My chair on Private Sector & Development focuses on the diverse roles and impacts of business on development. I do not perceive private firms as either the ‘enemy’ or the ‘heroic deliverer’ of development. Instead, I aim to advance a more empirical and nuanced debate on where and when entrepreneurs and firms are more likely to contribute to a better balance among economic dynamism, sustainability and social responsibility.
I aim to investigate to what extent socially responsible and environmentally sustainable forms of development are possible under capitalism, and where and when these might be built upon pragmatism and morality in the private sector itself.
My past research has focused on: small and medium scale enterprises in developing countries, operating in clusters and value chains; informal sector entrepreneurship and survival business; the role of trust, networks and social capital in value chain relationships; Fair Trade; Corporate Social Responsibility; the role of NGOs in economic development; and monitoring and evaluation of interventions in the areas of work mentioned above.
My present empirical research agenda focuses on:
- how large firms, states, NGO’s and consumers in China, India and Brazil are moving from being standard ‘takers’ to becoming standard ‘makers’, and the developmental implications of these changes. This research is funded by ESRC (2012-17), and coordinated by Prof Khalid Nadvi (GDI, Manchester University).
- how frugal innovations can contribute to sustainable development, with a focus on value chains and standards. This research takes place within the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA), of which I am also the Director (2013 - ). The Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa is part of the strategic alliance between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Within ISS I am a member of the Civic Innovation Research Initiative (CIRI) and its previous coordinator (2013-16).
I have extensive experience in India and Vietnam, and have also worked in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, South Africa, Uganda and Russia.