Entrepreneurship across Generations

Entrepreneurship across Generations

Narrative, Gender and Learning in Family Business

Eleanor Hamilton

Entrepreneurship Across Generations examines dimensions of identity, gender and learning to understand the complex fabric of family business. An interpretation of narratives from two generations in five families constitutes entrepreneurship as an inherently social, rather than individual, phenomenon.

Chapter 6: Entrepreneurial learning across the generations

Eleanor Hamilton

Subjects: business and management, diversity and management, entrepreneurship, family business, gender and management, organisation studies


A family business can be conceived as a community of practice. The notion of a community of practice is subtle and complex. It denotes a particular set of relations between people and social activity in the world, over time, which makes up a particular community. In turn, that community has a set of relations with other communities which touch them or are overlapping. In terms of learning theory this chapter draws heavily on the work of Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger who developed a radical view of learning as part of social practice. A community of practice is ‘an intrinsic condition for the existence of knowledge’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991, p. 98). The concept of learning as situated within participation in social practices has provided a promising basis for understanding entrepreneurial learning in the context of family business (Hamilton, 2011). Participation in communities of practice also implies ‘relations between the production of knowledgeable identities and the production of communities of practice’ (Lave and Wenger, 1991, p. 55). In this chapter I extend a socially situated perspective in entrepreneurial learning to explore how knowledgeable identities in family business can be conceived as entrepreneurial identities-in-practice. These entre- preneurial identities are forged in the overlapping communities of prac- tice of the family, the business, other business contexts and formal educative settings. It is an identity constructed through participation in the social world. The links between practice, identity and language are implicit in taking a socially situated perspective. The narratives of the family businesses articulate complex identities constituted through participation in social practices.

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