This past April, three graduate students presented their entrepreneurial research projects to a packed room at the Brown Faculty Club from Brown faculty and their peers to visiting students from the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI). Their topics covered research on the disruption of electronic health record (EHR) technology, global racial norms for African traders in various Chinese cities, and systems supporting social entrepreneurs and the unintentional reproduction of racial inequalities.Their research is funded by the Hazeltine Fellowship for Graduate Student Research in  Entrepreneurship, administered by the Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations (BEO) Program since 2009. The Hazeltine Fellowship funds research projects of Ph.D. and master’s students who are working under the guidance of a Brown faculty member. Up to three fellowships are awarded each year. The 2018-2019 fellows included Liz Brennan, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, Xiaoqian (Clare) Wan, Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology and Emily Wanderer, Master’s Candidate in Integrative Studies. Continue reading to learn more about their presentations and next steps regarding their work.

Disruptive technology: the electronic health record
Liz Brennan examines the impact of a disruptive technology, the electronic health record (EHR), across the field of healthcare. Like the traditional paper medical record, the EHR contains the patient’s medical history, medications, vital signs, immunizations, laboratory data, and radiology reports. However, the EHR is more than a mere data repository.  In its electronic format, the patient’s record can be remotely accessed; information is updated in real-time and shared across care teams; and can incorporate evidence-based medicine with advances in predictive analytics and AI. The adoption of EHRs in the United States has increased dramatically in the last decade and presents an opportunity to examine entrepreneurship both in the expansion of the EHR market, as well as the interplay between entrepreneurial health information technologists and the clinical and administrative users of EHRs.  

Her dissertation primarily focuses on how the EHR impacts perceptions of autonomy both across and within three professions: physicians, administrators, and health information technologists. Considered a new profession, health information technologists work in healthcare systems and provide training and support to the clinical and administrative staff. They also include the technologists who design the EHR systems and play an important role in defining the EHR’s capabilities and limitations.

Research is ongoing through the summer of 2019. Brennan is conducting semi-structured interviews with physicians, administrators, and health information technologists across two healthcare systems. In addition, she is interviewing health information technologists from companies and startups across the EHR industry. Observations and secondary sources will complement the analysis. Liz Brennan is looking forward to sharing her results with the community in the next academic year.

Brennan’s dissertation committee include Mark Suchman, Mary Fennell and Daniel Hirschman.

Researching the experiences of African entrepreneurs in two major trading cities in China
Clare Wan’s research looks at the various and evolving lived experiences of African entrepreneurs in the export industries of mass-produced consumer goods in two major trading cities in China, specifically Guangzhou and Yiwu. Wan studied the conditions that cause racialization towards African entrepreneurs and their social consequences. She conducted around 50 interviews with African entrepreneurs in the trading and logistics business, Chinese migrant workers and the local government officials. They are all relevant stakeholders in the low-end global commodity chain that involves a small amount of capital, goods, and often informal transactions.

Wan’s research shows how racial norms has become institutionalized on the local level in a non-western context. In Yiwu, Wan observed that citizen/non-citizen boundaries remain stringent and African entrepreneurs are treated equally among other foreign businessmen in the city. In other words, the entrepreneurs’ nationality and racial identity do not work against their status and social conditions. African entrepreneurs are regarded as foreign investors and are viewed as equally crucial to local development. However, Guangzhou as a globalizing city shows a different picture. Once the city strives to impose global standards of desirable capital and human talent towards its development, it starts to implement a more selective immigration approach. Under this condition, the African entrepreneurial community in Guangzhou becomes quickly identified as potential over-stayers, racialized and criminalized due to their “third-world” background.

With the facilitation of the Hazeltine Fellowship, Wan was able to follow the traders across cities in China as well as traveling to West Africa. She also met other Chinese migrants in Africa who were in collaborative/competitive relations with African private sectors. Moving forward, she wants to analyze in a more ambitious way the operation of the complete global commodity chain that spans across continents which involve Chinese private sectors, local Chinese officials, African traders and distributors, and the street vendors in both the developing and the developed cities. She is interested in the developmental potential of the transnational market forged among the entrepreneurs across nationality and racial divide.

Wan’s faculty advisor is Nitsan Chorev and her thesis reader is Daniel Hirschman.


The unintentional reproduction of racial inequalities in social enterprise systems
Social enterprise is a paradox: It is defined by inspiring visions of equity and inclusion, yet success within the field tends to be highly exclusive. Emily Wanderer’s research takes a closer look at the systems supporting social entrepreneurs and the unintentional reproduction of the very problems social enterprise aims to address, foremost of which is racial inequalities. Guided by faculty advisorsBanu Ozkazanc-Pan and Michael D. Kennedy, the research is constituted by 29 interviews in four U.S. regions, and focuses on how people of color experience social enterprise accelerators. They aim to understand if there are ways that the accelerator organizations can change to improve equity outcomes, given that is the goal of the field.

She takes an intersectional approach so as to assess who is still missing from the narrative of social enterprise and aims to expose why this narrative persists. A holistic approach informs the work including organizational theory, critical race and gender, and social enterprise studies. Methods and techniques include interactive practice analysis (IPA) as used by Michael Kennedy and action-based research modeled by Davide Nicolini.  These approaches support the analysis and illumination of organizational structures, processes, and norms that affect interactions between accelerator actors and entrepreneurs. They can also inform new ways of organizing accelerator programs, as her interlocutors suggest in the interviews.

Existing research suggests that social enterprise accelerators have the power to either worsen or reverse economic inequities by facilitating the ways entrepreneurs solve problems with access to resources, based on which entrepreneurs we resource. Being this gatekeeper comes with responsibilities. In a time rife with overt, covert and even unconscious racism and sexism, we call on accelerator leaders to not only question power structures in their organizations but to reconstruct them. Certain elements seem to be critical to the success of different organizations in addressing issues of homogeneity and may actually reverse the disparate outcomes of the social enterprise field. Our findings revealed both strengths and weaknesses in pursuing DEI among social enterprise accelerators. Based on the experiences of entrepreneurs of color we interviewed, we establish three big ideas that accelerator leaders should consider: Democratize power, deepen entrepreneur relationships, and include social justice in accelerator service delivery. Armed with our findings from across the country, we call upon accelerator leaders to learn and adapt from one another’s discoveries in a range of areas including program execution to operations.