Research InterestsI am a field researcher who uses ethnographic methods, critical discourse analysis and quantitative analysis of qualitative data (content analysis, network analysis) to support grounded theorizing in questions of entrepreneurial action and innovation. My scholarship is motivated by my interest in entrepreneurship and social innovation as a means of fostering more equitable, resilient and sustainable communities. In my research, I explore dynamic processes of emergence and evolution, with a particular interest in how power and agency are exercised to shape our social systems and the entrepreneurial opportunities within them.
Field Emergence & Innovation
My primary research stream concerns fields and systems of institutions that enable and constrain innovation. In recently published work, I and my co-authors investigate how organizations navigate moral conflicts - such as privacy, security and equity - that arise when human genomes are 'datafied'. Our findings help businesses anticipate different types of ethical problems in new markets for personal data (such as health trackers and GPS locators), some of which may be addressed effectively with technology and some which may only be resolvable through socio-political engagement on issues of equity.
In a second study, also set in the emerging field of genomic medicine, I investigate how organizations amass and expend power to influence governance in a new field, ultimately configuring these institutions into field infrastructure - invisible, durable systems of control that enable organizations to function in a field. Early findings identify practices, events, and relationships that define what constitutes power in a new field where there are few existing rules. My aim in this project is to shine light on how new systems of power and control are formed, to highlight tensions between innovation and societal well-being that are at the heart of entrepreneurial motivation and action, while suggesting ways entrepreneurs can avoid perpetuating societal inequities through their actions.
An emerging project in this stream (currently in early data collection) inductively explores disruption in the established field of psychotherapy and battles over how a new offshoot will grow and evolve. Resurgent interest in the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances is driving growth of a new professional group - 'psychedelic-assisted therapists' - to deliver therapy, while entrepreneurs instead are using new technologies to scale treatment delivery. Existential conflicts arise in the new field, as members battle over such core questions as the meaning of 'treatment', whether psychedelics are 'medicine' or 'vehicles of transcendence', and whether to prioritize scale or craft for maximum societal benefit. By examining how conflicts over power and meaning shape (or reshape) prevailing practices, I hope to uncover new perspectives for navigating perpetual conflict between scaling organizations in high-growth industries and approaches espoused by small, community-based or artisan/craft organizations, while structuring governance that supports organizational and societal well-being.
Small & Micro Enterprises, Entrepreneurial Ecosystems, and Resilient, Sustainable Communities
A second and related stream of research examines entrepreneurial ecosystems, processes for scaling small- and micro-enterprises, and the role of small business in constructing resilient local economies that support human flourishing. Advanced work in this stream includes a conceptual manuscript on how inclusion occurs (or doesn't) in entrepreneurial ecosystems. Currently in revision at a major journal, I and my co-authors theorize the processes of inclusion to elaborate the fundamental purpose of entrepreneurial ecosystems as 'productive growth' (Spigel & Harrison, 2018) that supports healthier, more equitable communities and social life.
Lastly, my dissertation investigates questions of how systemic power and white supremacy embedded in social and political systems influenced economic development and public policies to impact two marginalized communities in San Antonio, Texas, and how entrepreneurs resist continued marginalization by re-envisioning economic development as cultural preservation. Lastly, I examine instances of culturally-embedded entrepreneurial innovation to identify resources, processes and relationships that improve organizational resilience and well-being in local ecosystems.
This project has two aims. First, by pinpointing interactions between marginalized and dominant entrepreneurial ecosystems, I shed light on how historical oppression and inequality are reproduced in contemporary initiatives intended to support entrepreneurial activity. Second, by examining community-based small-scale innovation, this work identifies sources and processes of innovation that differ from such highly-visible models of success as Boston and Silicon Valley, or resource-scarce models as in Bangladesh. Understanding entrepreneurial resilience, growth and community well-being in San Antonio may yield insights that support entrepreneurial scaling and community well-being in similar 'second cities' such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, and New Orleans. By extending scholarly work into the public arena, this project also provides a platform for convening policymakers, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and community stakeholders in discussions to address historical inequities while supporting homegrown talent development and scaling entrepreneurial growth.