IDRC paper development workshop or "Nerds at work to find solutions for some big problems" Day 5

Before I begin the last blog post (which is a little late I know) I want to thank the tireless coordinator, cheerleader and “research guide” Thomas Schott – he was the first to arrive and the last to leave – gave extra hours in the evening to ensure those of us who wanted to learn how to use Amos had the knowledge we needed to continue at home. Of course I use we in the sense of the group – I corrected an entire thesis once that used structural equation modelling, and so really had to understand it to make the right English edits, and that was enough for this lifetime J So that you Thomas for your efforts, your kind nature and your undying enthusiasm for the GEM project, MENA and your quest to be part of the bigger process of gaining understanding about entrepreneurship and the role of networks in this most important phenomenon.

We started the last day as we also did, with a group presentation (this time group 8 of 8) of their paper and preliminary results and then a discussion of the entire group with questions, recommendations and one or two nerd fights (which always ended with laughs and very good humour). Group 8 presented the role of networks on job growth – well the perception on the part of the entrepreneur on how many jobs he or she expects to create. Of course networks has an impact on this…

An entrepreneur’s network can roughly be defined as his or her “social capital” – which I tell students is like self-earned “wasta”. I came to the UAE almost three years ago knowing no one – and now I know a lot of people, in different industries and walks of life – through attending community events, volunteering, work, students, friends, etc. I have built my network which I use to learn about the environment in which I live and work – entrepreneurs do the same thing.

Back to the role of networks in expected job growth – use of professional (colleagues, etc.) and international (people living abroad or from abroad) seem to positively impact an entrepreneur’s expectation of job growth – why is another question and the team will work on that in the next while (manuscript due in September 2012!).

We also talked as a group about policy recommendations and how best to make them. Remember, we are all working on our respective GEM 2011 reports – these were the team leaders and members who attended the workshop – and our “sponsors” want/expect/need policy recommendations. One senior team leader reminded us that to write good policy we have to think like policy makers – what is the strategy, what is the vision, what is possible, what doesn’t cost an arm and a leg (ok, he didn’t mention the last item, but I know it is true in the MENA region especially).

We then did more spss training and I might have answered some student email while this was going on J

After our final delicious lunch (darn you Jordan and your excellent food, I gained weight last week!) each team presented a road map towards article completion in September. This represents our “contract” amongst the team members and with the larger group (and IDRC who funded this project). Because we need to publish our papers or it would be like we sang into the wind, it may be the most beautiful song every sung – but if it is not recorded it will have a very limited impact (e.g. none) on the world.

It was really nice that two of the people who mentioned on day 1 their lack of confidence in their English speaking skills, spoke for their groups. Smile and courage in action! It made me happy that the environment of the group and its positive atmosphere had allowed their confidence to grow …

Second to last we talked about forming a task force – made up of MENA researchers working in the MENA region on the subject of research into entrepreneurship. I hope something comes of it – but of course sustaining any taskforce requires funds – funds we lack. We will see though J And of course I will keep you all updated through this blog.

This was an amazing experience for me as a young professor (OK, not so young in age, but young in career) and I know that we all benefitted from it. It would be wonderful to repeat it – with PhD students and not necessarily on entrepreneurs’ networks, but on research in entrepreneurship in the MENA region. We need more understanding of it – we really do. On the last evening we went for coffee on a very nice street downtown and we saw a small scuffle of local teenagers (or young men) – of course I thought they wouldn’t be doing this if they were busy doing something else – but they might not feel prepared or able to do anything else – why? What can we do to help? What skills are they lacking? How can we best motivate them? What industries interest them most? See, there are way more questions than hours in a day – that is why we need to work together to come up with some understanding based on sound scientific research – kind of like building our house on stone and not sand.

I will keep you updated with paper links as they happen – and if you would like to donate money to start the task force I will put you in touch with the right people J 

P.S. - Thank you Nadia and the IDRC - without your funding and efforts this would not have happened - thank you for setting an example of what rich countries need to do to create sustainable solutions for the great challenges the MENA region faces.


  1. .... back home in Denmark now ... both satisfied and exhausted ... I sit down and enjoy reading Connie's account of what we did ... and her experiences of it ... Shukran :-) ....thomas

    1. Thank you Thomas, it really was a great initiative! Rest well, Connie

  2. thanks Connie for the nice summaries of our workshop - I really enjoy reading them.

    1. thank you Bettina! Hope you have a great summer!

  3. Thank you Connie, you are a real darling... Zakia

    1. Thank you Zakia! I hope we get to meet each other again soon :)