Picture of Rick Wolk

Rick Wolk

Phone: 907-796-6133
Email: rswolk@alaska.edu
Home: http://uashome.alaska.edu/~RSWOLK
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I am currently  accepting participant entrepreneurs for a participatory action research project that examines critical success factors for sustainability entrepreneurship in rural and remote areas of Alaska.
For this research project I am accepting participant entrepreneurs who have headquartered their businesses in any city or village that is not connected to the Alaskan road system; I will also accept participant entrepreneurs who have businesses in areas of the state of Alaska that the U.S. Small Business Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development refer to as rural (i.e. excluding the two largest metropolitan areas of Anchorage and Fairbanks). Small businesses (according to the U.S. government’s Small Business Administration) in general have up to 500 employees.
The research, similar to an ethnographic study of an entrepreneur and his/ her organization’s progress toward and through levels of economic and environmental success, will use criterion sampling to select participants. This methodology selects “participants who closely match the criterion of the study” (Katz 1995 as cited by Rudestam & Newton, 2007, p. 107)
Criteria for choosing Alaskan entrepreneur participants
The proposed research will use the following eight criteria to select Alaskan entrepreneurs as participants:
  1. Entrepreneur’s business is headquartered (or to be headquartered) off the Alaskan road system or in rural Alaska.
  1. Entrepreneur is a “nascent”, new, or “established” entrepreneur (Autio, 2007, p. 8). These three segments cover adult age entrepreneurs (18-64 years old) that have taken action to start a business within the last 12 months as well as entrepreneurs who have started businesses that are a) less than 42 months old and b) over 42 months old. For all three segments, entrepreneurs also own (or will own) at least some of the business and also manage the business.
  1. Entrepreneur is a “high growth” or “high expectation” entrepreneur, that is, pursuing (or is interested in pursuing) high-growth entrepreneurship (Autio, 2007) such as 20 or more employees (or expectation of 20 or more employees within five years and “gazelle” sales revenue (turnover) growth of 20+% per year for four years) (Birch, D. as cited by Case, 1996; Acs and Mueller, 2008).
  1. Entrepreneur is or is interested in becoming a high (minimal impact) environmental success, a “green gazelle” (Neese, 2002). While benchmarks for success are to be determined as my research progresses, I will use Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) G3 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines environmental indicators and boundary technical protocols as success metrics (GRI, 2005).
  1. Entrepreneur is willing to be part of insider/outsider participatory action research team over a two-year period. This two-year period is especially significant for new entrepreneurs as 76% of new firms survive past their second year. (Phillips & Kirchhoff, 1989, as cited by Headd, 2003). The team includes me as the primary investigator, the entrepreneur, and members of the entrepreneur’s support system. (i.e. accountant, advisors, investors, etc.)
  1. Entrepreneur is willing to provide access to economic and environmental data related to the business, including access to their business plan (Perry, 2001).


      7.   Entrepreneur is willing to keep a research diary and share the diary with the researcher.


       8.  Entrepreneur is willing to participate in draft and text sharing with outside researcher during “write up”  phase of research.

