A researcher shows the importance social networks and ties in entrepreneurship

Joan Solé, researcher at the University of Girona, has analyzed the processes of entrepreneurship and new product development through relational ties and networks. In his thesis, he has described the processes of collaboration taking place in the development of a complex tourism product: the Route of Good Men.

Up until now, the most common thing in research on entrepreneurship was to seek the origin of business creation in the figure of the entrepreneur, by analyzing what personal traits make a person want to become one. More recently, however, this perspective has expanded by stressing the importance of the relational networks available to entrepreneurs.

In his doctoral thesis, this UdG researcher has advanced in the understanding of the processes of business creation or product development with a high degree of complexity. This complexity is understood in the sense that products or initiatives such as those to do with business creation can only be viable in a context of interaction with other actors involved in the social relations network of the initiatives’ promoters.

Joan Solé has noticed that, from a relational perspective, not many models can explain these processes, and the ones which can do it, involve a linear conception of events. On the other hand, during his analysis of the links existing among the actors in relational networks, the researcher has found that, in general, the possibility of negative or enmity links is not taken into account.

The Route of Good Men

The thesis has used the methodology of relational networks analysis to describe and explain the collaboration processes taking place in the creation of a complex tourism product: the Route of Good Men. It is a route between the Queralt Sanctuary (Berga) and the Montsergur Castle (Ariège, France), which goes along paths used by Cathars to fleed persecution after being accused of heresy by the Catholic faith in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The results show that the Route of Good Men is the result of a process of entrepreneurship conducted by a diverse set of actors belonging to several government bodies and public and private groups that have had to cooperate so that the new product can be launched. It is a complex process that does not follow the steps outlined in literature in a linear way, and that also at certain times shows a relational network with the existence of negative links among some actors.

Evolution of the relational structure
The thesis describes and explains the evolution of the relational structure of the network of actors involved in developing the product and its centrality at each moment in time. It also analyzes the strength of ties and the role of negative links in the network as a whole, and it shows and analyzes how changes occur in the nature and sign of these links over time. These results let us know more about a phenomenon that had been rarely studied up until now, and help us draw recommendations for the management of this sort of complex cooperative processes.

“Entrepreneurship, links and relational networks: the case of a public-private cross-border tourism product” is the title of this thesis, directed by Dr. Jaume Guia and Germà Coenders. The study was developed in the framework of the research activities of the group Organisational Networks, Innovation and Development of Tourism Strategies and Products (ONIT) of the University of Girona, and has has taken advantage of its collaboration with the Centre for Catalan Research and Studies (CREO) of the University of Perpignan.

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