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CFLP Blue Bag Lunches

Technological Support for Entrepreneurship among Marginalized Communities

Tawanna Dillahunt, Assistant Professor, School of Information; Julie Hui, Assistant Professor, School of Information

Thursday, March 12, 2020 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
1025 Jeffries Hall

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. 


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Center on Finance, Law, and Policy (CFLP)