Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Research update on Entrepreneurial Intention and Action among Refugees across Europe

Published: 2020-04-21

Solomon Akele Abebe, PhD student in Entrepreneurship, tells us more about the current research project that is using social-media based sampling strategies on entrepreneurship among refugees across Europe, with a particular focus on Sweden and Austria.

Solomon Akele Abebe Photo: Johan Persson

Tell us very short, what is this project about?

The target of this longitudinal project is to understand entrepreneurship among refugees across Europe, with a particular focus on Sweden and Austria. We, specifically, explore the entrepreneurial process of refugees, which entails all the cognitive and behavioural steps, functions, and activities from their entrepreneurial intentions to a set of actions undertaken until they set up and run their businesses.  

Can you comment the results of the first wave survey?

As a longitudinal project, the research is carried out in four waves, using social-media based sampling strategies, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, etc., complemented with in-depth qualitative data from interviews with refugee entrepreneurs. We have successfully completed the first wave survey, and the data collection for the second wave is ongoing, as we speak. In the first wave, we collected demographic information about the respondents (such as their country of origin, year of arrival in their host country, country of residence, etc.), and also measured their business ownership status and entrepreneurial beliefs. About 1,785 refugees filled in the survey completely, along with providing their contact details for the subsequent waves. Most of the respondents (about 78%) are from Syria. At the time of the survey, the majority of them resided in Sweden (72%), where as the rest 26% and 2% resided in Austria and other European countries, respectively. The majority of them arrived in their host country between 2014 and 2015, and this reflects the conflicts that unfolded during the time in different parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, and caused large-scale displacement of people. 

Based on the results from the project so far, how would you describe the entrepreneurial potential of refugees?

At the time of the survey, none of the respondents started their business. However, a very significant number of them have the goal to be entrepreneurs in their host country, in the years ahead. About 94% of them believe that entrepreneurship would produce their desired personal and professional goals, such as autonomy, professional challenge, etc. Related with this, the vast majority of respondents have the perception that their important referent groups would support their intention to become entrepreneurs. A similar proportion of respondents also believe that they are able to influence or control the factors affecting their journey towards entrepreneurship in their host country. This result so far is an indicative of the huge entrepreneurial potential that exists within recently-arrived refugee communities.

What do you hope this project will lead or contribute to?

The research project contributes to policy and the wider scholarly community in the following ways:

  1. Knowledge generated on refugees’ pre-organisational cognition processes of orchestrating an entrepreneurial path provides policy makers with insights on what type of policy and support initiatives would be relevant. 
  2. The research theoretically contributes to migrant entrepreneurship literature by providing a comprehensive conceptual model that highlights the individual entrepreneur embedded within the various layers of context. This approach brings back agency in the analysis of migrant entrepreneurship with equal attention to the structural context where agency operates. 
  3. The study also provides knowledge on the micro cognitive foundations of entrepreneurial actions across the different stages of the entrepreneurial process. 
  4. The research also provides methodological contribution on how to collect information from a very tactical and sensitive group that cannot be otherwise done with traditional research methods.     

How would you describe the method of using social-media based sampling strategies?

Social media based sampling involves non-probability survey recruitment methods, such targeted ads appearing on the profile of targeted users, and online snowballing techniques, using digital  platforms such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn.

Learn more about the project

The research project "Entrepreneurial Intention and Action among Refugees across Europe" is a joint collaboration between Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship at Lund University School of Economics and Management in Sweden and Institute of Innovation Management at Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria. 

Find out more about the project and a summary of the first wave survey in English and Arabic.

The Lund team consists of: 

The IFI team consists of: 


Solomon Akele Abebe
PhD student