Delve: Lessons on Economic Growth from the Informal Economy, with Robert Nason

Published: 9 September 2022

What does the word “entrepreneurship” immediately bring to mind? Risk and reward, innovation and hard work, funding and financial growth, filling gaps in the market? In truth, that answer looks different around the world, in both formal and informal economies, depending on how the local, state, and national economies function and on how the culture views business ownership.

On the Delve podcast, Desautels Professor Robert Nason discusses informal economies and the institutions that shape them, pointing out what has been missed in how Western economic thought defines entrepreneurial growth, and what can be learned from the less rigid, arguably more inclusive nature of informal economies. For insights, listen to the podcast and read the article on Delve.

“Markets take different shapes and sizes—you have to appreciate those differences in order to understand how organizations compete, how to lead people in those contexts, what's going to motivate them, what's going to resonate with people,” says Nason. “What we need is a more decolonizing approach that gets away from imposing our implicit biases and assumptions on other places and understanding them on their own terms. Through that, you’ll have a better appreciation for what organizations and people need to grow and succeed and thrive along whatever dimensions they find most important.”

Beyond stereotypes of cash-only marketplaces and underground dealings, Nason’s recent research defines the informal economy as economic activity with the absence of legal or state regulatory institution. Inspired by work they’ve done in Cape Town, South Africa in partnership with a non-profit on sustainable livelihoods, Nason and his co-author Joel Bothello’s paper, Far from Void: How Institutions Shape Growth in the Informal Economy, critiques the accepted academic view of informal economies as lacking a certain type of economic growth at the firm level.

You can subscribe to the Delve podcast on all major podcast platforms, including Apple podcasts and Spotify.

Delve - Thought leadership from McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management

Bringing Insight to the Surface

Founded in 2019, Delve is the official thought leadership publication of McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management. Under the direction of Professor Saku Mantere, inaugural Editor-in-Chief, Delve features the latest in management thinking that stretches perspectives, sparks new ideas, and brings clarity to decision-makers at all levels and across sectors.

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