Promoting resilience and sustainability amongst informal sector artisans: the case of Sokoban Wood Village

Blundel, Richard; Obeng, Bernard and Agyapong, Ahmed (2012). Promoting resilience and sustainability amongst informal sector artisans: the case of Sokoban Wood Village. In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference: Social, Environmental and Ethical Enterprise Track, 6-8 Nov 2012, Dublin, Ireland.



Objectives: This paper examines potential approaches to improving the resilience and sustainability of informal sector enterprises in sub-Saharan Africa. It builds on the results of a recent educational initiative in an informal sector community of woodworking artisans. The pilot project examined how social and technological innovations, including open educational resources (OERs) might be used to create new learning experiences that responded to the artisans’ context-specific enterprise development needs. This paper reflects on this initiative, with a particular focus on promoting the resilience and sustainability of these enterprises and of the forest eco-system on which they depend.

Prior Work: The paper draws on three main strands of research: (1) informal sector and artisanal enterprises (e.g. Debrah 2007; Chen 2008; Palmer 2007; Robson and Obeng 2008); (2) entrepreneurship and enterprise education, with particular reference to sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Afenyadu et al. 2001; Higgins 2009; Paton 2011); (3) social-ecological resilience and socio-technical transitions, with an emphasis on the role of entrepreneurial actors (e.g. Folke et al. 2010; Geels and Kemp 2006; Blundel and Monaghan 2011).

Approach: The problem is contexutalised with reference to recent evidence on the state of Ghana's forest eco-system and to the challenges facing its forestry industries, and to woodworking artisans in particular (Osei-Tutu et al. 2010; Nketiah and Owusu 2011). We then summarise the outcomes of the pilot study. This is linked to a broader discussion about the ways in which enterprise education initiatives might contribute towards multiscale resilience and a sustainable socio-technical transition in this sector (Folke et al. 2010; Smith and Sterling 2010).

Results: The paper suggests that enterprise education initiative may help in building resilience and sustainability. It explores how such initiatives might be expanded, with reference to existing models and to approaches adopted elsewhere. The discussion section also extends the scope of the original study to consider resilience at higher levels, locating the woodworking artisans within a broader social-ecological system.

Implications: There are a number of implications in relation to pedagogic practice for enterprise education in the informal sector. The findings on multiscale resilience also have implications for public policies involving informal sector artisans and in the role of enterprise support policies in promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Value: The study provides new empirical insights by reporting on a pilot study in enterprise education. It makes a contribution to theoretical development by providing examining and applying current conceptual frameworks on multiscale resilience and sociotechnical transitions to a concrete case in sub-Saharan Africa. It also identifies a number of implications for policy and practice.

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