Telfer School of Management
University of Ottawa
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Research Links - September 2008 - One Straightforward Yet Profound Question
Professor Scott Ensign
Telfer School Researcher Co-Leads Study on Entrepreneurial Aptitude and Activity in Nunavut
For thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of Nunavut made their living off the land and had little if any contact with Western society. Much has changed in just a single generation. Nunavut is now a self-governing territory. Newly discovered mineral deposits are opening up the region to mining development and increasing levels of exploration. And the native population of the territory—once static—is now growing at an unprecedented rate.
These changes have swiftly and irreversibly altered the long-established way of life for nearly all of Nunavut’s residents, and have led many of them to ponder one straightforward yet profound question: How can we participate more actively in the Canadian and global economies in a way that is consistent with our time-honoured culture, values and traditions?
Research led by Telfer School assistant professor Scott Ensign—aided by his University of Ottawa colleague Georges Sioui—promises to be a key contributor in the territory’s journey toward economic growth, social development and cultural preservation.
“Our research will help us gain a greater understanding of entrepreneurial aptitude and small-business behaviour in Nunavut,” says Dr. Ensign. “It will be empirically based, connected to prior theory and evidence, and lead to practical recommendations for current and prospective entrepreneurs in Nunavut and policymakers at all three levels of government.”
Backed by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the two-year project involves two detailed surveys that will build on Dr. Ensign’s extensive research on enterprise growth and economic development, and draw on Dr. Sioui’s expert knowledge of Aboriginal issues. The first survey—a collaborative effort with the people, business groups and communities of the territory—will collect data on the entrepreneurial aptitude of Nunavut residents. Although the survey will gather data from all segments of society, it will focus on young people.
“We intend to survey 80 young persons under the age of 20, as well as 20 persons in each of the following age groups: 20 to 30 years, 31 to 40, 41 to 60, and 61 years of age and older,” says Dr. Ensign. “Through the survey, we’ll generate responses to a variety of questions related to self-employment and entrepreneurship, and then compare these results with those from other groups within Canada and elsewhere.”
In the second survey, Telfer School students with close ties to the region—many of them from Inuit and First Nation communities—will conduct interviews with dozens of small-business owners in Nunavut to uncover their perspectives on a number of pointed questions, such as: Has the Internet provided you with new markets elsewhere in the territory and throughout the world? Has online banking had an impact on your business? And what efforts have you taken to generate sales locally, regionally, nationally and internationally?
“These interviews should help us identify the factors that lead to business success and the obstacles that successful small businesses have encountered and overcome,” says Dr. Ensign. “We’ll work with local groups to translate the findings into several languages and share them with a variety of policymakers, businesspeople and teachers. In fact, we plan on collaborating with groups and communities throughout the territory to develop materials that teachers can use to educate and train future business leaders at both the Telfer School and Nunavut Arctic College.”
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