For your reading pleasure on Valentine's Day, I'd like to share a heartwarming business story.

Most of the time, our brains separate our business thinking from our thinking about charities and about bettering the world. That makes sense. After all, what does Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) or Merck (NYSE:MRK) have to do with solving society's problems?

Hmm. well, actually, Dell has an admirable recycling program, and Merck has a history of aiding developing nations by donating medicine, such as $100 million worth of vaccines for children in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

So maybe our brains should rethink how they think, because businesses and charities are crossing paths more than ever these days. One exciting example involves Cemex (NYSE:CX), the Mexican cement giant that Bill Mann, Brian Gorman, and Rich Smith have written about, and Ashoka, a world-improving organization that we supported for several years through our annual Foolanthropy campaigns.

Cemex is interested in selling cement to people in impoverished neighborhoods, to help them build or expand homes. This venture would be good for Cemex from a business perspective because it would build a new market for its cement and would generate new profits. But it's easier said than done. It's not easy for poor people to save enough to buy the cement, and Cemex was having trouble teaching people to save.

Enter Ashoka. It has "social entrepreneurs" in place all over the world, including Mexico. They're engaged in all kinds of work, addressing problems related to health, justice, education, the environment, and more. Most importantly for Cemex, Ashoka's fellows have built networks. They have operations in place that reach millions of people. In Mexico, Ashoka Fellow Patricia Nava had developed a person-to-person network of safe-sex educators providing sex education and AIDS prevention training. Cemex struck a deal -- it would use this network of educators to help promote the availability of cement. It would pay the educators a commission for customers referred.

A Fast Company article on this collaboration explained where it may lead. "The bigger idea, yet untested: Cemex and other companies use Nava's network to sell other products. Or Cemex hooks up with similar social entrepreneurs to distribute cement across Mexico and elsewhere."

One exciting thing about such partnerships is that they're good not just for those in need -- they're also good for the businesses involved. They're win-win propositions.

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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.