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CEES Research Seminar - Entrepreneurs under transition from informality to formality in rural Peru



Entrepreneurs under transition from informality to formality in rural Peru

Name: Dr Robert Newbery

Affiliation: Newcastle University, UK

It is estimated that almost 90% of the farms and enterprises operating in the rural and mountainous areas of Peru are unregistered and hidden away from official systems. State actors see the formalisation and recognition of these business as vital for a growing economy and seek ways to promote the process, whilst communities regard formalisation with suspicion and as a mechanism to appropriate their profits and control their outputs. Operating within a European Aid programme that supports farmers as they formalise their business activities, the presentation examines the motivations for Peruvian farmers as they participate in an initiative that attempts to transition their business activities from informal to formal. In doing so we identify that the reasons of acting informally are not primarily profit-oriented and there is a resistant institutional framework and a number of community-based norms that prevent the acceptance of business formalisation.

Semi-structured interviews and participant observation of business behaviours were conducted with 10 rural farmers in remote and mountainous communities in the area of Puno in Peru.  An inductive approach led to a post-colonial framing, where we critically explore the findings through themes of resistance, mimicry and hybridity. The research contributes to knowledge by exploring the factors affecting the transition of business activities from the informal to formal economy of rural farms based in peripheral mountainous communities in Peru. We find that motivations to formalise are complex, with elements of polycentric institutionalism and a household pluralism where informal and formal business practices co-exist.


Robert is a Reader in Enterprise and Innovation and Head of the Marketing, Operations and Systems group at Newcastle University Business School.


He has worked extensively in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America and has founded and run a number of entrepreneurial businesses having a PhD, MSc, MBA and BSc.

He recently led a Comic Relief funded project ‘Scaling innovative rural distribution for farmer inputs’ in Kenya, conducts research with Maasai groups and is developing an Enterprise Education East Africa network with colleagues in East Africa, the UK and North America. He is currently conducting research into entrepreneurship in the creative arts in East Africa.

Robert publishes on rural entrepreneurship within the developed and developing contexts and conducts consultancy to measure the impact of various entrepreneurial initiatives (such as YouWin! Nigeria and the ICURE programme, UK). He is a committee member of the annual Rural Entrepreneurship conference and is co-Chair of the upcoming ISBE conference 2019.

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