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Becoming an entrepreneur: researching the role of mentors in identity construction

Clare Rigg (Department of Business, Hotel, Catering and Tourism, Institute of Technology Tralee, Tralee, Ireland)
Breda O'Dwyer (Department of Business, Hotel, Catering and Tourism, Institute of Technology Tralee, Tralee, Ireland)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 25 May 2012

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretical discussion of a developing epistemology and methodology for a qualitative study of participants of enterprise education in south‐west Ireland, run collaboratively between third level academics, a regional development agency, and entrepreneurs.

Design/methodology/approach

The perspective taken is social constructionist, drawing on ideas from identity theory and social learning theory. A discursive approach to entrepreneurship suggests that an entrepreneurial aspect of human identity (as with other aspects) is emergent and relational, developed through dialogue with family, customers, employees, suppliers, competitors and others. In the education programme, aspiring entrepreneurs’ exposure to and close engagement with a network of national and international mentors, coupled with their engagement in risk taking, can be understood through the notion of becoming, through and in relation to others.

Findings

The mentor network in the education programme is conceptualised as a community of practice that provides induction for nascent entrepreneurs for stimulating their learning of how to be, their acquisition of status and identify, and not simply their development of practical skills.

Practical implications

The immediate practical implication is that greatest insight would be achieved by a longitudinal study that follows nascent entrepreneurs from start to completion of an education intervention and takes an ethnographic approach.

Originality/value

Findings and the proposed methodology will be of value to those designing and researching entrepreneurship education, where outcomes are desired that go beyond knowledge acquisition.

Keywords

Citation

Rigg, C. and O'Dwyer, B. (2012), "Becoming an entrepreneur: researching the role of mentors in identity construction", Education + Training, Vol. 54 No. 4, pp. 319-329. https://doi.org/10.1108/00400911211236181

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited