Entrepreneur-ship and Qualitative Research: Lessons from Desh Deshpande

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Desh Deshpande visited our campus yesterday to give a “Parker Lecture” on social entrepreneurship.  He has a long connection with University Massachusetts Lowell and was an important voice in supporting the development of our extensive undergraduate entrepreneurship program–Difference Makers.


I went with my own agenda:  How might doctoral students in our Research Methods and Evaluation Ph.D. program take advantage of this thinking about social entrepreneurship?  This was my opportunity to learn something significant about this topic that I could bring back to the program.

Here are some “think abouts” in my “take away” category of items:

  • The world can be divided into two categories–those with disposable income and those with no disposable income.  The second category is the arena for the social entrepreneur.
  • There is a big difference between individuals who do good works as professionals (librarians, social workers, teachers…) and a social entrepreneur–someone who wants to make a big difference in a systematic way that can be scaled up.
  • The most important lesson for an entrepreneur is to stay focused–don’t over-reach, don’t hedge.  Do the thing you can do best.
  • The biggest problem to success is EGO!  Egocentric organizations (such as universities) are highly focused on authorship, which will get in the way of creativity.

I left the event with Deshpande’s little orange book of wisdon–On Entrepreneurship and Impact–which I plan to review and share with students in the program.  I am encouraged that for Ph.D. students with the highest level of skills in social science research methodology and program evaluation there are an infinite number of exciting possibilities that they could bring into being…and now to start that conversation.