Monday, December 4, 2017

PhD course on Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

Are you developing, implementing or wrapping up a PhD-level, Master of Science (MSc)-level or similar research on business models and entrepreneurship in emerging economies or rural development contexts? Dr. Thomas Lans, Dr. Valentina Materia and me are organising three discussion & tutorial sessions that may add depth to your investigations.

Register here for this course by February 15, 2018



Course introduction:

The course provides an introduction to key theories and methods of entrepreneurship and their applications in emerging economies. The key question of the course will entail: why, when and how actors (e.g., farmers, founders of new ventures, business managers or leaders in public or non-governmental organizations) recombine resources (such as technologies, knowledge or other forms of capital) innovatively to seize opportunities or mitigate risks in the unstable, turbulent and dynamic context of emerging economies? To best support students from multiple scientific backgrounds in their PhD or MSc research proposal or thesis development, the focus of the lectures will be on three levels of analysis: individual, organisational/community, and institutional level.

Target group and min/max number of participants:
  • PhD students and research-oriented MSc students at any stage of advancement of their thesis/dissertation: proposal, research design, data collection, data analysis or interpretation of findings.
  • Also practitioners, activists and action researchers operating outside Wageningen University and interested to build a deeper or more nuanced frame to their investigations are welcome. 
  • Approximately, minimum 8 and maximum 25 participants will be allowed to participate. 


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

PhD fellowship with "Organisational Structures for SMAllholder REsilience” (OSMARE) project

Call for Expressions of Interest for PhD fellowship at:Management Studies Group, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) Sponsored by the project:Understanding and scaling Organizational Structures for SMAllholder REsilience (OSMARE)


Promoter: Prof. Jacques Trienekens
Co-Promoter: Dr. Domenico Dentoni

The Management Studies Group at Wageningen University seeks expressions of interests for a four-year fellowship for a PhD position. The PhD will contribute to the project in collaboration with ICRAF, LUANAR (Malawi), VUNA (South Africa) and Zimbabwe Super Seeds (Zimbabwe); and funded by NWO (Dutch national research institute) in cooperation with CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Based primarily in Malawi during the data collection (with possibility to expand it to Zimbabwe), the PhD student will design and conduct research to understand the organization of business models that/to provide incentives for implementing climate-smart agriculture practices (e.g., selection and adoption of more drought-resistant seeds) and their role in influencing smallholder resilience. The latter will be assessed in terms of entrepreneurial competencies and embeddedness in value networks (see figure below).

In particular, the PhD student will: 
·      Analyze how smallholder farmers develop their competencies and build their networks over time through the business models they are situated in.
·   Develop an assessment of farmers’ and farmer-based group’s entrepreneurial attitudes, intentions and behaviors on the basis of the notions of entrepreneurship, specifically in community-based and subsistence economies.
·      Describe and assess the organization of business models encouraging climate-smart practices by adapting organization and innovation theories to the context of rural farming in emerging economies.
·   Use a diverse set of methods for data collection and analysis (e.g. interviews, surveys, participant observation, action research or focus groups), preceded by a careful research design.
·     Coordinate with the rest of the project team and support all project activities taking place in Malawi and, if needed, also other countries where the project operates (Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

The ideal candidate will have the following skills and features:
·      A background in business management or a related field, possibly coupled with familiarity to the context of agricultural and food value chains in Sub-Saharan Africa.
·      Proven excellent skills of academic writing, to be demonstrated with a recent output such as a MSc thesis or research publication where the candidate is a major contributor.
·      Proven ability of undertaking academic research, analytical and synthesis skills in both written and oral form.
·      Familiarity with conducting and coordinating research data collection in the Malawian or, more broadly, in the Sub-Saharan context.
·      Professionality and ability to work and communicate with an international team.
·  An ambition to build an academic career in a leading international research institute or university after PhD graduation.

The selected applicant should be available to start the PhD program in January 2018. The fellowship will cover a monthly allowance for a total of four years, including two years in Malawi and two years in the Netherlands (i.e. what is called a “sandwich PhD” construction). The timeline of the travels between Malawi and the Netherlands will be jointly agreed depending on the needs of the funding project. 

Interested candidates please submit your CV, cover letter, certificate of MSc graduation with list of marks, at least one letter of reference and one or two written outputs (MSc thesis and/or publication) via email at Domenico.dentoni@wur.nl by December 14th, 2017.






Friday, November 17, 2017

New project: Organisational Structures for SMAllholder REsilience (OSMARE)



Together with Todd Rosenstock (ICRAF), Sera Gondwe (LUANAR), Golden Mahove (Vuna) and Wageningen University colleagues Prof. Jacques Trienekens, Dr. Valentina Materia and Dr. Thomas Lans, we received funding from the Dutch Research Institute (NWO) and CCAFS for the project "Understanding and scaling Organisational Structures of business models for SMAllholder REsilience (OSMARE).

OSMARE aims to define how the organizational structures of thirteen selected business models in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania stimulate smallholder resilience to market, social and environmental shocks through Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA)-related incentives.

One of these thirteen business models will be the partnership between the Malawi Milk Producer Association (MMPA) and Lilongwe Dairy Limited seeking to develop a more effective and less greenhouse gas (GHG)-intensive local value chain from dairy farms to urban consumers.




Within this case, we will investigate: does the MMPA-Lilongwe Dairy trigger dairy smallholder farmer entrepreneurship and expand their value networks over time and, ultimately, make them more resilient? How does this process unfolds over time and how it allows including women, youth and other marginalised actors in the daily farming community?

Smallholder resilience represents a crucial ability for farmers to adapt to unexpected systemic shocks inherent to agri-food systems. Agribusiness managers and development actors, as well as farmers themselves, can use these organizational structures as levers to enhance smallholder resilience, thus fostering competitiveness, inclusiveness and mitigating or preventing the effects of climate change in the medium and long run. 

Resilience will be assessed in terms of development of farmers’ entrepreneurial processes and their embeddedness in value networks with other stakeholders in the system. During and after the investigation, personal and group trainings will provide spaces for smallholders, their representatives and stakeholders to exchange knowledge and reciprocally foster their capacities. 

Based on the findings from two complementary studies involving 2,600 farmers in three years, results will be disseminated and discussed with local farmer organizations and their stakeholders, including agribusiness managers and development actors, to draw actionable implications for scaling up and scaling out innovative and best-fit business models to support the transformation to climate-smart agriculture.


This is the broad conceptual framework that we will refine into specific hypotheses and test as part of the OSMARE project:


For more information about this project, feel free to contact our newly hired postdoc scholar Drs. Rob Lubberink, who will coordinate the project implementation, or me