Technological Support for Entrepreneurship among Marginalized Communities
Tawanna Dillahunt, Assistant Professor, School of Information; Julie Hui, Assistant Professor, School of Information
Online technologies are increasingly hailed as enablers of entrepreneurship and income generation.
Recent evidence suggests, however, that even the best such tools disproportionately favor those with pre-existing entrepreneurial advantages and little is known about such technologies impact the day-to-day work of entrepreneurs in resource-constrained contexts. We present two studies. In one study, we use participatory action research to investigate why this might be, in an intimate, close-up context. We found from this investigation that in addition to technical requirements, a range of non-technological efforts is needed to manage projects, build self-efficacy, and otherwise support community participants. Our findings offer a counterpoint to overgeneralized claims about well-designed technologies being able to address certain classes of social challenges. For our second study, we performed a qualitative study involving interviews with 26 micro-entrepreneurs and observations of entrepreneurship events. We found that micro-entrepreneurs in Detroit are often pushed into entrepreneurship in response to unexpected life disruptions, barriers to employment, and desire to benefit the community. Their resource-constrained contexts shape how they use social technologies, such as sharing economy tools and social media groups, particularly with respect to privacy, safety, and professional agency.