Isirc 2012 paul tracey ethnography social entrepreneurship
A view from the inside: Using ethnography to study social entrepreneurship Paul Tracey Cambridge Judge Business School
What is ethnography?“It involves… participating … in people’s daily lives for anextended period of time, watching what happens, listening towhat is said, asking questions – in fact, collecting whatever dataare available to throw light on the issues that are the focus ofthe study” (Hammersley & Atkinson 1995: 1)Key features:- Behaviour is studied in everyday contexts- Focuses on a small number of cases- Relies heavily on observation- Relatively unstructured approach to data collection- Concerned fundamentally with how individuals and groupsconstruct meaning
A very brief history of ethnography…• First ‘real’ ethnographies conducted by anthropologists in the early 20th Century (Malinowski 1929; Radcliffe-Brown 1922) and the ‘Chicago School of Sociology’ (e.g. Shaw 1930)• Also has a long tradition in management, but at the margins• Organizational ethnography, like qualitative research more generally, experiencing a renaissance
Motivation for my study Martha Feldman Steven BarleyAim: To answer Barley’s (2008: 510) call for institutional researchers to return to the “coalface” of institutions (i.e. to understand the effects of institutional processes inside organizations), in the context of social entrepreneurship
: A Brief Overview• Part of the Development Trust Movement• Established in 2003• Has been ‘financially sustainable’ since 2007• 30 FT staff plus around 15 volunteers• Keystone aims: - To improve the quality of life for local people - To support those individuals, groups and communities who experience disadvantage or social exclusion - To encourage all communities to participate in local civic life, and take control of their futures - As an organization, to be economically self-sufficient
The Core Keystone Social Projects:Thetford Works! - Adult Work Clubs - Volunteer to Work - Pupils with Prospects Introduction to Keystone.flv
So, what did I actually do when I was at Keystone?Phase 1: Observation (month 1)Phase 2: Participation (months 2-6)Phase 3: More formal data gathering (months 7-9)
Some empirical observations that dominate my field diary entries:• Making money in poor places is really hard• Community engagement and accountability seems almost incompatible with effective organization• There are major tensions in the local community, with Keystone caught in the middle• Are social entrepreneurs ‘heroes’ after all?
Preliminary analysis: (1) the microdynamics of organizational identity• Institutional theory and organizational identity theory emphasize “optimal distinctiveness” (Glynn 2008; Gioia et al. 2010)• But what if you are an organizational form that is only weakly institutionalized and poorly understood?• Social ventures can take advantage of the ambiguity surrounding their form• Through the strategic use of identity narratives, social ventures can be “different things to different people”
Preliminary Analysis: (2) social entrepreneurship and the stigmatization problem• Keystone helps two groups with “spoiled identities” (Goffman 1968): - (1) The long-term unemployed who have the stigma of “scroungers” - (2) Migrant workers who have the stigma of being “foreigners” and “stealing jobs”• Keystone’s support of these groups has led to the transfer of stigma to Keystone itself, threatening its legitimacy• Parts of the community appear to be judging Keystone in terms of their own values and belief systems
Preliminary Analysis: (3) The microdynamics of accommodation and settlement• Migration one of the most important contemporary social issues• Institutional theorists have largely ignored the fact that people move across space (Djelick & Quack, 2008) – yet migration has important institutional effects (e.g. local services, housing and labour markets, cultural tensions)• There is a body of work on translation (e.g. Sahlin & Wedlin, 2008) that considers how practices, organizations and ideas are altered as they move across space – but nothing on the movement of people• Important to understand how organizations can act as intermediaries, helping communities to accommodate new people
The challenges of using ethnography to study organizations in general, and social entrepreneurship in particular • Access • Ethnographic time • Field relations • What to observe • Data analysis/developing a theoretical focus • Betrayal?
The advantages of using ethnography to study organizations in general, and social entrepreneurship in particular • Business schools offer a terrible vantage point for studying poverty and inequality! • Incredible richness in the observational data that are collected (polyphony; thick description) • Being immersed in the field allows you to develop a detailed and nuanced understanding that emphasizes context • Interviews tend to be of a high quality • You learn about yourself – ethnography is partly a voyage of self-discovery!
The future: visual/micro ethnography? Sally Maitlis, UBC Jean Clarke, University of Leeds
Resources for aspiring organizational ethnographers: