The Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development
Fostering urban entrepreneurship through fundamental, applied research
As more people move to cities and the gap between rich and poor grows larger, urban areas are increasingly home to grand challenges of poverty, education, health, and nutrition. We study how entrepreneurs respond to resource constraints and structural disadvantage and create prosocial ventures that improve their communities and the circumstance of the people who live in them. The Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development provides an engaged entrepreneurship research platform to increase this activity and spur social mobility, with projects in the US, Africa, and Latin America. We are a small group of researchers and doctoral students creating a community across disciplines at Rutgers-Newark as the core of a global network of engaged scholars. We aim to make the Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development a Newark-centered but global institute producing fundamental and applied research and bringing our work to bear through scholarly and practice publications, teaching, and hands-on new venture support. Our proposed strategy imagines investments in the creation of a global scholars program, research funding, student fellowships, two additional endowed chairs, support for teaching “entrepreneurship across the curriculum,” the Urban Solutions Lab at the Honors Living-Learning Community and Social Innovation Lab, as well as supporting the creation and growth of Newark-based prosocial ventures.
The confluence of urbanization and deepening socioeconomic stratification is upon us. As more people move to cities and the gap between rich and poor grows larger, urban areas are increasingly the locus of societal grand challenges around poverty, education, health and nutrition, race and ethnicity, homelessness, physical security, and development that is both inclusive and sustainable. Urban entrepreneurs must and will play a vital role in finding ways to deal productively with the challenges and the resulting opportunities cities will face.
For many people, entrepreneurship evokes images of what is often labeled the Silicon Valley model of venture capital-backed high technology “unicorns” and “gazelles.” This is not what we, as the team behind this Big Idea, mean—or at least not most of what we mean—by urban entrepreneurship.
Instead, we will focus on everyday entrepreneurs, including all sorts of people who organize many different types of ventures to pursue their goals and the changes they want to see in the world. To do that requires deep knowledge of a particular field and a broad understanding of how the world works, and the skills to apply that knowledge and understanding to be successful.
Entrepreneurship, then, is not just a key business skill, but a “new liberal art”—a competence that is central to being able to participate fully in and contribute productively to contemporary urban societies. It is something that all students should learn.
We are a nimble group of researchers and doctoral students creating a community across disciplines at Rutgers University–Newark as the core of a global network of engaged scholars. Together, we have a history of academic and practice-oriented scholarship on topics central to the challenges of urban entrepreneurship and of working in partnership with urban entrepreneurs to develop effective research, training, and support programs to strengthen entrepreneurship in cities from Newark to Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
We aim to make the Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development a Newark-centered but global institute producing fundamental and applied research on urban entrepreneurship and bringing our work to bear through scholarly and practice publications, public forums, teaching, and hands-on new venture support.
While our efforts support all forms of urban entrepreneurship, from the seemingly mundane to the technologically sophisticated, our focus is on doing work that helps draw out and support the entrepreneurial capabilities of people who face structural disadvantages. This means that most of the people our work seeks to serve lack the capacity to pay the costs of our efforts. We are, therefore, dependent on grants and philanthropic support. As we grow, it will become increasingly important to find stable funding sources for projects that require multi-year commitments.
Successful urban entrepreneurship requires equipping everyday entrepreneurs with skills and strategies to overcome constraints and adversity as they try to improve both their own lives and the communities in which they live. Our cities cannot thrive if we do not draw forth previously untapped entrepreneurial talents. Success for The Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development requires that we establish a global network of engaged scholars and students interested in studying, promoting, and supporting urban entrepreneurship oriented toward the opportunities presented by grand social challenges.
Big Ideas are driven by faculty, staff, and researchers across disciplines, divisions, and locations. Project Champions represent the robust, expansive, and highly collaborative project teams whose work will bring these ideas to life.
Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School, Director of the New Jersey Social Innovation Institute, and Academic Director of the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
Jeffrey A. Robinson, Ph.D., is an award-winning business school professor, international speaker, and entrepreneur. Since 2008, he has been a leading faculty member at Rutgers Business School, where he is an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship and the founding Assistant Director of The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development. The Center is a unique interdisciplinary venue for innovative thinking and research on entrepreneurial activity and economic development in urban environments. Dr. Robinson’s research describes how business practices and entrepreneurship can be used to impact societal issues. He is particularly concerned about community and economic development issues for urban metropolitan areas in the United States and abroad. He is the author of books and articles on social entrepreneurship, African American women in entrepreneurship, and patterns of Black employment. In 2007, he was selected as the recipient of the Aspen Institute’s Social Impact Faculty Pioneer Award for his research, service, and teaching activities at the intersection of business and society. In 2011, his course, Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development, was recognized as a model of Innovative Entrepreneurship Education by the U.S. Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Professor and George F. Farris Chair in Entrepreneurship
Ted Baker is Professor of Entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School¬—Newark and New Brunswick, where he holds the George F. Farris Chair. He is also an honorary professor at the University of Cape Town and senior fellow of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Last year his work brought him to six continents. Baker came to academia relatively late in life, earning his Ph.D. at 41. His prior career alternated between working in startups (happy) and working for big companies (less happy). The sale of a startup cushioned his transition to academics. He studies entrepreneurship under conditions of resource constraint and adversity, particularly resourceful behaviors. His current work on founder identity theory (FIT) extends this by exploring the processes through which entrepreneurship sometimes allows people to pursue their goals and become who they want to be despite common problems of resource constraint and adversity. Relatedly, he believes that entrepreneurship can be but often is not an essential engine of social mobility. Most recently, he co-founded a program that teaches previously incarcerated individuals how to start and nurture new ventures. The RU-Flourishing program recently graduated its first cohort and is now supporting five startups.