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.

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?

How to manage my writing projects

I feel I have too many writing projects. First, this blog, which I don’t seem to update as much as I would like to. Second, my PhD project, which takes a big block of my daily writing time (as it should). Third, blogging occasionally about timebanking. Finally, my unpublished creative writing in Finnish. Creative writing is something new I have been doing this spring in a creative writing course and it feels great.

In fact, I think the problem is not the number of writing projects but the time available for them. As usual, I seem to have too little time to pursue all my projects. This is not good since I love writing. A though dilemma.

As I am told to be a practical person, I have started to consider how to manage all my writing projects. As a result, I complied a preliminary How-to-manage-my-writing-projects-list in order to manage them all. The ideas come from various sources, for instance academic and creative writing guides. And as I get enough of disciplined lists with my PhD project, the following list is completely incompatible, overlapping, and imperfect.

  1. Write every day. According to many (academic) writing tips, writing daily is the first thing one needs to do in order to get writing done regularly. Quite simple when you think of it. It is a miracle but I can actually do this.
  2. Write the first thing in the morning. It has taken some organising but I’m able to do this. The minute I wake up, I plot down my fist thoughts. Yes, it is sometimes hard and I have to give in and do it after taking care of my child or visiting the bathroom. By the way, hardly any writing guides mention either of these very possible morning interruptions. And still, most mornings I manage to write before I get out of the bed.
  3. Write the last thing in the evening. Now this is more demanding to accomplish. After putting my kid to bed, it is so tempting to enjoy the Happy Hour, namely the hour to oneself after putting kid(s) to bed and before going to sleep. For your information, I created this blog post during my Happy Hour.
  4. Make a list of ongoing (non-PhD) projects and deadlines. I would like to avoid this to the last moment since I need to compile lists at work all the time. Yet, it seems deadlines are good when trying to get things done. Also for writing non-PhD stuff. Thus, my very own great secret of adulthood: the most demanding deadlines are the ones you set yourself (because these issues matter you the most). In my case, they are the deadlines for getting writing done.
  5. Start a Writing Group. I thought of this only some days ago and now I’m very enthusiastic about organising monthly meetings to discuss attendees’ own texts and give & get feedback. I have already some people in mind I want to ask to join the writing group. Exciting!

If you have comments or additions to my list, I’m more than happy to get your tips.

Duct tape news

News are said to become shallow. No wonder when we consider the way average reader spends time reading one article, not to mention the cuts in newspaper staff. Sacking journalists is due to the decline in orders for printed newspapers. Orders are expected to decline more as electronic publications conquer the domain.

For some time I have managed to not to read a newspaper every morning. To some this is a disgrace. For me it has been an attempt to clear some capacity for my Phd study. It really takes drastic measures to avoid procrastination.

I have not totally left following the world. Instead, I have focused my little leftover energy on following news weekly via one or two magazines. They have interesting longer stories and articles, which to me seem more rewarding to read.

To me keeping up with my field social entrepreneurship and related topics has benefited from Twitter and other social media. As a junior expert I consider already having some capacity to interpret 140 characters of information and turn it into relevant knowledge.

And that’s the trick: it is harder to be a critical reader of a topic new to me. Thus, I need more relevant information. In a quality magazine this is done for me by someone hopefully following the ethical guidelines of journalism. Again, when familiarising with news related to my field, I can evaluate the argument better alone.

Despite the fact I miss terribly the smell of a morning paper and the physical event of taking time for reading over a table, currently I have prioritised other things over this practice. I feel sad for the newspaper industry as I really like the idea of reading a paper version daily. And I can see the benefits of someone having to at least skim topics one otherwise wouldn’t. I wonder if my magazine reading will do open up my horizons enough?

Then there is the industry of news: one sentence from a PhD study is sad. But this is what happened: I heard news over the radio and results from one study were dealt in one sentence. If my PhD study ever gets to the radio news, that’ll probably be my treatment as well. One sentence. We were joking with a colleague that the use of duct tape might give us a second sentence: “Interestingly, the results were gained by using duct tape.”
Am I as the producer of new knowledge contributing to the fast information? I would prefer increasing the amount of slow news and perhaps then knowledge.

F2F prevails

I survived my May deadlines. Having capabilities to write this post is a solid proof of this. Although, I almost started with “on the last day of the month” before I realised it is already the 2nd of June.

Nevertheless, on the second day of the month it is good to look back and sum up the past month. In addition to deadlines, it was dominated by presentation skills training: a workshop for improving visualisation and a PhD course in communication.

I learned a lot about myself as a presentor (eg. I love using photos and I wiggle my eyebrows funnily). Moreover, I have one strong take away: In order to create new knowledge we benefit tremendously from face to face interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I have no dislike for reading, writing or virtual interaction. However, meeting a human-being in person makes a difference.

For instance, in the visualisation workshop I met an investment banker who claimed that the business of investing is interaction. First, it was rather surprising as one would think it is the return on investment. Then I realised all investors still in the business are able to provide a customer with a reasonably good track record but all of them might not take the time to interact with a customer.

From now on I promise to respect more all the possibilities offered for interaction with others in order to learn and build on shared knowledge. When doing research, attending one research seminar every week is a good start.