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Ethics & Entrepreneurial Action

Ethical concepts and frameworks play a vital role in entrepreneurial action by helping innovators and leaders face challenges with courage, confidence, and resilience.

Changing the Entrepreneurship Landscape

Many people do the wrong thing not because they intend to, but because they haven’t considered the issues or people involved. By teaching character, values, principles, goals, and consequences, we can help tomorrow’s leaders become skilled and thoughtful agents of change.

Conversation between event participants

What We Mean by “Ethics”

Ethics is a practice.
Rather than being an isolated decision or action, ethics is the repeated habit of considering outcomes and consequences—and it must be built into every stage of the entrepreneurial process.

Ethics in entrepreneurship is the right thing to do—and the smart thing to do.
Having principled entrepreneurs and leaders will not only make the world a better place, it will also lead to new jobs, stronger operations, and more prosperity.

Very often, ethical choices are not clear-cut.
Many ethical choices are subtle and difficult choices—the goal is to develop character through habitual questioning and actions.

Experiential learning is the ideal environment to teach ethical entrepreneurship.
This environment enables students to collaborate with diverse groups, gain agency over outcomes, and make a real impact.

“We must evolve entrepreneurship education to teach students to maximize value in a broad sense, one that includes both financial performance and positive impact.”

Jon Fjeld, Director, Duke I&E

Partnership with the Kenan Institute for Ethics

Now in its third decade at Duke, the Kenan Institute for Ethics is a think and do tank dedicated to understanding the moral challenges of our time and creating scholarly frameworks, policies, and practices to address them.

An interdisciplinary working group helmed by I&E Director Jon Fjeld and Kenan Institute director Suzanne Shanahan meets regularly to address how to incorporate ethical frameworks into entrepreneurship programming at Duke, as well as equip educators at Duke and beyond with the methods and tools to bring these frameworks to their students.

Cross-Institutional Collaboration

United by a common purpose to elevate ethics and empower educators, this group—Jon Fjeld of Duke University, Tom Byers of Stanford University, and Laura Dunham of the University of St. Thomas—works to convene conversations and provide resources that advance the adoption of ethical frameworks into broader entrepreneurship education.

Laura Dunham, Jon Fjeld, Arlan Hamilton, and Tom Byers at the 2020 Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Conference


One of the most powerful teaching tools when it comes to embedding ethics into entrepreneurship education is hearing other people’s stories. In a series of candid conversations with business leaders at innovative companies, stories about building organizational culture, defining company values, and making hard decisions help illustrate ethics in practice.

Rob Chesnut
Chief Ethics Officer, Airbnb

Russ Glass
CEO, Ginger


Design & Entrepreneurial Action

Programming and resources across Duke help innovators and entrepreneurs design solutions with understanding, creativity, evaluation, and communication to develop a deep understanding of users

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Social Impact

As a leader in the fields of social innovation and social entrepreneurship, Duke connects future change-makers across schools and disciplines to the resources, mentorship, and community they need to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. 

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Ethical Tech

A nonpartisan initiative at Duke University focusing on research, education, and policy development across all industries and socioeconomic groups

Read more about ethical tech
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