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“They help, yet they hinder: Duality of social networks and opportunities for Ghanaian Self-Employed”

2016

Patrick Shulist Shulist

In this study, I seek to understand how subsistence entrepreneurs select specific replication opportunities to exploit, and the impact of this selection on growth. Replication opportunities are different from discovery, creation, and recognition opportunities, and are those opportunities that directly mimic readily observable businesses. While extant research points to the macro-level factors (such as a lack of education) that generally lead to countries’ dependence on replication opportunities, little is known at the micro-level; the level where interventions such as training programs work. I studied a group of self-employed across four research trips to Ghana, where I conducted 227 interviews and 233 hours of observation. My findings indicate that social networks both enable and constrain the selection of specific opportunities. They also indicate that opportunities are widely exploited based on the standard templates accessed through these networks. Similarly, social networks constrain and enable growth, as do the opportunities themselves. The combination of these two factors effectively focuses the microentrepreneur’s attention on growth opportunities that are marginal additions to the current template, and away from efficiency-seeking opportunities. These findings contribute theoretically to social networking theory, franchising, and theories of growth. They also have practical implications for entrepreneur training programs.

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