The CEED Project: The Potential of Entrepreneurship
By Guest Blogger Kate Caldwell, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago
What’s the difference between self-employment and entrepreneurship? It’s alright if you don’t know. Our research has found that there is a lot of misinformation about what exactly entrepreneurship is and how it differs from self-employment!
Entrepreneurship has such great potential as an employment strategy for people with disabilities. Indeed, entrepreneurship and self-employment are often used interchangeably in the disability context. We at The CEED Project created aninfographic that is easy to share about some of the basics of disability-entrepreneurship.
Essentially, self-employment refers to creating a job for an individual with the goal of becoming financially self-sufficient. In the business literature, it is meant as an alternative to salaried or wage employment. Entrepreneurship is meant to create a business that is profit- and growth-oriented. In this way, entrepreneurship results in both business and job creation not just for that individual, but with the possibility of hiring others in the future. While both self-employment and entrepreneurship are viable employment strategies, entrepreneurship is also an anti-poverty strategy. This is what gives entrepreneurship so much potential in addressing the problems of unemployment and underemployment facing people with disabilities. It also has the potential to shift our way of thinking about people with disabilities in employment: from seeing them not only as employees and passive recipients of services, but recognizing them as active participants, job creators, and possible employers. One of the most persistent barriers that people with disabilities encounter in employment is hiring discrimination. Consider the impact of entrepreneurship on how we think about inclusivity and workplace culture when people making the hiring decisions have a disability themselves!
CEED project staff have seen a growing interest in the community in entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship among people with disabilities, families, and service providers who are looking for innovative strategies for employment. Our work in disability-entrepreneurship began with a small grant, the purpose of which was to get two disciplines that don’t traditionally work together, to work together. This meant finding a common language in order to bridge the fields ofDisability Studies and Entrepreneurial Studies. We started by exploring the experiences of social entrepreneurs with disabilities to understand their real-world experiences; in particular, examining the barriers and facilitators to social entrepreneurship as an employment strategy. Social entrepreneurs often develop business ideas that come from their experience with disadvantage, in response to social problems or unmet needs they see in their community. Accordingly, people with disabilities can become a powerful source of social innovation in addressing the needs of their community through social entrepreneurship. But to do this we need to begin addressing some of the main barriers to entrepreneurship affecting people with disabilities.
One of the largest barriers that we found was in access to entrepreneurship education and training opportunities. Our current project addresses this barrier head-on by creating a comprehensive curriculum that addresses both the disability and business needs of entrepreneurs with disabilities. This project is called Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CEED) and is funded by the Coleman Foundation. This spring, the CEED project is holding its first training for service providers from both disability community agencies and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), as well as training for entrepreneurs with disabilities themselves. By the end of the training we will have an evidence-based curriculum that has been evaluated that will help people with disabilities thrive as entrpreneurs.
- Caldwell, K., Parker Harris, S., & Renko, M. (2016). Social Entrepreneurs with Disabilities: Exploring Motivational and Attitudinal Factors. Canadian Journal on Disability Studies, 5(1), 211-244.
- Renko, M., Parker Harris, S., & Caldwell, K. (2015). Entrepreneurial Entry by People with Disabilities.International Small Business Journal.
- Parker Harris, S., Caldwell, K., & Renko, M. (2014). Entrepreneurship by Any Other Name: Self-Sufficiency versus Innovation. Journal of Social Work in Disability & Rehabilitation, 13(4), 317-349
- Parker Harris, S., Renko, M., & Caldwell, K. (2014). Social Entrepreneurship as an Innovative Pathway to Employment for People with Disabilities: Exploring Political-Economic and Socio-Cultural Factors. Disability & Society, 29(8), 1275-1290.
- Parker Harris, S., Renko, M., & Caldwell, K. (2013). Accessing Social Entrepreneurship: Perspectives of People with Disabilities and Key Stakeholders. Vocational Rehabilitation, 38(1), 35-48.
- Caldwell, K., Parker Harris, S., & Renko, M. (2012). The Potential of Social Entrepreneurship: Conceptual Tools for Applying Theory to Policy and Practice. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 50(6), 505-518.
About the Guest Blogger
Kate Caldwell, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she received her Doctorate in disability studies. Having also received a Masters’ degree from the University of Chicago in interdisciplinary social sciences, she brings this expertise to approaching complex issues where various fields intersect and facilitating dialogue across disciplines. Her research in the area of employment and social policy has focused on the experiences of people with disabilities, and intellectual disabilities in particular, in entrepreneurship. This is a topic that allows her to bridge the fields of disability studies and entrepreneurship studies by integrating theoretical advancements that have been made in feminist theory, citizenship theory, and social justice. For two and a half years she served as the Editorial Coordinator for the AAIDD journal, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and is the co-organizer of the Society for Disability Studies interest group on Work Employment & Society.