New Research on Venture Creation in the Wake of Disasters Shows Victims Must Be Involved in Shaping their Own Recovery

New research from Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management finds that when victims of disasters can and must be involved in shaping their own recovery, and they can be very successful, particularly when they have strong, established social connections in place. In “Building resilience or providing sustenance: Different paths of emergency ventures in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake,” Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Trenton Williams, and his co-author, Dean Shepherd (Indiana University) explore venture creation by locals after the Haiti earthquake, detailing how many of those new ventures alleviated suffering and generated transformational change for residences experiencing chronic poverty.

“Disaster events threaten the lives, economies and wellbeing of those they impact,” said Williams. “Our research builds on recent studies that demonstrate the value of entrepreneurship in society. It’s not always about pursuing high-growth, high-revenue businesses. Entrepreneurship also serves as a vehicle for generating positive social outcomes.”

In the study, Williams and Shepherd explored venture creation that locals in Haiti initiated in response to suffering following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. They found that sometimes the most efficient solutions, such as donation of funds and resources, are not always appropriate given the various stages of the recovery process. Long-term solutions must involve those who have an investment in the disaster area and are focused on transformational change as a way forward following the crisis.

“Many actions of first responders may appear helpful at first but our study found that they can create negative outcomes despite those good intentions,” said Williams. “This is because those who are suffering must have a role in getting themselves out of that suffering. When they are invested, they can engage in activities that produce positive, long-term and transformational change for their communities.”

The research is forthcoming in the Academy of Management Journal.