A 4-year postdoctoral funding by Nessling Foundation & Kone Foundation to study post-growth self-employment

Eeva Houtbeckers has been granted postdoctoral funding from Nessling Foundation and Kone Foundation for a four-year study titled “Social entrepreneurship for post-growth societies in the global North: An ethnographic participatory study of self-employment practices for ecologically and socially just world”. Her aim is to use video ethnography to explore activities related to gaining a livelihood when aiming for an ecologically and socially just world in the global North, Finland in particluar.

Previous research has shown that we need alternatives to the dominant paradigm of continuous economic growth. Yet, we know little about work in post-growth societies. How the rethinking of
economic growth affects contemporary enterprises, which are currently expected to grow? How do people in post-growth organisations gain a living? What employment looks like in a world with social and ecological crisis?

Eeva’s multi-sited, participatory and institutional ethnographic study aims to understand the paradoxes related to self-employment for and in post-growth societies. The contributions of her study relate to rethinking the notion of entrepreneurship, advancing the multidisciplinary research project challenging economic growth as an imperative, and raising awareness of alternative forms of economic activities in the Global North.

More information: Dr. Sc. (Econ.) Eeva Houtbeckers, eeva.houtbeckers [ at ] aalto.fi, 045 676 0608, @aatteinen (Twitter, Instagram) or on ResearchGate project site

The post has also been published at Sustainability in Business Research group website.

Doctoral dissertation: Debunking the heroic social entrepreneurship myth

Social entrepreneurship is about mundane work and not about heroism, argues Eeva Houtbeckers in her dissertation to be defended on 28 October.

Social entrepreneurship has been developed as a reaction to “conventional” entrepreneurship, which is connected with maximising profits and taking risks. The uncritical understanding of social entrepreneurship repeats the myth of a heroic individual, also commonly linked to entrepreneurship. Houtbeckers’ study challenges this and other myths related to social entrepreneurship by examining mundane work practices.

Mundaneness essential for understanding phenomena

Because social entrepreneurship and conventional entrepreneurship are empty signifiers, examining mundane work is essential for understanding the phenomena. In her research, Houtbeckers focused on four organisations within the fields of co-working spaces, open data, recycled clothing, and veganism. All of these organisations had been established to address or resolve societal challenges.

– It has been difficult to position these young urban entrepreneurs who aim to make a living by addressing contemporary challenges. Yet their work needs to be understood as one means of practicing entrepreneurship, comments Houtbeckers.

However, any reference to social entrepreneurship creates an implicit juxtaposition between social and conventional entrepreneurship.

– Previous research has shown that it is impossible to provide an exhaustive definition for entrepreneurship. Therefore, Houtbeckers argues, there is no “conventional” or “social” entrepreneurship, rather entrepreneurships which represent a variety of everyday practices.

The microentrepreneurs followed for the study aimed at influencing existing practices with business ideas stemming from their concerns on the contemporary issues, such as clearcutting rainforest or intensive animal farming. However, the microentrepreneurs were limited in their power to affect wide-ranging processes. Nevertheless, social entrepreneurship as a popular concept could be a rational and socially acceptable way to disguise radical aims for social change and provide space for experimenting with marginal ideas that may challenge existing ways of doing things. Thus, social entrepreneurship can be understood as everyday activism.

– If there is something heroic in social entrepreneurship, it is the mundaneness of the work, claims Houtbeckers. Understanding this is essential for considering entrepreneurship as a means to solve or alleviate complex societal challenges.

The doctoral dissertation of Eeva Houtbeckers, M. Sc. (Econ.), in the field of Organization and Management “Mundane social entrepreneurship. A practice perspective on the work of microentrepreneurs.” will be publicly examined at the Aalto University School of Business on Friday, 28 October 2016. The defence of the dissertation will be held in the Chydenia building (address: Runeberginkatu 22-24, Helsinki, Finland): Saastamoinen Foundation Hall (3rd floor), starting at 12 p.m. (noon). Opponent: Professor Karin Berglund (Stockholm University); Custos: Professor Minna Halme (Aalto University).

Eeva Houtbeckers’ dissertation has been published in the Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS (171/2016). The dissertation will be published electronically in Aaltodoc service https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi

Further information:
Eeva Houtbeckers
045 676 0608
eeva.houtbeckers@aalto.fi

Twitter: @aatteinen
Blog: https://aatteinen.wordpress.com/doctoral-dissertation

 

thebook

Väitös: yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys murtaa sankarimyyttiä

Yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys on arjen puurtamista eikä sankaritarinaa, esittää Eeva Houtbeckers 28. lokakuuta tarkastettavassa väitöstutkimuksessaan.

Yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys on kehitetty vastavoimaksi ”tavanomaiselle” yrittäjyydelle, joka liitetään voitontavoittelun maksimointiin ja riskinottoon. Vallalla oleva yhteiskunnallisen yrittäjyyden kritiikitön ymmärrys toistaa yrittäjyyteen liitettyä sankarimyyttiä, joka ulkoistaa yhteisen vastuunkannon kyvykkäille yksilöille. Houtbeckersin tutkimus kyseenalaistaa tämän ja muita yhteiskunnalliseen yrittäjyyteen liitettyjä myyttejä tekemällä näkyväksi mikroyrittäjien arkisia työkäytänteitä.

Olennaista on arkinen tekeminen

Yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys on samalla tavalla tyhjä käsite kuin yrittäjyys, ja ilmiön ymmärtämisen kannalta arjen työn tuntemus on olennaista. Houtbeckers seurasi väitöskirjaansa varten neljää organisaatiota uusilla toimialoilla. Toimialoja olivat avoin data, kierrätystekstiilit, veganismi ja yhteisölliset työtilat. Kaikki yritykset oli perustettu jonkin yhteiskunnallisen ongelman ratkaisemiseksi.

– Yhteiskunnallisten haasteiden parissa toimeentuloaan yrittäviä urbaaneja nuoria on ollut vaikea sijoittaa mihinkään olemassa olevaan määritelmään. Heidän työnsä tulee kuitenkin ymmärtää yhdeksi muodoksi harjoittaa yrittäjyyttä, sanoo Houtbeckers.

Puhumalla yhteiskunnallisesta yrittäjyydestä luodaan implisiittinen vastakkainasettelu sen ja tavanomaisen yrittäjyyden välille.

– Aikaisempi tutkimus on osoittanut, että yrittäjyyttä on mahdotonta määritellä tyhjentävästi. Siten ei ole olemassa mitään ”tavanomaista yrittäjyyttä” eikä ”yhteiskunnallista yrittäjyyttä”, vaan kyse on mielikuvista, toteaa Houtbeckers.

Tutkimuksessa seuratut mikroyrittäjät pyrkivät vaikuttamaan olemassa oleviin käytänteisiin liiketoimintaideoilla, jotka pohjautuvat heidän huoliinsa maailman tilasta. Mikroyrittäjien valta muuttaa laaja-alaisia prosesseja on kuitenkin rajallista. Yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys voi rajoitteista huolimatta olla sosiaalisesti hyväksytty tapa tavoitella kestävää yhteiskunnallista muutosta, joka poikkeaa vallitsevista tekemisen tavoista. Siksi yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys voidaan ymmärtää arjen aktivismiksi.

– Jos jokin on yhteiskunnallisessa yrittäjyydessä sankarillista, se on arjen puurtaminen, sanoo Houtbeckers. Tämän ymmärtäminen on olennaista, kun yrittäjyyttä ajatellaan yhtenä tapana ratkaista tai lievittää kompleksisia yhteiskunnallisia ongelmia.

Kauppatieteiden maisteri Eeva Houtbeckers väittelee 28.10.2016 klo 12 organisaatiot ja johtaminen -alaan kuuluvasta aiheesta Arkinen yhteiskunnallinen yrittäjyys: Käytäntöote mikroyrittäjien työhön (Mundane social entrepreneurship: A practice perspective on the work of microentrepreneurs). Vastaväittäjänä toimii professori Karin Berglund (Tukholman yliopisto) ja kustoksena professori Minna Halme (Aalto-yliopisto). Väitöstilaisuus järjestetään Aalto-yliopiston Chydenia-rakennuksessa, Saastamoisen säätiön salissa (3. kerros) osoitteessa Runeberginkatu 22–24, Helsinki.

