Spontaneous Venturing

Spontaneous Venturing

An Entrepreneurial Approach to Alleviating Suffering in the Aftermath of a Disaster

By Dean A. Shepherd and Trenton A. Williams

Identifying a new approach to disaster response: spontaneous, compassionate, and impromptu actions to alleviate suffering.




Open Access


Identifying a new approach to disaster response: spontaneous, compassionate, and impromptu actions to alleviate suffering.

In Spontaneous Venturing, Dean Shepherd and Trenton Williams identify and describe a new approach for responding to disaster and suffering: the local organizing of spontaneous, compassionate, and impromptu actions—the rapid emergence of a compassionate venture. This approach, termed by the authors “spontaneous venturing,” can be more effective than the traditional “command-and-control” methods of large disaster relief organizations. It can customize and target resources and deliver them quickly, helping victims almost immediately. For example, during the catastrophic 2009 bushfires in Victoria, Australia—the focal disaster for the book—residents organized an impromptu relief center that collected and distributed urgently needed goods without red tape. Special bonds and friendships formed among the volunteers and victims; some were both volunteer and victim. Many victims were able to mobilize resources despite considerable personal losses.

Shepherd and Williams describe the lasting impact of disaster and tell the stories of Victoria residents who organized in the aftermath of the bushfires. They consider the limitations of traditional disaster relief efforts and explain that when victims take action to help others, they develop behavioral, emotional, and assumptive resilience; venturing leads to social interaction, community connections, and other positive outcomes. Finally, they explore spontaneous venturing in a less-developed country, investigating the activities of Haitians after the devastating 2010 earthquake. The lesson for communities hit by disaster: find opportunities for compassionate action.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262038874 248 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 6 figures


  • With disasters and crises becoming an increasing part of the everyday, the timing of Spontaneous Venturing could not be better. Compassionate venturing is not a contradiction in terms: it is a more effective means of alleviating human suffering after disaster. These ideas will be of crucial importance to scholars and community members alike.

    Kathleen M. Sutcliffe

    Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Business and Medicine, Johns Hopkins University

  • Two of the leading lights in entrepreneurship research take us on a journey that expands our notion of what entrepreneurship is and what it can do. Set aside the popular press, reality TV, and scholarly images of calculating self-interest and greed. This book shows us how, why, and when compassion matters.

    Ted Baker

    Professor and George F. Farris Chair in Entrepreneurship, Rutgers University; and Senior Fellow, Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship, University of Cape Town

  • This book is a must-read for anyone wanting to better understand how venturing can be used to alleviate suffering in times of crisis.  Shepherd and Williams take us on an inductive immersion of how individuals readily act and introduce the idea of compassionate venturing as a viable response to disasters and the chaos immediately following.

    Jill Kickul

    Professor, Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California

  • I wholeheartedly believe that entrepreneurship is one of most positive forces for good in the world, and this ideal is illustrated divinely in Shepherd and Williams's Spontaneous Venturing.  Through a collection of real-world accounts of crisis viewed with a scholarly eye, the authors show that motivated individuals acting entrepreneurially can be an effective response to crisis.

    Andrew C. Corbett

    Andrew C. Corbett, Professor and the Paul T. Babson Chair of Entrepreneurial Studies, Babson College


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262038874 248 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 6 figures