Anglia Ruskin University
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Start-up incubation: a rite of passage of entrepreneurs and their social ventures

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:51 authored by Irina Popova
This dissertation presents a socio-anthropological investigation of social venture incubation: a process of providing enterprise support aimed at creating social change. Most previous research on incubation has focused on venture development and growth, and the efficacy of incubation in terms of the economic contribution firms make. In this study I contribute by investigating the process of incubation, conceptualising it as a rite of passage of both the entrepreneur and the venture. I conducted an ethnographic study following the rites of passage of one cohort of social entrepreneurs and their ventures - from selection to incorporation into the business world. The insider perspective provided access to both the organisers and designers of the process as well as the entrepreneurs over a period of 15 months. I thematically analysed my data with NVivo using an a priori and emergent coding system. The key finding of the study was the dual nature of the incubatee, the liminal entity in this rite of passage. As opposed to most incubation studies, I found that the process was as much a transition of the ventures as it was for the entrepreneurs. The rite of passage framework enabled me to identify the transition to becoming a social entrepreneur. In addition the study contributes theoretically showing the importance of social exchanges in participants’ relationships as well as the variety of different engagement patterns in the entrepreneurial rite of passage. Engagement also influences incubation outcomes and evaluation. The value of the research findings for managers of such initiatives include designing relevant evaluation systems and strengthening the case for social incubation. Policy makers and funders of such initiatives thus need to take into account the different outcomes and impact of the programmes when allocating resources. The dual nature of the incubatee and impact on the incubatee should thus be taken into account when setting expected outcomes.



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