Houtbeckersin väitöskirja on julkaistu sarjassa Aalto University publication series DOCTORAL
DISSERTATIONS (171/2016). Väitöskirja ilmestyy myös sähköisenä Aaltodoc-palvelussa  https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi

Lisätietoja:
Eeva Houtbeckers
045 676 0608
eeva.houtbeckers@aalto.fi

Twitter: @aatteinen
Blogi: https://aatteinen.wordpress.com/doctoral-dissertation

 

thebook

What to do after finishing a PhD? Where to hop next?

Finishing a PhD is something I dreamed about for (too) many years. And now that time is here for me. In 18 days I will be up there giving a public lectio based on my doctoral dissertation and then defend it (publicly) for up to 5 hours. Usually all of this takes approximantely two hours. It is great to be here, less than three weeks from the defence (and the party that follows it).

Yet, I experience this sense of a lost direction. Of course I have plans for my future. I have planned to a new ethnographic fieldwork related to degrowth organising and self-employment, for which I have already started to do some preliminary work (more updates at ResearchGate).

Being in a PhD program is (or rather was) not always fun, as anyone who has survived it can tell. But it is familiar. Life after PhD is unfamiliar and that’s scary.

While experiencing this sense of a lost direction, I should be delivering many things, e.g. revising a manuscript, applying for postdoc funds, preparing my public speeches (two for this Wednesday and of course the Big One on 28 October, i.e. The Defence). But it is hard to start, because there’s no certainty where I am going.

In the meantime, I’m happy to learn how you manage uncertainty. How do you handle the fact that after finishing a big project you don’t know where you are heading next? Bad TV is not a good enough answer. I tried that and it doesn’t seem to work.

Where to hop next?

(Science) fiction and writing groups as an inspiration for academic writing

I argue that academic writing process is no different from any other writing, although the results differ. I realise writing an academic text is a different genre from writing for example a novel. As an academic reader, soon into consuming, I expect an argument (delivered here in the first paragraph). Pretty soon after that, evidence. And as I skip to Conclusions, I really expect to find conclusions, i.e. how this stuff is related to anything outside the text. Goes without saying that the detective stories aren’t supposed to share up front who did it. And also goes without saying that delivering genre fitting text can be difficult.

I have learned all this from attending excellent academic writing workshops, blogs, and reading about academic writing from books such as How to write a lot and Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks. These references emphasise that academic writers experience writing blocks, fear, and anxieties like any other writers. Also academic writers seem to have their own routines how to deliver text regularly. These sources and others are excellent in explaining what happens in academic writing. Put it shortly, academic writing is a skill that can be developed.

I want to share what has developed and inspired me as an academic writer:

  1. (science) fiction writing and reading
  2. writing groups

A lot what I have learned about writing as a craft has come from non-academic writing and reading. As a story, book, and (science) fiction enthusiast. I enjoy good writing. It is like breathing: I inhale stories of others’ experiences and different worlds and exhale joy. Therefore, I have tried my share of writing fiction. It gives me more energy than it most likely will ever be able to deliver to those poor souls reading my texts. As a side kick, my fiction writing hobby has enhanced my academic writing skills. Genre, plot, characters, surprise, dialogue, language, style… Many obvious connections. This doesn’t mean I understand research as fiction. The metaphysics of doing research is much more complex. Yet, research reports, articles, and text books are read by people. And what do people like? Good stories. No wonder narrative approach to research is a well rooted tradition.

My development as a writer is dependent on others. Making writing social is more important than I first realised. Support and understanding makes us flourish. I want to give full credit and appreciation to my superb academic colleagues: I would have not been able to write research texts without you. You know who you are. You put up with me as potentially deliverable.

Finally, it comes down to sitting down and writing no matter what the style is. Texts need to come from somewhere. Words need to be written. This is what I have read and reread in many quotes about writing regardless of the genre.

So better get back to my academic writing projects and start generating words!