The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize business incubators and their support for entrepreneurial refugees. While the number of initiatives supporting refugees’ entrepreneurial activities has increased in recent years, we still know little about how they differ from other types of business incubators.
This case study investigates a business incubator in Hamburg, Germany, targeting enterprising refugees. For this paper, 14 in-depth interviews with program participants and incubation managers were conducted.
This paper inductively derives five functional domains of refugee business incubators: providing structured entrepreneurial knowledge; alleviating anxiety related to institutional differences; guiding through the process at the incubator and motivating participants; understanding and tapping into social capital in the host country; and providing soft support concerning personal matters. The findings show that business incubators could and possibly should address specific needs of refugees and that there is much room for improvement. This study suggests that the five domains listed above represent key characteristics that distinguish refugee business incubators from traditional business incubators.
This paper offers valuable practical insights for refugee business incubators, which need to consider and develop functional domains listed above. Because these kinds of incubators are a fairly recent phenomenon, there is a general lack of and need for blueprints. The findings of this paper suggest that business incubators could integrate and support entrepreneurial refugees provided that they consider the five functional domains identified here. The findings also provide evidence that entrepreneurship can be a possible means of vocational integration for refugees and one way of institutions and policy-makers in host country seeking to support refugees’ entrepreneurial activities, for example, by developing or subsidizing business incubators targeting refugees.
This paper’s contributions are twofold. First, this paper addresses a gap in the literature on refugee entrepreneurship by providing insights concerning the important role of support institutions. Second, this paper conceptualizes business incubators for enterprising refugees as a distinctive type of business incubators. This paper has, however, some limitations. Because it only considered a relatively small number of refugee entrepreneurs, it is difficult to generalize the findings. The cross-cultural setting of the empirical study, with its potential for linguistic and cultural misunderstandings, may have affected the results.
Harima, A., Freudenberg, J. and Halberstadt, J. (2019), "Functional domains of business incubators for refugee entrepreneurs", Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEC-11-2018-0081Download as .RIS
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