Entrepreneurship in emerging markets is perhaps the “least studied significant economic and social phenomenon in the world today” (Lingelbach et al., 2005, p. 1). Notwithstanding the myriad challenges facing post-conflict emerging markets, foreign-direct investment dollars continue to pour into post-conflict emerging markets as multi-national corporations and entrepreneurs seek to increase profits by expanding global consumer market-share. Emerging markets accounted for more than half of the world GDP on the basis of purchasing power (World Bank, 2014). From 2003-2011 the share of world output provided by emerging economies grew at more than a percentage point each year (Ibid., 2014). Sustaining momentum and annual growth GDP growth projections in post-conflict emerging markets requires the creation of new businesses and entrepreneurial activity.
As post-conflict emerging markets are fast becoming the driver of global growth and expansion, so too, is the desire for the private sector development (PSD) community and entrepreneurs to participate in, and benefit from, the economic activity. Those entrepreneurs able to adroitly identify, address and manage post-conflict emerging markets challenges, possess supply-chain competitive advantages potentially enabling them to benefit from robust profits and, in return, provide a strong incentive for additional entrepreneurs to participate in the growing post-conflict emerging markets (McMillan & Woodruff, 2002, p. 159).
Pull and Push Factors
In considering business opportunities, entrepreneurs are guided by: (a) “Pull Factors,” or positive attributes such as “elements associated with issues of choice and the desire for entrepreneurial aspirations – a desire to be independent, to be one’s own boss and to achieve a growth business;” and (b) “Push Factors,” or negative attributes such as “elements of necessity that force people into pursuing a business venture,” including “redundancy, unemployment, frustration with previous employment, the need to earn a reasonable living and a flexible work schedule” (Deakins & Wittam, 2000, in Martin & Smith, 2010, p. 507). Importantly, there are no data supporting the notion that the degree of success achieved by the entrepreneur is correlated to either a “pull factor” or “push factor” or any impact on the knowledge gained or the learning experienced (Martin & Smith, 2010, p. 505).
The extent to which Liberians are using their traumatic memories, a nexus seems to be present between these life-altering experiences and their business ventures. The relationships seems to grounded on i) developing insight into the customer’s behavioral context (post-conflict Liberia) where ii) framing is crucial to the entrepreneurial leader, in this study, a victim/survivor and/or witness of political persecution, conflict or war.
Further, the notion of how past experience, which supports Rae and Carswell (2001) in Martin and Smith (2010, p. 506)’s contextual learning, is organized is an integral component of knowledge entrepreneurs can tap into as they leverage their memories of failure to drive for the new venture’s success (p. 562). The notion of how past experience, which supports Rae’s contextual learning, is organized is an integral component of knowledge entrepreneurs can tap into as they leverage their memories of failure to drive for the new venture’s success (p. 562), which supports McGrath and Mac Millan (2000):
Participant 5: “We come from war and there are temptations to do bad, but thank god I ride through the challenge. I come from ground zero and want to make something.”
Current models of entrepreneurship models do not adequately describe the manner in which entrepreneurial activities are prosecuted in developing countries; rather, they are based largely on research conducted in the United States (Lingelbach, 2010, p.2). Not surprisingly, even less research has been conducted that specifically links memory of traumatic events to the development of social entrepreneurial personality outside the boundaries posited by Barendsen and Gardner (2004).
Role of Business in Post-Conflict Rebuilding
War is a significant cause of income poverty, disrupting economic activity and destroying livelihoods (Mac Sweeney, 2009, p. 14). In many cases, poverty and inequality help to cause and maintain conflicts, as different groups fight for control over resources or seek to redress socio-economic inequalities through violence (Ibid., p. 14).
Foreign investors and the international development community have an opportunity to integrate these policies into their decision-making process as they undertake investments in emerging markets. For example, “Foreign entrepreneurs are embraced in Liberia and have an edge of Liberian ones” (Participant 4). Anticipated increases in foreign direct investment in Liberia requires a new paradigm to explore the reasons behind the post-conflict private sector development and whether victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering events arising from its civil war involving political persecution, conflict, and war are informed directly their experiences and the memories of these experiences to create, launch, or lead entrepreneurial ventures that lead to social value creation. For example, one suggestion is to “invest the time to know a Liberian to recommend the geographic area; declare the business intention, the platform for doing business and share an exit strategy. The time allotted to engage in this part of the process will not be a waste of resources” (Participant 12) as well as, the “average level to improve doing business in Liberia must grow together in the informal sector, take something home, have spending money. Advice: business climate is good, especially for non-Liberians. Maximize profits and help the overall community by having jobs trickle down” (Participant 19).
Post-conflict rebuilding will be most effective when integrated with a greater understanding of traumatic memory and the experiences of victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering events as they create, launch, or lead entrepreneurial ventures leading to social value creation.
Assessment Methodology for Improved Social Value Creation
While participants resemble the typical entrepreneurial mindset identifying opportunities, assessing and mitigating risk, obtaining capital and moving from proof of concept into business formation, there is not a broad set of formal business incubation strategies available to the Liberian population, grassroots training opportunities on business plans, market identification or mechanisms for tying community’s needs to investment opportunities. Study participants have relied on loans from friends and family and, to some extent, their own money to start small businesses. Post-conflict rebuilding will be most effective when integrated with a greater understanding of traumatic memory and the experiences of victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering events as they create, launch, or lead entrepreneurial ventures leading to social value creation.
Shared Characteristics amongst Liberian post-conflict Entrepreneurs
Exploration of shared characteristics among victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life- altering events as they create, launch, or manage entrepreneurial ventures leading to social value creation can be translated to economic factors that could positively influence foreign direct investment decisions and private sector development programming in the future by incorporating the participant perspective in this study. From a contextual learning perspective, an entrepreneur’s exposure to external factors and environment (Cooper in Martin & Smith; 2010, p. 506) shapes her attitudes and actions over time. Accordingly, five broad ‘life stages’ describing formative experience and entrepreneurial learning are: (a) Formative Experience, such as (i) early life, featuring family background, education, adolescence; (ii) and early career—first jobs, vocational or professional learning; and (b) Entrepreneurial Process, such as (i) engaging and entering a venture – selecting starting, acquiring, joining; (ii) growing a venture—taking control, driving, leading, developing people; and (iii) moving out and on from a venture—selling, leaving, finding new opportunities highlighted by Rae and Carswell (2001) in Martin and Smith (2010, p. 506).
Participants in this study are entrepreneurs who were pulled by opportunity to engage in ventures that would create both profit and social returns. Some of the participants were pushed by external factors in post-conflict Liberia out of necessity to create venture based on high unemployment rates, lack of infrastructure and decreased economic opportunity to survive, this time, financially.
This research study considered the extent, if any, Liberian victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering events related to political persecution, conflict and war are engaging in social value creation ventures focused whether a relationship exist between the experiences of these traumatic life-altering events and social value creation. Finding 1 explores shared characteristics among victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering events as they create, launch, or manage entrepreneurial ventures leading to social value creation can be translated to economic factors that could positively influence foreign direct investment decisions and private sector development in post-conflict environments. Finding 2 examines how an entrepreneur’s exposure to external “pull and push” factors and environment shapes her attitudes and actions. Finding 3 argues that post- conflict rebuilding will be most effective when integrated with a greater understanding of traumatic memory and the experiences of victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering events as they create, launch, or lead entrepreneurial ventures leading to social value creation. Finding 4 advocates for inclusion of traumatic memory of life-altering events as an additional type of assessment methodology used in post-conflict investment and programming decisions and, by doing so, to provide a baseline toward a more standardized application to assessment criteria for not excluding this group when considering nation-building investments in post-conflict environments.
This exploratory research study investigated traumatic memory in social value creation in an effort to understand whether a relationship existed between life-altering traumatic events related to political persecution, conflict and war and business ventures founded, managed and/or lead in post-conflict environments. Examination of the data emerged from field research in Monrovia focused on 25 participants looking at the following: (i) the types of atrocities experienced, heard about and/or heard, (ii) Memory, (iii), Education, (iv) Ease of doing business in Liberia, (v) Social Value Creation, (vi) Development, vii) Religion/Spirituality, (viii) Justice/Injustice, and (ix) Forgiveness/Lack of Forgiveness. As discussed in depth in Chapter 4, the examples and stories from the field interviews were coded and thematically analyzed in order to provide meaning through phenomenology.
As a result, this study contributes to the literature on entrepreneurship and traumatology by adding data based insight about the details and types of atrocities associated with traumatic memory in relation to social value creation in post-conflict Liberia. The findings of this research study have implications for multiple audiences. Foreign investors seeking new business opportunities and expanding into new markets generally and, in particular, Liberia will benefit from learning the role that victims/survivors and/or witnesses of traumatic life-altering experiences can play in mitigating economic risk. The general trauma victim/survivor and/or witness community will benefit by identifying potential competitive advantage through their life-altering experiences that can be leveraged into economic growth and development promotion nation-building and global social value creation. Additionally, the post-conflict development sector can use these findings to adopt programming deeply-rooted in both the fields of venture management and trauma to narrowly tailor its economic development policies and investment strategies into its stakeholder model in order to increase the likelihood of programmatic success in the future.
These findings provide the research community with insight on situating traumatic memory in the context of making investment decisions in emerging markets, social value creation, and economic development that can be implemented and also be used as the foundation for further research.
My call to action
- Widen the deficit-based definition of Post-Traumatic Stress disorder to also include Post-Traumatic Stress Growth so we can have two sides to include those of us to continue to look up despite what we have seen, heard and/or experienced;
- Broaden the conversation on social impact and development to include the ingenuity found among entrepreneurs living in emerging markets or conflict-ridden countries who need investment opportunities; &
- For us to imagine the possibility that if faced with life being pulled from under our feet, we can still rebuild our lives – it is a journey of forgiveness and awareness, but not impossible.
Barendsen, L., & Gardner, H. (2004). Is the social entrepreneur a new type of leader? Leader to Leader, 34, 43–50.
Lingelbach, D. C., De La Vina, L., & Asel, P. (2005). What’s distinctive about growth-oriented entrepreneurship in developing countries? UTSA College of Business
Center for Global Entrepreneurship Working Paper No. 1.Mac Sweeney, N. (2009). Private sector development in post-conflict countries—A review of current literature and practice. Cambridge, UK: The Donor Committee for Enterprise DevelopmentMcMillan, J., & Woodruff, C. (2002). The central role of entrepreneurs in transition economies.
Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(3), 153–170.
World Bank (2014). Liberia Overview. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/liberia/overview
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