universities, including more significant investment in Co-operative Research Centres; increased data availability, policy experimentation; and regulatory reform. Australia lags comparable OECD economies on private sector innovation and research by most metrics. It is imperative to turn this around if Australia is to build a sustainable and diversified economy and maintain its living standards.  

SDG 13: Climate Action

The urgency around climate action reached an all-time high in 2021, driven by the delayed COP 26 conference and updated science, as released in the Fifth Assessment Report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

The accounting profession has been responding accordingly, and in 2021, the work of various organisations over the past decade culminated into the formation of the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). Housed within the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation (based in London, UK), the ISSB aims to create a standardised, consistent, and comparable global baseline for sustainability reporting that is held to the same rigour as financial reporting. Given the momentum around climate change, climate risk has been identified as the first topic of focus for the ISSB. The IPA has contributed to the consultations, expressing support for the ISSB, with a specific interest in scaling reporting developments designed for large companies into the MSME context.  

To demonstrate a commitment to action on climate, the IPA has signed as a supporter of the Professional Bodies Climate Action Charter (PBCAC). This Charter acknowledges that no single profession has the resources and expertise to deliver an adequate response to climate change. Therefore, the PBCAC creates a collaborative forum for aspirational professional associations to innovate and support members with Paris-aligned and SDG-focused business models and strategies. 

In addition, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) (based in New York, USA), and representing over 3 million accountants worldwide, has anchored its strategy in the SDGs and has encouraged all accounting bodies to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs by 2030. The IPA strongly supports the role of accountants, business advisers and businesses in general in contributing to achieving the SDGs. 

On a more localised level, the IPA has introduced bespoke ESG courses and discussion groups for all business advisers, to raise their own awareness and capability to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, with a specific focus on small business and SMEs.

SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

While creating and delivering value for members is our crucial responsibility and vital for continuity, the IPA’s central reason for being is to improve the life of small business. Accordingly, the IPA’s advocacy and policy platform aim to serve the needs of our members, the profession, and the best interests of the small business community and the public interest. This can only be achieved in the presence of strong institutions. 

The IPA takes a collaborative and consultative approach to its advocacy; however, more recently, the IPA has adopted an approach of ‘net positive advocacy.’ This is described by Polman and Winston (2021) as “a natural step” for a business with a clear understanding of its purpose and how this interlinks with its values. 

“Companies have long viewed ‘government relations’ as a way to resist regulation or fight for tax breaks and other special treatment. We propose, instead, that businesses approach governments openly and transparently, to improve the rules, help policy makers reach their goals, and solve larger problems for the benefit of all. We call this approach net positive advocacy.”

  • Paul Polman & Andrew Winston (2021)

We believe that this concept and approach suits the governance (especially transparency and accountability) aspect of ESG and is, therefore, vital to building strong institutions. The IPA’s work in partnership with other organisations, described below concerning SDG 17, has contributed to building strong institutions in other countries in our region.  

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

The IPA strongly believes that the achievement of the SDGs relies on partnerships, as reflected in our activities and outcomes discussed throughout this report. In addition to our advocacy work, we have also undertaken practical activities to put these policies into practice, both domestically and internationally. One example is our work which contributes to capacity building in the Pacific, including the development and implementation of education programs over the last 12 months in the Solomon Islands and Fiji. The Australian Government is partnering in some of this work. The objective is to make the education programs scalable for implementation in other Pacific nations. 

Specifically, we have entered into a mutual recognition agreement (MRA) between the IPA and the Fiji Institute of Accountants. The main objective is to ensure the transfer of skills and knowledge between the bodies and other support and development opportunities. This reflects that the accounting profession plays a pivotal role in achieving solid institutions such as those governing the financial sector.   

We should also mention the IPA’s partnership with ICSB, which has grown over several years. This includes the establishment of a Knowledge Hub and the exchange of ideas and information, as well as participation in a range of ICSB activities. This recently culminated in co-hosting the virtual thought leadership event entitled, Why do we measure economic success through unicorns? This event brought together global experts to examine: Our social, economic, and natural environments have all changed, but our thinking about measuring success has not kept pace. How will we conduct and measure financial success to ensure our impact on nature and economic development becomes more realistic, responsible, and sustainable? Will it be possible to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation in line with the United Nations’ 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production.  

