Friday, August 9, 2019

#ELIAproject student recruiting campaign!

As part of our #ELIAproject, we are looking for highly motivated and ambitious Bachelor (BSc) and Master (MSc) students enrolled at Wageningen University to carry on thesis and internships together with our ELIA project partners, namely ICRAF, ILRI and International Potato Center.

By joining our ELIA project, you will:

  • Join a vibrant global team of global researchers and practitioners;
  • Receive seed funding to go collect data in Myanmar, Tanzania or the Philippines;
  • Make both academic impact (through publication of your thesis/internship report) and managerial/policy impact (through project implementation informed by your study).

Details on the ELIA project are in our university website, and the details on the specific opportunities are here below:

MSc thesis and internship topics for up to six (6) students

In the context of the ELIA project, we invite up to six motivated and ambitious Master students to perform qualitative and/or quantitative research on the topic of Entrepreneurial Learning in Inclusive Agribusiness.

The research will address five interrelated questions (see figure 1) such as:

  1. How can farmer entrepreneurship be understood and measured in different rural contexts of emerging economies, especially those mostly afflicted by changing climate conditions? 
  2. How do transactions and relationships with agribusiness companies (including partnerships) along agri-food value chain influence farmer entrepreneurship?
  3. How do community and household dynamics, including social norms and values, influence farmer entrepreneurship, especially among youth and women?
  4. How do business development trainings (e.g., farmer/farm business school modules) stimulate, fail to stimulate, or unwittingly hamper farmer entrepreneurship?
  5. How do community development trainings and interventions stimulate, fail to stimulate, or unwittingly hamper farmer entrepreneurship, especially among youth and women?

Figure 1: The overarching ELIA project’s conceptual framework

The most likely geographical locations for data collection will involve Tanzania in Eastern Africa, or Myanmar or the Philippines in South-East Asia. In these places, our project partners at ILRI, ICRAF and International Potato Center are conducting field projects that will provide the empirical ground for your study. In case of internships, these organizations will represent your host company. If you research proposal is promising, the ELIA project will provide seed funding to support your international travel and data collection.

Please reach out to Dr. Domenico Dentoni via email if you wish to explore these research topics further.

BSc thesis topics for up to five (5) students

In the context of the ELIA project, we invite up to five motivated and ambitious Bachelor students to perform a literature review on the topic of Entrepreneurial Learning.

The literature review will address questions such as:
  • Where the theory of entrepreneurial learning comes from (i.e. the notion of experiential learning, Kolb 2001; the notion of entrepreneurship as process of identifying, creating and seizing opportunities, Corbett 2007)?
  • What are the main concepts of theories of entrepreneurial learning (Rae 2005or Politis 2005), and how they relate with each other?
  • What are the key challenges in applying theories of entrepreneurial learning to the context of food and agriculture (Fitz-Koch et al. 2018)? 
  • When and why it is relevant for agribusiness companies (e.g., Friesland Campina) and financial institutions (e.g. Rabobank, Mastercard) to stimulate entrepreneurial learning (McElwee 2006)?
  • How do entrepreneurial learning processes vary across different contexts (e.g., rural/urban, developed/developing country, etc.) and why (Spigel and Harrison 2018)?
Usually, for a Bachelor thesis, you can expect to adapt these broad questions to your specific interests; synthesize approximately n = 30 papers (or more, if you can and wish!) from the literature; and critically reflect on your synthesis to draw managerial implications.

Please reach out to Dr. Domenico Dentoni via email if you wish to explore these research topics further.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Organising business models for SMAllholder REsilience (OSMARE) project mid-term updates

Here are two infographics develop from our resourceful OSMARE project team to illustrate the work we did in the past year and a half, and the way to go by the end of 2020. We welcome your questions and feedback! And feel free to engage if you wish to collaborate on scaling or adapting this work. Check here how the OSMARE project work builds upon our project portfolio and overall vision!

OSMARE Infographic June 2019 | Credits to Christopher Muller and Rob Lubberink
Prepared for  GCP4 midterm workshop, Addis Abeba (Ethiopia)

OSMARE Infographic July 2019 | Credits to Christopher Muller and Sandra Riedel
Prepared for the #Design4CSA Climate-Smart Global Conference 2019, Bali (Indonesia)
Download full-size version here.





Monday, June 3, 2019

New project kick-off: Entrepreneurial Learning in Inclusive Agribusiness (ELIA)

ELIA acts as an action research platform to advance, test, integrate and disseminate knowledge on how to stimulate farmer entrepreneurship equitably in the agribusiness sector.



Transporting fodder in Central Malawi. Photo credit: Carlo Cucchi.

Why is ELIA project necessary? 

The promotion of rural entrepreneurship is increasingly seen as an engine for employment, income, innovation and adaptation in developing countries. Yet, entrepreneurship struggles to fulfil its promise without deeply understanding socio-economic inclusion and exclusion in rural communities. For example, youth with entrepreneurial ideas may clash with their family resource availability and/or with community values and expectations. To succeed as entrepreneurs, youth may be pushed outside their region of origin or even towards the pursuit of illegal forms of business. The literature has often juxtaposed positivistic and critical stances on this topic, yet little academic research and dissemination zoomed into the process of when and how farmers’ entrepreneurial learning unfolds in rural development contexts.

What will ELIA do?

The ELIA project will:
  • Advance and test knowledge on the measurement of smallholders’ entrepreneurial knowledge, behaviors and mindsets as indicators of entrepreneurial learning in rural development contexts. 
  • Integrate knowledge on the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion related to heterogeneity in smallholders’ entrepreneurial knowledge, behaviors and mindsets, with specific focus on gender and youth in rural communities.
  • Disseminate knowledge with implications for future rural entrepreneurial learning interventions, such as training, accelerator and incubator programs as well as agri-business models and platforms. 


The action research cycle of the ELIA project.


Other activities in ELIA:

To advance and test knowledge, ELIA project activities will involve:

  • A) Testing measurement models of entrepreneurial knowledge, experience and behaviors in selected programs through co-supervision of Master students and coaching of CGIAR (Consultative Group in International Agricultural Research) staff. 

  • B) Conducting qualitative analysis of socio-economic dynamics around entrepreneurial learning in selected programs through co-supervision of Master students and coaching of CGIAR staff.

  • C) Advancing knowledge on the influence of socio-economic dynamics on entrepreneurial learning through the submission of two single-case, multi-authored publications led by the project investigator Domenico Dentoni


To integrate knowledge, ELIA project activities will involve:
  • D) Comparing the assessment of socio-economic dynamics around entrepreneurial learning across multiple programs through the co-organization of workshops and webinars with selected WUR and CGIAR staff. 
  • E) Comparing the configuration of rural incubators, accelerators, farmer business trainings, and other learning-oriented business models for rural entrepreneurship at regional level through interactive participation to the existing CGIAR and non-CGIAR knowledge platforms. 

  • F) Integrating cross-program knowledge on the socio-economic dynamics around entrepreneurial learning through the submission of two multi-case, multi-authored publication led by the Senior Expert. 


To disseminate knowledge, ELIA project activities will involve:
  • G) Reaching out to global scientific community with a research agenda on Entrepreneurial Learning in Inclusive Agribusiness (ELIA) through the development of a special issue inspired from the knowledge integration across CGIAR and non-CGIAR programs. 
  • H) Publishing and disseminating three policy briefs and executive summaries on Entrepreneurial Learning in Inclusive Agribusiness through both CGIAR and non-CGIAR dissemination channels. 
  • I) Publishing three individual and cross-cutting cases for teaching and learning purposes stemming from the CGIAR programs on the policy and managerial challenges of entrepreneurship learning in inclusive agribusiness. 

The geographical focus of ELIA:
  • Southern and Eastern Africa, currently with a focus on Malawi and Zimbabwe.
  • South and South-East Asia, currently with a focus on Viet Nam

Saturday, June 16, 2018

New edition of Master course in Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Emerging Economies



From early September 2018, a new edition of the Master course in Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Emerging Economies (MST55806) will start at Wageningen University & Research.

The course is open to all Wageningen students, it is part of the Wageningen Mastertrack in Entrepreneurship and also anyone outside Wageningen can apply to join the course if they can attend in person during the months of September and October. 

As a sneak peak of the course, give a look to the course manual (past edition) and to one of the lectures that I care the most, that is, linking entrepreneurship to systems-thinking:


Along with the quantitative evaluations of the course, we are proud of participant comments to the past edition:

Student open comments to last year's course edition


What are the positive aspects of this course?
Among other there was no exam, this made sense in this course. In stead of demotivating students like maybe feared sometime, here it provided increasing sense of passion and ownership in the entire group. That was really great! Also I felt really positively challenged in this course. 
Challenging, stimulating, practical application, well-prepared professors able to share clearly their knowledge.
Enthusiastic teachers who really stimulated the students to make the best out of the course
Interactive components, guest lectures
Nice lecturers, good guest lectures and a nice project to work on!
The strong point of the course is the interdisciplinarity. It doesn't matter from which Msc programme you come from, each lecture builds up your knowledge and skills to create and shape your own business case study. The weekly assignments and the given feedback by the lecturers were also a major feature of the course.
The  tutorials on friday in which it was possible to learn about different new ventures and what these could mean for your new venture. Furthermore, the examination of this course, it is more relevant to APPLY the information during the course. Instead of learning articles by heart.
How can this course be improved?
I really appreciate how there were different lecturers that could give different perspectives and help in each 'topic', but sometimes the given feedback from some lecturers were controversial between each other. That lead to some misunderstandings and unclear thoughts for students.
implementing some hard half - way deadlines
Indeed, there has not been any aspect that I would change from the course. 
Maybe some more lectures, but i really liked the structure of the course
Maybe the project should be clear from tutorial one. Also it can be hard to find a project so more intens help would be nice
This course can be improved by having more moments during the seminars for brainstorming about your own new venture.
Space for additional comments:
1. The atmosphere in the course was special, this might be lost if the amount of participants is upscaled to much! 2. The excursion in the course to the Food Nexus challenge was very special too and provided a great learning ground for competence development. 
I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in 'Entrepreneurship'. Also students coming from other courses. I would actually like to attend a 'follow-up' course to delve more into the topic.

Finally, the students involved in the course have the chance to engage in research projects, internships, theses and all sorts of events and extra-curricular activities that we share and promote in our social media community page.

Course lecturers Thomas Lans, Valentina Materia, Paul Ingenbleek and me look forward to work with you and your peers on the ideation, development or re-organization of your ventures in emerging economies!

If you have any question on the course and on enrolment, feel free to contact me or any of the other lecturers.

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