How ”acculturation” creates opportunity for immigrant entrepreneurs

In a recent study, we developed a model that shows how the interaction between cultures can influence opportunity creation and integration of immigrants in Sweden.

Acculturation is a process that occurs ”when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both group” (Redfield, Linton and Herskovits, 1936:149). The opportunity creation process happens when an entrepreneurial opportunity emerges over time through a process of interaction between an entrepreneur and the context (Fletcher, 2006; Alvarez and Barney, 2007, 2013; Dimov, 2007).

The trigger process implies an immigrant’s disadvantageous situations in the host country’s labour market due to ethnic discrimination, unemployment and/or not fitting into the host country’s culture.

We wanted to study how this acculturation process of immigrant entrepreneurs and their process of creating entrepreneurial opportunities influence each other.

The study relies on four cases of immigrant entrepreneurs of Cameroonian, Lebanese, Mexican and Assyrian origins who founded their businesses in Sweden. 60 semi-structured interviews were carried out during 2014-2017. It focused on specific acculturation aspects that influence the opportunity creation which were: language ability, knowledge of the Swedish culture, length of residence and family.

Figure 1. Case criteria

We found that opportunity creation and acculturation interacts through three on-going and repeating processes:

(I) the trigger process implies an immigrant’s disadvantageous situations in the host country’s labour market due to ethnic discrimination, unemployment and/or not fitting into the host country’s culture. One of the entrepreneurs we interviewed said: ”I want to feel like I’m Swedish, but I do not see myself fit in society because no matter how hard I try, nothing works […] Many people would rather employ Swedes because it is easy for them to accept each other and communicate, and there is less of a cultural clash.” However, the situational constrains can also facilitate his/ her potential of becoming self-employed. For example, one entrepreneur told us that he/ she started to think about running his/ her own business after he/she had sent out more than 100 job applications without hearing from any employers.

All the entrepreneurs we interviewed emphasized the importance of learning Swedish language and adopting the local culture as a gateway to the business.

(II) the development process emphasizes how continuously relating and relying on ethnic cultural background and ethnic peers can help an immigrant develop entrepreneurial ideas. An immigrant can copy or generate new ideas through drawing inspiration from ethnic peers’ businesses, addressing their countrymen’s needs and communicating with them in their networks.

(III) the refinement process highlights the significance of adopting host country’s values, mastering the local language, and gaining a sense of belonging in the host country in helping an immigrant fine-tune entrepreneurial ideas. These factors help him/ her earn a local acceptance, access to local information and refine ideas to local consumer preferences. All the entrepreneurs we interviewed emphasized the importance of learning Swedish language and adopting the local culture as a gateway to the business. One entrepreneur managed to socialize with the locals in some training routines: ”I found out that most of them work in the technology field, or are doctors or lawyers. They are interested in sports. They like talking about things and this problem or that problem in the office. In the end, it can lead to (business) opportunities.”

We used these results to develop a model of opportunity creation as an acculturation process:

Through our study, we conclude that acculturation and opportunity creation processes interact in the following ways:

First, their intertwinement helps entrepreneurs advance their entrepreneurial ideas and integration to a new host country.

Second, the acculturation process evolves while immigrants develop entrepreneurial ideas for their ethnic peers and local customers.

Finally, specific acculturation aspects such as being marginalized, relying on ethnic bonding, improving the language ability, and understanding local values influence the processes of becoming entrepreneurs, shaping and refining entrepreneurial ideas.

We eventually point that valuing and practicing both the home and host country cultures is key for the economic adaptation and integration of immigrant entrepreneurs in a receiving society.

Huong Nguyen Bergström
Immigrant Research Institute
Marcela Ramirez Pasillas
PhD. Business Administration, Jönköping International Business School – Centre for Family Enterprise and Ownership CeFEO
Quang Evansluong
PhD. Business Administration, Broman Visiting Researcher at Gothenburg Research Institute, University of Gothenburg Sweden

 

As a part of the research program Organizing Integration at Gothenburg Research Institute the authors will host a series of seminars during the fall and winter 2017:

The role of family social capital in immigrants’ entrepreneurial opportunity creation processes

This paper conducts an inductive case study to build a theory on the role of family in both the host and home countries in immigrant entrepreneurs´ attempts at creating entrepreneurial opportunities. We used the perspectives of the opportunity creation process and family social capital.

TIME: November 24, 12:15-1:00 PM
PLACE: Gothenburg Research Institute, Room 326, level 3, Viktoriagatan 13
MORE INFORMATION: http://gri.gu.se/kalendarium/d/?eventId=70136566914

Immigrant’s integration from a practitioners point of view

In the autumn of 2015 Sweden received an extraordinarily large number of people in connection with what was later referred to as the ”refugee crisis”. In retrospect, civil society has been a significant force in meeting the most basic needs of the refugees in Sweden. In the long run, civil society has adopted a more strategic approach to social inclusion, not least through associations, as well as labor market integration through efforts aimed at linking newcomers with employers. The need for matching efforts is considered to be significant in reference to the gap in labour market participation between indigenous and immigrant Swedes as well as in a labor market suffering from lack of matching. As representatives of civil society, we intend to provide some practical examples to remedy the above problems.

TIME: December 12, 12:15-1:00 PM
PLACE: Gothenburg Research Institute, Room 326, plan 3, Viktoriagatan 13
MER INFORMATION: http://gri.gu.se/english/latest-news/calendar/d/?eventId=70136566971

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