An action research based approach

The Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative was founded in 2011 with the purpose of ‘learning about, serving and enabling change for women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Africa’.

Experienced action research practitioners and co-founders Kelly Lavelle and Dr Hessah AlSheikh had worked together towards the empowerment of women and girls for a number of years at Al Yamamah University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Action research differs from traditional research in that it is research with rather than on people, it is participatory in nature.  It is intended to help bring about positive change, rather than striving for objectivity.  It facilitates continuous learning through its systematic cyclical action-reflection processes.  It values practical outcomes and actions alongside theoretical based knowledge.

“Action research is a rich and diverse family of ideas and practices.  It is not simply a methodology.  It is an orientation towards research and practice in which engagement, curiosity and questioning are brought to bear on significant issues in the service of a better world.”

Marshall, Coleman & Reason, 2011

Unleashing female entrepreneurial talent in Saudi Arabia

In April 2013 the WEI published the outcomes of its first women entrepreneur based action research programme, entitled ‘Giving Voice to Women Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia’, in partnership with Ashridge Centre for Action Research, Ashridge Business School, U.K.

This innovative research was the first of its in kind in the region whereby 37 aspiring and established Saudi women entrepreneurs engaged in a series of workshops, in-depth interviews and collaborative sense-making processes over an 18 month period.

‘Giving Voice to WE in Saudi Arabia’ revealed that while Saudi women are more economically active than often perceived internationally and opportunities for economic participation are increasing, women remain vastly under-represented in the vital entrepreneurial sector.  The research called for more far-reaching reforms in the regulatory, educational and socio-cultural environments to promote women’s entrepreneurship and fully realise the economic and social aspirations of the Kingdom.

To find out more download the Executive summary here or Contact us to receive the full report.