A new article published in the journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies provides a case study from the Galapagos islands. Entitled “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems as contested spaces”, my article discusses entrepreneurship in a development context. 

Ever since I first became a researcher in international development, I had always wanted to observe people’s participation in a local government setting along with the nature of people’s dialogue and way they are able to affect change through their participation. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the islands, I finally got my opportunity when the local government participatory development process was moved to a virtual environment. This meant that meetings were recorded in Zoom, and I was able to gain access to the recordings and the outputs produced by facilitators.The Galapagos islands have a Special Regime Government which holds significant powers to create and implement policies for conservation of the natural environment and biological diversity so famed as the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s work on The Origin of the Species.

The Galapagos islands are famed for their natural diversity

The islands also have a small population of around 33,000, meaning there is more possibility for local people to affect change through their contributions to participatory planning.

Since a major element of the participatory planning process was a focus on economic reactivation after the COVID-19 pandemic, I studied the data generated by participatory sessions in relation to the six domains of the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (EE). The sum of those domains represents the supporting environment in which microenterprises, startups and other new business will be fostered, or otherwise! The six domains are as follows:

  • Policy
  • Finance
  • Culture
  • Supports
  • Human capital
  • Markets   

Previous research has shown that EEs in small towns are often lacking in comparison with large cities. For example, a technology company is unlikely to have the same ready supply of IT workers and access to startup financing in a provincial small town as is the case in Silicon Valley.

A local microenterprise market on the island of San Cristóbal

My investigation has built on these observations to show that EEs in places such as the Galapagos are characterized by competing interests which have the potential to conflict and exert influence towards opposing objectives. For example, the interests of conservationists and people seeking to protect the islands’ natural heritage are in direct conflict with those who wish to increase tourism or open avenues towards industrialized production. Because people within a small population are able to make their voices heard so easily, this highlights the crucial role that participatory spaces play with the EE.

“Participatory” is a key principle of Project DPro, Program DPro and MEAL DPro. In the development sector, my research has shown that it also plays a significant role in the EE. Given that so many development projects operate in this sphere, by fostering the creation of startups and microenterprises, I hope my research will enable us all to consider people’s participation from a new perspective.  

To download the full article, use the following link to the Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies website.

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