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Identity, storytelling and the philanthropic journey

Maclean, Mairi and Harvey, Charles and Gordon, Jillian and Shaw, Eleanor (2015) Identity, storytelling and the philanthropic journey. Human Relations. ISSN 0018-7267

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Abstract

This paper develops theoretical understanding of the involvement of wealthy entrepreneurs in socially transformative projects by offering a foundational theory of philanthropic identity narratives. We show that these narratives are structured according to the metaphorical framework of the journey, through which actors envision and make sense of personal transformation. The journey provides a valuable metaphor for conceptualizing narrative identities in entrepreneurial careers as individuals navigate different social landscapes, illuminating identities as unfolding through a process of wayfinding in response to events, transitions and turning-points. We delineate the journey from entrepreneurship to philanthropy, and propose a typology of rewards entrepreneurs claim to derive from giving. We add to the expanding literature on narrative identities by suggesting that philanthropic identity narratives empower wealthy entrepreneurs to generate a legacy of the self which is both self- and socially-oriented; these ‘generativity scripts’ propelling their capacity for action while ensuring the continuation of their journeys.