The translation of an incubator: the case of the Lighthouse in Bubulo, Uganda
Journal article, 2012
This article reviews a social entrepreneurial initiative to set up a solar-powered incubator in Bubulo, Uganda, initiated by a group of Sweden-based entrepreneurship students. Using an Actor-Network Theory-informed approach, it addresses the question of how the original aims of the initiative shifted as it moved from Sweden to Uganda, securing new allies and resources. In the tracing of this movement from northern Europe to central Africa, concepts from Actor-Network Theory, such as ‘translation’ and ‘drift’, are drawn upon. Thus, the text deals with spatial aspects of social entrepreneurial projects, heeding the call from Steyaert and Dey, who list ‘spatializing’ as one of ‘nine verbs that can keep the social entrepreneurship research agenda “dangerous”’. The text thus engages in the debate on the merits of business incubation in low-income countries–a topic currently high on the international development policy agenda. The study, it is argued, prompts scholars and policy-makers to shift perspectives when evaluating what this type of initiatives achieve. Rather than ‘creating’ entrepreneurship, projects like the Lighthouse are better seen as efforts to ‘mobilize’ existing activities. Moreover, the article also raises the issue of whether the classic incubator-as-we-know-it is a suitable model for the generation of economic activity in low-income countries.