Focus on city’s ‘entrepreneurial ecosystem’

Startup Dunedin general manager Rachel Butler (left), Dr Marissa Kaloga (centre) and Rasha Abu...
Startup Dunedin general manager Rachel Butler (left), Dr Marissa Kaloga (centre) and Rasha Abu-Safieh are collaborating on community-engaged research about small business supports in Dunedin. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
How do you start a small business or take your first steps in an entrepreneurial career?

A Dunedin group may have the answer.

Dr Marissa Kaloga, of the University of Otago’s social and community work programme, Rasha Abu-Safieh, of the Edmund Hilary Fellowship, and Startup Dunedin are collaborating on community-engaged research about small business supports in Dunedin.

They want to better understand and support an "entrepreneurial ecosystem" that is as diverse as the people who live in the South, and accessible to everyone who has a great idea and wants to make it come to fruition.

"Entrepreneurial ecosystem" means the conditions, services and resources that create the context in which new businesses grow. An important part of that is providing support for entrepreneurs to try out their ideas and build their businesses.

Startup Dunedin, a not-for-profit trust funded by the Dunedin City Council, Otago University, Otago Polytechnic and Callaghan Innovation, is supporting the research to learn how their programmes may be more inclusive and collaborative.

"Dunedin is recognised as having a really collaborative environment for start-ups, with a significant number of community support organisations and individuals that put in a lot of time," Startup Dunedin general manager Rachel Butler said.

"This research will look at why that is, how it might be replicated or strengthened, and what we can be doing better as one of those organisations."

Dr Kaloga and Ms Abu-Safieh were introduced through Ms Butler. After a catch-up for a coffee turned into a three-hour conversation, they realised their previous work in social enterprise and inclusive entrepreneurship intersected in multiple ways.

"It’s a perfect example of the kind of encounters a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem supports," Ms Abu-Safieh said.

"The right people meeting each other at the right time and creating something new."

This collaborative research will be using a social network analysis method to create a visual map of the relationships between the entrepreneurship-supporting organisations in Dunedin.

The research team will use this information to understand how connected the system is, and how to ensure organisations can work best together to support diverse entrepreneurs.

The network visualisation and data collected will also be useful for small business owners and decision-makers to ensure that the resources entrepreneurs need are available to all people.

"We know that entrepreneurship leads to creating new jobs," Dr Kaloga said.

"In our post-Covid recovery, new business will be an important source of employment and innovation that can help move New Zealand forward.

"We want to know what Dunedin’s diverse entrepreneurs need, and how we can help."

The research team is recruiting participants. Anyone who would like to participate can contact Dr Kaloga (


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