My PhD Journey


Awele Achi interviewed Jane and Hormoz about leading a Community Interest Company as part of his PhD. Here, he writes about the motivation behind his research project on social enterprises.

The decision to pursue a PhD is a life changing one. I perceive it as a disorienting journey (can be lonely too, haha) where one’s feelings swing from certainty, to uncertainty and back to certainty. In this piece, I provide a glimpse into my motivation for doing a PhD in the first place and how I hope to put the experience into practice.

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub and economic powerhouse, I was awakened by the way my society was deep-seated in social, environmental and economic problems (e.g. poverty, marginalisation, unemployment, poor sanitation and a nearly non-existent social welfare) without innovative and long-lasting solutions in sight. Moved by this experience and my curiosity to understand the phenomenon, made me take an interest in understanding the ‘what’ and ‘how’ valuable solutions can be designed to address these challenges. This motivated me to major in marketing, where the core tenet is the creation of value.

In 2011, I was attending a seminar on social entrepreneurship where I heard the terms - social enterprise and social innovation for the first time. This struck a chord in me, and I started researching about these concepts for my personal reading purpose. As at then, I never knew I would be drawn back a few years later into conducting a PhD study around these same concepts. Fortunately, in 2018 I applied for and received a fully funded PhD studentship award from The Open University, Milton Keynes on a research project focusing on social innovation practices in social enterprises. I had to resign from my job and take up the PhD offer as it was an opportunity to make an original contribution in an academic area I have always found fascinating. My experience so far on the PhD program has been a mixed bag. There are days I have felt like I was on top of the world, and there are other days where I have felt lazy like Bruno Mars in one of his songs and practically do nothing.

Final thoughts….
Currently, there is a poor legal framework for social enterprises in Nigeria (in comparison to the UK) as majority of the few existing ones find it difficult to properly identify themselves as a social enterprise. As an international student, the ultimate motive for my PhD is to use the knowledge and experience gained in engaging in vital discussions on developing a strong social enterprise culture in my country of origin. I really want to make a difference that helps to bring about sustainable positive social change. Convincingly, I believe the third sector and social enterprises in particular is the key to unlocking the untapped potentials of service provision in any economy hoping for positive transformation of their society.

This blog was written for this series by Awele Achi, a PhD Candidate in Strategy & Marketing at the Open University Business School. Awele’s current research interests sit at the interface of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He holds an MSc in Business Administration (Marketing concentration) from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. Previously, Awele held a scholarly research position at Lagos Business School, Nigeria and has industry work experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.


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