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Interview with One of USABE’s Top Critical Entrepreneurship Scholars

Thursday, April 20, 2017  
Posted by: Shelby Solomon
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In the present day our society is confronted with many ethical issues ranging from race and gender inequality to matters of national policy. To many, it would seem that such issues are becoming an ever-present aspect of our lives. Furthermore, entrepreneurship is often a driving force in society. Therefore, in order to understand how we, as members of USASBE, may take a more nuanced approach in understanding these issues and dilemmas in our academic work, I chose to interview USASBE’s own Dr. Banu Ozkazanc-Pan about her research in critical entrepreneurship. Banu recently won USASBE’s best paper in ethics and entrepreneurship award. She is currently working with the City of Boston, start-ups and entrepreneur support organizations to build inclusive ecosystems. Additionally, she retains an impressive research platform that includes a solo-authored Academy of Management Review article and has been featured on NPR.


Shelby: What is critical entrepreneurship research?


Banu: Maybe an example would be helpful. One of the ways mainstream research looks at issues of different experiences by entrepreneurs is access to capital and access to networks and resources. So it is a matter of women lacking access to capital. And in a critical fashion, you could ask that same question, but it would have very different sets of assumptions—it is not the lack of access to capital, but the lack of control over capital—and that has to do with structural inequality. You know who has the wealth and who has the opportunity to decide on investments and decisions. So the critical entrepreneurship research literature really calls out some of the assumptions underlying our research questions and guiding theories of entrepreneurship. It at something like the epistemology or the ontology, and really considers what are the different assumptions underlying it and can we maybe provide alternatives. It really has to do with how we conceptualize entrepreneurship and the way we ask research questions.


Shelby: How might critical entrepreneurship contribute to theory and practice?


Banu: I think one of the blind spots in entrepreneurship research is that it looks at entrepreneurship as a disembodied practice. But, it does matter who you are, it does matter if you are a woman or a man, or if you are gay or straight—all these variations of who we are make a difference in how we experience entrepreneurship; how we go about gaining access to resources and other dimensions of ecosystems. So I think really recognizing that, and understanding that will help us to maybe formulate better policies that are helpful in promoting inclusive economic growth. I think there is a lot there that can be discovered and be written about.


Shelby: What is the outlook for the future of critical entrepreneurship?


Banu: I am fairly optimistic, and I say that because I see a lot of interesting dialogue—especially on the practitioner side. For example, I study entrepreneurship support organizations. They would like to become more inclusive, but replicating more of the same doesn't work. That is where critical entrepreneurship can really shine to say, “here are the assumptions that are underlying the way you were doing things now, if you want to get to another place where you are more inclusive,” here's what you might have to [rethink]. So for me I am hopeful because I feel there is more dynamism and activity in the practice world of entrepreneurship and it could really push us to rethink our theories.


Banu’s general message suggests that entrepreneurship can be a powerful tool for economic development and society. However, the world is a highly complex place and we should reflect critically upon many of our assumptions and theories in order to ensure that policies and practices can be developed from our research to benefit the whole of society.

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