Entrepreneurship and integration in the global city: the cases of refugee-origin entrepreneurship in Birmingham and Cologne


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Stoewe, Kristina (2022). Entrepreneurship and integration in the global city: the cases of refugee-origin entrepreneurship in Birmingham and Cologne. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The integration of refugees in European societies and labour markets is one of the key social issues of our time. While much of the public discourse is focused on the role of wage labour for integration, the role of entrepreneurship has only played a minor part to date. The gap in policy and practice can also be observed in the literature: neither entrepreneurship nor integration research have explicitly considered the relation between the two phenomena.

Taking this blind spot as a starting point, in this thesis I explore the experiences of refugee-origin entrepreneurship and integration in two major European cities, Birmingham and Cologne. The main data sources are biographical interviews with 42 refugee-origin entrepreneurs who have arrived in the UK or Germany between the 1990s and 2018. Their experiences are complemented with insights from 13 key informant interviews and secondary data sources. Data collection took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first findings section is dedicated to the process of becoming an entrepreneur. Which individual and contextual factors motivate refugee-origin entrepreneurs to engage in entrepreneurship? How do refugees access and use different kinds of resources to become entrepreneurs in their host country? Using an extended mixed embeddedness concept as a theoretical lens, I find that despite multifaceted individual motivations the general starting point for entrepreneurship among refugee-origin entrepreneurs is the wish to improve the current life and work condition. Entrepreneurship is perceived as the best alternative after considering individual resources, self-concept and the image of their future self, in relation to the opportunities available on the market. The process of becoming an entrepreneur is marked by a flexible and sometimes creative adaptation to the context, drawing on existing and new social, human-cultural and financial capital resources, as well as personal attributes.

In the second findings section, I ask ‘how does entrepreneurship impact on refugees’ integration processes?’. Using the conceptual integration model by Spencer and Charsley (2016) and Phillimore’s (2020) refugee-integration-opportunity structure concept as a combined theoretical lens, I investigate five domains of integration in relation to entrepreneurship: structural, cultural, social, identity and civic/political integration. The results show that entrepreneurship can have a supporting, as well as a hindering effect alongside these domains of integration, and that these effects are strongly related to the local and national contexts (policies, culture, people), the (local) opportunity structure and time. Whereas findings across most of the domains are different per location, the research also sheds light on the overarching role of entrepreneurship for identity integration. Furthermore, the findings challenge normative views on integration in the context of (super)diverse, urban settings. ‘Intercultural integration’ is suggested as a complementary domain of integration.

The study makes several contributions to the literature. First, it suggests conceptual advancements in integration and refugee/migrant entrepreneurship studies. Second, it combines two integration concepts with different focal points and tests them empirically. As a result, an extended theory of entrepreneurship and integration is suggested. Furthermore, the study provides a foundation to critically reflect on the emerging field of refugee entrepreneurship studies.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: School of Social Policy, Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Funders: Other
Other Funders: School of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham, Sir Richard Stapley Educational Trust, Universitas 21 network
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12239

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