Community impact

Jul 15th, 2020

Susan White

Community impact

Recent research that validates the efforts of community champions to reinvigorate rural Newfoundland and Labrador has been recognized for its practical impact by leaders at Memorial’s business faculty.

Dr. Natalie Slawinski, Dr. Blair Winsor and Dr. John Schouten recently won the 2020 Faculty of Business Administration Advisory Board Research Impact Award for their paper, “Managing the paradoxes of place to foster regeneration,” published in Organization & Environment. It was co-authored by Dr. Daina Mazutis of the University of Ottawa and Dr. Wendy Smith of the University of Delaware.

“We feel really honoured that our advisory board members have recognized our research as impactful for the community. This means a lot coming from them,” said Dr. Slawinski, associate professor of strategy and director of Memorial’s master of business administration in social enterprise and entrepreneurship (MBA-SEE).

Dr. Schouten is a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in social enterprise and Dr. Winsor is an associate professor of entrepreneurship and small business.

Practical impact

The award recognizes research impact on teaching, practice or policy. In evaluating applicants, members of the faculty’s advisory board – primarily leaders in the local business community – are asked to consider the extent to which the research could impact their own business practice.

The research team has spent the past several years working with Shorefast on Fogo Island to explore regenerative organizations such as social enterprises, which seek to reverse economic, cultural and environmental damage and strive to renew communities.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the federal research funding agency that promotes and supports research in the humanities and social sciences, the team has examined the challenges of negotiating the paradoxes of place – that is, managing the tensions between seemingly opposing views between insiders and outsiders, contemporary and traditional customs and technologies, and local and global economies – and developed a framework called PLACE to guide other social enterprises and community organizations.

“Impact is always a difficult thing to measure but we feel that our research has resonated with community leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador and further afield,” said Dr. Slawinski. “A main impact has been to legitimize the hard work of community champions who struggle every day to make the places where they live more attractive to residents young and old and to visitors, funders and others who may contribute to the community’s well-being and vitality.”

“We think our research can also inspire community members to embrace the power of social enterprise to mobilize resources and energy towards building more resilient communities,” she added.

A guide for community champions

The PLACE model of community development stands for:

  • Promote community champions (to nurture pride and drive positive action in the community);
  • Link divergent perspectives (such as insider and outsider knowledge or new and traditional skills);
  • Assess existing capacities (such as human, ecological, institutional and infrastructural);
  • Convey compelling narratives (to counter negative and self-defeating discourse); and
  • Engage both/and thinking (to reveal innovative and optimal solutions).

Inspiring the next generation

Karl Smith is chair of the business faculty’s advisory board.

“This submission was chosen due to its practical application to the future economic well-being of our province,” he said. “Research such as this is very beneficial in inspiring our next generation of entrepreneurs.”

The PLACE model has garnered media attention and the researchers have shared it with community champions and policy makers from across the province, around Atlantic Canada and in Europe.

“More importantly, it has inspired community champions to use the power of place and social enterprise to strengthen their communities,” said Dr. Slawinski.

“It’s very gratifying to know that our research is having a practical impact,” she added. “We believe both the practical and academic impacts are mutually reinforcing. Rigorous research can provide important insights into practice and practical impacts can yield valuable insights into the research process.”