Relations with Human Participants
Similar to Levin’s (1993) work with entrepreneurs in coastal Norway to develop networks for economic (and entrepreneurial) development, I also propose to use an action research methodology for the proposed research. The methodology for this research proposal will be one of participatory action research (PAR). This work with entrepreneurs in rural and remote Alaskan cities and villages will help to develop knowledge about how these entrepreneurs progress towards combined measures of high-impact economic and environmental success.
To avoid risks of coercion or feelings of obligation, I will seek to avoid participation by entrepreneurs who are also students in my classes.
Identification and recruitment of entrepreneur participants will be primarily through two channels: direct relationships through my work with entrepreneurs in Alaska, through indirect relationships through my work with others in Alaska who provide assistance to entrepreneurs. Participants will initially be approached in person, by phone or by email to confirm that they meet the selection criteria and that they are willing to participate in the research.
Participants will be offered confidentiality and will be asked to sign an informed consent form. (See below, Participant Information Sheet and Consent Form.) 
Participants will have the right to withdraw from the research project at any point.
Primary data will be stored securely in a durable form. I will comply with Leeds Metropolitan University guidelines for data protection. 
Final approval of participant entrepreneurs for this research project rests with the Principal Investigator, Rick Wolk.
Participant Information Sheet and Consent Form
The purpose of this document is to invite you to participate in a two year research project that seeks to define the critical success factors for high growth sustainability entrepreneurship in rural and remote Alaska. The research is part of my PhD dissertation work as a student at Leeds Metropolitan University’s Innovation North. The research is likely to be published as part of my PhD thesis. It is also possible that the research will be submitted for publication in scientific/professional journals.    http://www.lmu.ac.uk/inn/
The methodology that we will use is called participatory action research.
[T]he methods of action research, e.g., participatory scenario workshops, SWOT analysis, future creating workshops, networking methods and so on, can contribute to strengthen the structural as well as the temporal balancing acts of entrepreneurial processes. Such an integration of action research methods and entrepreneurial processes should be a joint effort of collaboration between action researchers and entrepreneurs in which both parts agree to learn from each other and to lift action research and entrepreneurship of the future into a perspective of long term sustainability Rasmussen & Nielsen, 2003, pp. 111-112).
I will work with insiders (individual entrepreneurs and their employees) and outsiders (members of the entrepreneur’s support team) in a cyclical research process of plan, act, observe and reflect. I will be responsible for writing up each cycle of work and the final paper but other work such as data collection, journal keeping, and audio recording of reflection sessions will be done collaboratively. Another important element that will be collaborative will be work to insure that both insiders’ (yours as a participant) and outsiders’ (mine) perspectives are included equally to form one final, complementary perspective. This will be accomplished through the practice of transcript sharing (draft sharing). Bartunek & Louis (1996) refer to this perspective as that of an “approximation of the uniquely insightful vantage of the marginal person… The parties, in a colloquial sense, keep each other honest-or at least more conscious than a single party working alone may easily achieve (p. 62). Van Maanen refers to this as a “jointly told tale” (1988, p. 136).
Consent agreement
(See link to PDF.  Please sign and return by email to rick.wolk@uas.alaska.edu, rickw@ak.net or fax to 907-523-8403)
I agree to participate with Rick Wolk in the research project described above. My participation is entirely voluntary and I understand that I may withdraw from this project at any time up until it is transcribed for use in the final report. Information that I provide and my participation will be kept confidential and anonymous unless I indicate otherwise. I understand that the information that I have submitted will be published as a report and I will be sent a copy.
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Print Name                                          Signature                                             Date
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 Rick Wolk                                             Signature                                             Date
Acs, Z. J., & Mueller, P. (2008). Employment effects of business dynamics: Mice, Gazelles and Elephants. Small Business Economics, 30(1), 85-100.
Autio, E. (2007). Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2007 High-Growth Entrepreneurship Report.
Bartunek, J. & M. Louis (1996). Insider/Outsider team research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Case, J. (1996). The Age of the Gazelle, May, retrieved August 8, 2008 from http://www.inc.com/magazine/19960515/2084.html
GRI. (2005). Sustainability reporting guidelines. Amsterdam: Global Reporting Initiative.
Headd, B. (2003). Redefining business success: Distinguishing between closure and failure. Small Business Economics, 21(1), 11.
Levin, M. (1993). Creating networks for rural economic development in Norway. Human Relations 46(2), 193.
Neese, T. (2002). Is your company a green gazelle? The Journal Record. Oklahoma City: The Journal Record.
Perry, S. (2001). "The relationship between written business plans and the failure of small businesses in the U.S." Journal of Small Business Management 39(3), 8.
Rasmussen, L., & Nielsen, T. (2003). Entrepreneurial capabilities: Is entrepreneurship action research in disguise? AI and Society, 13.
Rudestam, K. E., & Newton, R. R. (2007). Surviving your dissertation (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  Green Gazelle Research