Concluding Remarks

While 2021 introduced the IPA’s strategic intent to foster a professional community for MSMEs, the work is certainly not over. The IPA hopes to enhance member engagement and community spirit by aspiring to increase member value. By leveraging this spirit, we also hope to contribute to achieving the SDGs by 2030. As we continue to learn and celebrate the diversity of our member base, inclusion and well-being initiatives are being prioritised in 2022 and beyond. MSMEs will always remain central to the IPA’s advocacy and activities, supporting our ultimate reason for being – to improve the quality of life of small businesses.

Article by:
Matt Cavicchia and Vicki Stylianou, 
Institute of Public Accountants

Regulations Digitization Networks

Regulations Digitization Networks

Regulations, Digitization, and Networks

Thursday, September 8, 2022, by Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chair, ICSB

Regulations, Digitization, and Networks

Small businesses in the age of COVID-19 continue to have concerns as many re-open for the first time after many years of disruptions.   The normal business cycle has been far from the norm, and many things remain a concern as business owners seek to operate in this new order.   Three (3) in particular are on the top of mind for many businesses.  These include regulations, digitization, and access to networks.   


Regulations are not only a concern for large businesses but equally on the top of mind for small businesses who must keep up with the number of rules and regulations that have been relaxed during COVID-19 or have been strengthened to lessen the effect of the pandemic on society.   With the relaxation of rules, tax benefits, for example, allowed consumers to expense all of their entertainment and dining at restaurants.  This was a tremendous benefit that encouraged more spending in the economy.  Many small businesses saw their revenues increase.  The question, however, going forward is to understand if this tax break will continue to be in effect or if restrictions will be re-imposed.  Small businesses operate best when the rules are clear, transparent, and predictable because a small business owner will not have time to monitor the ever-changing rules that may come from the government. It is therefore recommended that small businesses work with their industry associations to hear what rules and regulations are being considered that could affect the operation of their business. 


Digitization and the ubiquitous nature of technology have accelerated since 2020.  The use of touchless payment technologies, cash apps, and many other non-cash transactions continues to increase.  The challenge for merchants is to tap into their digital portals that will allow for safe and secure transactions for their clients and customers and enable the experience to be frustration-free.  Using digital tools requires a “wireless” connection.   In some of our urban and rural areas, access to the internet or wireless access points can be intermittent and occur at the worst time.   Some small business merchants, who are mobile, have decided to set up shop nearby mobile “hot-spots” or similar areas where access to a mobile tower (for wireless access) will give the maximum bandwidth possible.  Small businesses are concerned with this connectivity requirement because of the overall cost borne by the merchant.    It is important that digital access be seen no longer as a nice to have but as a utility like water and electricity.  Governments should make it policy that favors reliable broadband and wireless access to those who are categorized as micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), in particular, those in the rural areas and are led by women and youth. 


Networks are “a group or system of interconnected people or things.”   This definition looks benign but is particularly powerful when you are included with those who are the power brokers and leaders within a particular industry.  One of the most complex challenges for small businesses, especially those led by women and minorities, is the barrier of access to networks.  There is a truth that many of us do business with people we know and like.   The converse is true: we don’t do business with those we don’t know or like.   With networks, it is hard to like someone you don’t know.  In business, structuring partnership agreements, favorable procurement opportunities, or access to bank credit begins (and ends) with a favorable reaction from someone in your network.   This could be your individual connections, those from your advisory boards, and possibly, a customer.   One way to lessen the barrier of access to networks is to have someone in these networks actively invite others to their meetings and other gathering events. Small business owners just want to have a seat at the table rather than just being an “appetizer” on the menu.  Let’s recognize that established networks need to bring in new leaders from underrepresented groups that will keep their events relevant to society at large and make for a fairer playing field for small business merchants.  

Regulations, Digitization, and Networks can become strengths for small businesses and not just impediments.=.  Understanding how rules affect your industry and how to be up to date with newer technologies while expanding one’s network are challenges that small business owners face and are being removed in the push for inclusion and sustainable small business growth.  

Article by:
Winslow Sargeant
Chair, ICSB

Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Power of Creativity and Passion in a Crisis

Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Power of Creativity and Passion in a Crisis

Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Power of Creativity and Passion in a Crisis

Friday, February 11, 2021, by Dr. Alex F. DeNoble, Ph.D

Executive Director, Lavin Entrepreneurship Center San Diego State University


Let’s not pretend that things will change if we keep doing the same things. A crisis can be a real blessing to any person, to any nation. For all crises bring progress.

