Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Oana Branzei


The management and entrepreneurship literatures increasingly engage in poverty alleviation research in the developing world. However, there is a marked tendency to overlook how the Western World, from where most theory comes, differs from the developing world. Such a fallacy has potential deleterious effects on the research itself, but more importantly on the practical applications of that research.

With this in mind, my dissertation uses an inductive qualitative methodology to explore the nature of self-employment in the developing world as it is; that is, not coloured by theoretical priors. In doing this, I lay the groundwork for understanding the developing context as more than a “special case” of the developed world. Indeed, the complexity far surpasses that captured in simple contextual moderators.

My first paper explores the nature of self-employment from a careers perspective. I show that self-employment is a dynamic end-point where individuals cycle, sometimes rapidly, between venture selection, growth, and exit. I further highlight the social embeddedness of this process, as ventures are based on knowledge templates acquired in full form social contacts.

For the second paper, I explore post-start-up learning. I find this to be a spatially grounded phenomenon, with learning happening in particular social spaces. Accordingly, I propose a microspatial dimensions for social capital.

In the final paper, I study market stability, and find that markets are generally cooperative, with most competition being covert. Underpinning this is a series of historically embedded norms flowing through the markets’ social structures to produce particular cooperative practices.