PDW: Transforming entrepreneurship – transforming society?

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PDW: Transforming entrepreneurship – transforming society?

Professional Development Workshop 'Transforming entrepreneurship – transforming society?' run by V. Meyer, S. Korsgaard and A. Schöneck.


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Centro Congressi Federico II 36 Via Partenope 80121 Napoli Italy

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About this event

This year’s main theme “Re-thinking entrepreneurship after the crisis” invites us to analyze the status quo of entrepreneurship research and practice. In the past, the primary role of entrepreneurship has been seen as securing innovation and economic growth. But is this role still adequate, while the climate crisis, economic crisis and a global pandemic have pressed themselves into the forefront of policy and research debates? What can be the role of entrepreneurs in broader systemic changes? Our PDW provides a collaborative space for participants to explore these questions in open conversations, while also working on concrete ideas and initiatives towards a joint effort in transforming entrepreneurship and transforming society.

Overview and topicality

Over the past decades, an emerging displacement in the fundamental challenge to which entrepreneurship is part of the answer has occurred. In the past, the primary role of entrepreneurship has been seen as securing innovation and economic growth. Recently, the questions have shifted as the climate crisis, economic crisis and a global pandemic have pressed themselves into the forefront of policy and research debates. With this shift from economic growth and innovation to the Grand Challenges of the 21st century as the question to which entrepreneurship can be part of an answer, we need to carefully rethink entrepreneurship as a phenomenon and collective research endeavour.

While economic growth begins with new and innovative firms pursuing profitable opportunities in the market, Grand Challenges call first and foremost for systemic change through collective and political action. So, while entrepreneurs still play an important role in this new framework of the Grand Challenges, it is a different role. This year’s main theme of the RENT conference “Re-thinking entrepreneurship after the crisis” invites us to analyse the status quo of entrepreneurship research and practice and to actually re-think our own impact – the one we currently have and the one we might have. However, to contribute to a more resilient future, we need to go one step further and think about systemic transformation.

Striving towards systemic transformation means creating a societal impact which contributes to solving the Grand Challenges of our time. If creating societal impact is part of our aspiration for entrepreneurship, while fostering innovative ideas, we are basically talking about a transformational version of entrepreneurship, as “Transformational entrepreneurship is to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship through a systemic approach, bringing about transformation in socio-economic development." (Maas, G., & Jones, P. 2019) In other words, transformational entrepreneurship is about building new businesses and transforming existing businesses in a way that they can sustainably create the much-needed changes in our society.

Doing so, involves rethinking what we as a society need entrepreneurs to do, rethinking the relationship between government and entrepreneurship and developing new frameworks to support policy development for transformational entrepreneurship. The purpose of the PDW is thus to pick up the challenge of rethinking entrepreneurship as a response to the Grand Challenges of the 21st century that calls for systemic change. We do so by opening for broad conceptual and policy related questions including:

  • What forms of entrepreneurship will help create positive systemic change and what forms will not?
  • What is the role of entrepreneurs in broader systemic changes (such as e.g. the EU missions)?
  • How can the relationship between government and entrepreneurs be reconceptualized to enable collective and systemic positive transformation?
  • What changes need to be made in the policy discourses and frameworks to develop policies that support transformational entrepreneurship?

Format and workshop style

In this workshop, we build on on the experiences from the Leuphana Transformational Entrepreneurship Days , an online conference in September 2021 that was co-branded by the ECSB, and is an invitation open to all entrepreneurship researchers and educators to examine these questions in a collaborative process. The workshop will be a joint effort in which we will use a combination of the World Café method with the tool of a “idea canvas”. The world café method ensures an open conversation and a collective examination of key questions related to our overall topic and enables a reflective approach. The key questions that will be discussed in the workshop will be related to the overall topic of “Transforming entrepreneurship – transforming society?” and a collection of possible questions will be proposed by the organizers, but then commented on or added to by the participants via a brief online survey prior to the workshop to ensure that the questions that matter most to the participants are discussed and are suitable for the World Café.

Additionally, we do not want to stop at a conversation with our participants, but aim to engage in a development of initial ideas how these questions can be addressed. To do so, we will use an “idea canvas” that guides the participants in examining each key question, in particular with regard to systemic factors and structural embeddedness. This is an alternative version of the business model canvas, that many participants are familiar with, so that the conversation can be well structured. Each conversation (meaning each round of the World Café, see table below) will be moderated by a “facilitator” who guides participants through the process and particularly ensures that everyone can contribute to the conversation. In addition to the elaborative “idea canvas”, we will provide a structure for an “action plan” for the last step after three rounds of the World Café in which participants actually commit to and further develop the initial ideas.

Target audience and conference tracks

The target audience for this workshop is rather broad, as the topic of societal impact and systemic transformation is of interest for all entrepreneurship researchers, educators and practitioners. Due to the close relation of this topic to the conference main theme, we see a relevance for all RENT participants. However, we expect that three groups of scholars might be particularly interested:

1) Scholars working on (eco-)systems and institutions (conference tracks #6 ‘Policy, support systems and ecosystems’; #18 ‘Institutions and entrepreneurship’) as they are already familiar with a systemic perspective

2) Scholars working on perspectives from marginalized groups and critically challenge assumptions (#7 ‘Critical perspectives on entrepreneurship’; #9 ‘minority entrepreneurship’; #10 ‘Gender and co-preneurship’) as the need for systemic change becomes particularly visible in these perspectives

3) Scholars who are working on impact and building resilience (#13 ‘Social and sustainable entrepreneurship’; #17 ‘Special theme: Re-thinking entrepreneurship after the crisis’) as these topics are already closely related with transformation

Additionally, educators and practitioners in entrepreneurship are welcome to attend this workshop as they bring further perspectives and experiences that are necessary for a striving towards structural and systemic transformation which can only enrich the overall conversation.

Objectives and takeaways

The main objective for this PDW lies in fostering collaboration for a joint effort towards transforming entrepreneurship and transforming society. Furthermore, fostering collaboration also includes an active networking with other participants who share the same interests, but take diverse perspectives. Through this heterogeneity of perspectives, that spans research topics and conference tracks, we also enable a reflective approach. The main takeaways for the participants are:

  • New contacts and connection to potential collaborators
  • A space for reflection and idea development
  • Concrete impulses for actionable approaches based on our insights
  • A feeling of empowerment to contribute to societal transformation together!

Whether the “action plans” developed in this workshop are already specific and directly actionable or whether they need further discussions is something we cannot predict in advance. However, if participants leave the workshop with a genuine feeling that collective action is possible, that they are part of an ECSB community who strives towards this, and they themselves can contribute something to transforming entrepreneurship and transforming society, we have achieved everything we wanted with our PDW.


Verena Meyer (Leuphana University of Lüneburg, verena.meyer@leuphana.de)

Steffen Korsgaard (University of Southern Denmark, stko@sam.sdu.dk)

Annette Schöneck (Leuphana University of Lüneburg, annette.schoeneck@leuphana.de)


Participation in the PDW is free, but participants need to be ECSB members or registered for the RENT 2022 Conference in order to join.