Albert Einstein


I recently attended the 2022 annual meetings of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) in Raleigh North Carolina.  A number of years ago, USASBE developed a new program innovation called Learning Journeys.  Each year, the conference is held in a different city and the local hosts would organize a number of outings to give conference participants an overview of local entrepreneurship points of interest. This year, I happened to go on the Arts and Entrepreneurship Learning Journey. It was during this tour that we made a stop at the Raleigh Little Theatre. During the visit, our group had the opportunity to hear from Executive Director, Heather Strickland.


Heather explained that the “Little Theatre” movement began in the early 1900’s as a way to broaden the reach of theatre as an artform to all segments of society. Little Theatres then began to crop up in communities throughout the country.  The Raleigh Little Theatre began operations in 1936 and has been running ever since. The Raleigh Little Theatre operates through financial support from public and private grants. philanthropy and a cadre of community volunteers involved in all facets of the production process.


During her presentation, Heather discussed the crisis that the group experienced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As one can imagine, the city ordinance requirements hit the Raleigh Little Theatre pretty hard. They could not hold in person events and hence had no way of continuing their traditional operations. This is when the leadership team unleashed their creativity and passion to imagine a way forward. Their solution: old time radio productions!  During the 1940’s and 1950’s, this is how large segments of the population received their entertainment. Families would gather around the radio at  predetermined times to listen to stories such as Orson Wells’ epic tome “The War of the Worlds”.   A suggestion was made by one of the directors to stage our own version of “old time radio”.  It was during the September / October timeframe leading up to Halloween. So the group made a commitment to produce a series of shows based around Edgar Allen Poe’s stories and poems. Using this approach, actors could lend their voice and other production specialists could work remotely. People within the community and even around the country could subscribe on a “pay as you can” basis. Even the education sub-group within the Raleigh Little Theatre community was able to get involved. The bottom line to this story is that the program was so successful that they are now considering radio show productions as a permanent addition to their portfolio of programs.


So why would I share this story in a featured monthly article series devoted to corporate entrepreneurship?  In my first article in this series, I underscored the urgency for corporate entrepreneurship, especially in today’s environment. I talked about a punctuated equilibrium situation where an exogenous factor can suddenly impact an ecosystem. For the Raleigh Little Theatre, the impact of COVID-19 and the ensuing social distancing mandates was profound. They simply could not conduct business as usual. But their solution, originally intended as a stop gap measure, was innovative and inspirational. The community embraced it. People from outside of the Raleigh geographic area subscribed to the streaming broadcasts. But best of all, the Raleigh Little Theatre now has a new program to add to their portfolio. Thank you Heather for sharing such an inspirational story of how dreaming and behaving like an entrepreneur can lead to amazing new business opportunities.





The Entrepreneurial Leopard

The Entrepreneurial Leopard

The Entrepreneurial Leopard

Friday, January 28, 2022, by David A Kirby

Professor David A Kirby


Used  as a title for a recent essay in this ICSB series (Dana and Salamzadeh, 2022), the idiom “A leopard cannot change its spots” is thousands of years old. It means people and things cannot change their innate nature. But this is exactly  what MSMEs will need to do.


Ever since the work of Cantillon (1680-1734 ) wealth creation and the generation of profit has been a central theme of  entrepreneurship and in his articulate essay on the topic Friedman (1970) argued   that “The Social Responsibility of Business is to increase its profits” – to make as much money as possible. Since then, this doctrine has dominated business thinking and while the entrepreneurial  pursuit of wealth has brought about change and improvement, particularly in the world’s developed economies,  often it has been at the expense of people and the planet. Accordingly, despite the introduction of such new approaches as ecopreneurship, humane entrepreneurship and social enterprise, entrepreneurship   has had little impact on the sustainability challenge and may, indeed, be regarded as having contributed significantly to  the plight of the planet. Hence, questions have been raised about its compatibility with sustainability (Gawel, 2012)  and both academics  and practitioners have been actively  seeking new business models to address the challenge (Schaltegger, et. al. 2016).


The problem is that the planet is a system which means  it is not possible to address  one element  without disturbing the other connected elements –  solving one problem often  creates other problems elsewhere  in the system. To address the sustainability challenge, therefore, requires a systemic approach to entrepreneurship that integrates or harmonises the traditional economic, eco, humane and social approaches and brings profit, people and planet into harmony. (Kirby and el-Kaffass, 2021).


While this appears to contradict Friedman’s doctrine what he actually said was that the social  responsibility of business is “to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of society, both those embedded in the law and these embedded in ethical custom. Rarely, however, has this   been  articulated or acted upon, yet  all of the major world religions address such ethical  issues. Indeed in Islam, for example,  the Quran explains explicitly how ethical business should be conducted while the Prophet  MOHAMED pronounced that “The world is green and verdant and verily God, the exalted, has made you the stewards of it”.


To save the planet MSMEs will need to change. Profit and shareholder satisfaction will no longer be the primary objective.   Rather  a more blended, systemic  approach that harmonises profit, people and planet is needed. The entrepreneurial  leopard  needs to change its spots!



Dana, L-P and Salamzadeh, A., (2022), A leopard never changes its spots! ICSB  Entrepreneurship around the globe. 23 January. (

Friedman, M., (1970) The Social and Ethical Responsibility of Business is to increase its profits. New York Times. September 13. 122-126

Gawel, A. (2012). Entrepreneurship and sustainability: do they have anything in common? Poznan University of Economics Review. 12 (1) 5-16.

Kirby, D.A. and El-Kaffass, I., (2021), Harmonious Entrepreneurship – a new approach to the challenges of  global sustainability. The World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development. .17(4), 846-855. First online 12th July.(

Schaltegger, S., Hansen, E.G., & Ludeke-Freund, F. (2016). Business Models for Sustainability: Origins, Present Research and  Future Avenues. Organization & Environment. 29 (1) 3-10.

Entrepreneurship around the Globe: “A leopard never changes its spots!”

Entrepreneurship around the Globe: “A leopard never changes its spots!”

Entrepreneurship around the Globe: “A leopard never changes its spots!”

Sunday, January 23, 2022, by Leo-Paul Dana & Aidin Salamzadeh

Leo-Paul Dana

Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University, Canada

Aidin Salamzadeh

Faculty of Management, University of Tehran, Iran


Many people believe that doing business is just about selling something. Although this could be true, one cannot neglect the importance of where we do such activities. As mentioned by Peter Drucker: “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. The context reveals the playground in which we could win or lose. While a businessperson could succeed in a context, he or she might not even be able to compete in another context. The culture could motivate people or kill their creative spirit.


Hopefully, many intellectuals and authors have already highlighted its importance, but how it could affect business activities is beyond a simple discussion. Countries have various cultures that have been evolved throughout centuries. Many cultural aspects of a set of randomly selected countries might be surprisingly contradictory, while similar textbooks, courses and programs are offered around the Globe to help people do their businesses! It is more like trying to survive a freshwater fish by putting it in the ocean or saltwater!


One might believe that “doing business is all about offering a set of products to a group of customers. that’s it!”. To be honest, one might answer, “that’s not right at all!”. While the business modelling logic provides a basis for understanding any business, it lacks enough attention to its context. At least, this is the mainstream approach in business schools worldwide. We do not overlook the activities already done by various entities in many countries, but we talk about the mainstream approach.


A leopard never changes its spots!


Generally, people respect their shared values, beliefs, and customs, which we simply call their culture. People stick to these issues and avoid doing something contrary to those unwritten rules and regulations. It is almost impossible to change who they are, even if they try to do so very hard. Then, as businesspersons, we need to be so careful about such issues. Although it seems simple, history has shown that it is not much simple. Without respecting various cultures, no one could not make a success story in a specific context. Then, before initiating a business, one must learn more and more about the context. Indeed, many benefits are associated with studying the context, such as knowing the Dos and Don’ts, ensuring survival and growth, and preparing to succeed.


“Understanding Contexts of Business in Western Asia: Land of Bazaars and High-Tech Booms” (Dana et al., 2022) is an example of how culture has affected Western Asian countries by using an interesting phenomenon called “bazaar”, and how such a cultural fact has helped them deal with high-tech booms and improving entrepreneurial ecosystems in those countries. It could be a beginning to revise teaching and doing business in diverse contexts.



Dana, L. P. (2014). Asian models of entrepreneurship—from the Indian Union and Nepal to the Japanese Archipelago: Context, policy and practice. World Scientific Publishing: Singapore.

Dana, L. P., Salamzadeh, A., Ramadani, V., & Palalic, R. (2021). Understanding Contexts of Business in Western Asia: Land of Bazaars and High-Tech Booms. World Scientific Publishing: Singapore.