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ADVANCING the intellectual leadership of Duke faculty in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Model for Entrepreneurial Action logo. Discover, Develop, Deliver

President Price has called on the Duke Community to empower the brightest and boldest thinkers to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. From healthcare to the humanities, Duke is known for cutting edge research and scholarship, contributing to our understanding of, and ability to impact, the world around us. I&E is committed to harnessing this deep expertise to develop and share an intellectual foundation and resources for entrepreneurship education with faculty across Duke and beyond. This strong intellectual foundation is key to optimizing and refining programming based on the most up to date research and best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Duke Model for Entrepreneurial Action

Grounding this intellectual foundation, The Duke Model for Entrepreneurial Action, draws on many disciplines to provide a rigorous framework for discussing and teaching innovation and entrepreneurship that will increase the quality of our educational offerings and allow us to scale our unique approach. Our ultimate goal is to make these tools and resources associated with our approach an open-source resource in support of entrepreneurship educators around the world.


Underpinning the Duke Model for Entrepreneurial Action framework is the incorporation of the foundational concepts of social impact, open design, and ethics, making this platform unique and a very timely contribution to entrepreneurship education. Recognizing that value can be created by purpose in addition to profit, I&E convenes leaders across the university, including colleagues from Fuqua’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, the Duke Global Health Institute, the Sanford School of Public Policy, and the Office of Civic Engagement, to build on Duke’s expertise in innovating for impact and imbed these values into the learning experiences of all Duke innovators. With a long history in social entrepreneurship education and research and a deep commitment to civic engagement, we have a unique opportunity, and perhaps an obligation, to bring these vast intellectual resources together to cultivate responses and approaches to society’s most complex social issues. 

Putting People First

The addition of key elements of the human-centered design process into entrepreneurial education helps provide innovators with a deep grasp of customer needs and human impact. Through a cycle of communication, understanding, evaluation, and creation, they’re empowered to think boldly and creatively in the face of uncertainty. Convening the Design at Duke community, we draw together members of the university, including colleagues from Duke Law, the Pratt School of Engineering, and Duke Learning Innovation, who are building this vital foundation of innovation into their programming. In particular, Duke I&E partners with the Pratt School of Engineering on the Design Health program, where diverse student teams from across the university identify unmet, underserved, and unarticulated needs in healthcare and then design real-world solutions to meet these needs.   

Practicing Ethical Entrepreneurial Action

Ethical concepts and frameworks play a critical role in entrepreneurial action by empowering innovators with the needed tools to face challenges with courage, confidence, and resilience. By teaching character, values, principles, goals, and consequences, we can help tomorrow’s innovators become skilled and thoughtful agents of change. Duke I&E collaborates with the Kenan Institute for Ethics to address the incorporation of ethics into entrepreneurship programming at Duke and build tools and resources to bring these concepts to students. In partnership with Professor Tom Byers at Stanford University and Professor Laura Dunham of the University of St. Thomas, we are creating an international community of entrepreneurship educators to advance Principled Entrepreneurship by applying ethics to entrepreneurial action. In 2020, Director Jon Fjeld, in collaboration with these colleagues, spoke widely about the value of Principled Entrepreneurship at various convenings, such as the Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Conference, VentureWell Open Conference, University of St. Thomas Conference, and the Global Consortium for Entrepreneurship Centers Virtual Connections.

Advancing & Implementing Scholarship

In addition to informing the intellectual foundation of our educational programming, Duke research and scholarship from a wide array of disciplines contributes to the understanding the most effective best practices in all areas of innovation and entrepreneurship. Duke I&E’s research effort promotes impactful entrepreneurship research at Duke and takes a leadership role in the global research eco‐system dedicated to advancing the frontiers of knowledge in innovation and entrepreneurship and in the development human capital in individuals who are committed to scholarship in innovation and entrepreneurship.  

Furthering these efforts, Duke I&E pursued an active schedule of research meetings and other activities aimed at drawing top scholars and practitioners to convene around important questions in entrepreneurship and innovation. Working in partnership with the Kenan Institute at the University of North Carolina, University of Chicago, Yale, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and Stanford University, we sponsor the Frontiers of Entrepreneurship conference. In 2020, this conference focused on issues related to diversity and access, including ways in which entrepreneurship can be made more accessible to female founders and people of color. Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professors—scholars who are invited to the Triangle area to hold a special professorship joint with Duke and UNC that commemorates the leadership of former Duke President Nan Keohane—played an active role in the event. In addition, Fuqua Professor Sharique Hasan hosted an Innovation and Entrepreneurship conference at the Bullpen that drew scholars from around the world to discuss the application of field research methods to the study of entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Expanding Scholarship in a Virtual World

When it no longer became possible to hold in-person meetings due to the pandemic, we moved our gatherings online. This pivot created many challenges, but it also opened the door to new opportunities to promote inclusion and diversity and to expand the audience of our research efforts, allowing us to expand the scope of our impact as researchers. In partnership with scholars at Rice, Yale and CalTech, we launched the Workshop on Entrepreneurial Finance and Innovation, a virtual bi-weekly conference in which we invite early-stage research on important topics in entrepreneurship and innovation to be presented and discussed. Beginning this fall, we expanded the program to include monthly lectures on important topics in entrepreneurship and innovation. Our opening lecture, on Gender, Race and Entrepreneurship, had over 150 attendees from institutions across the globe.

Amplifying Duke’s Thought Leaders

I&E Research Director David Robinson continued in his leadership role at the National Bureau of Economic Research’ Entrepreneurship Working Group. This group’s virtual meeting in July 2020 gave a much-needed opportunity for younger scholars to engage in professional development. Our collaboration with the National Bureau of Economic Research continued with the Entrepreneurship Research Boot Camp, a program led by Professor Robinson sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation aimed at training the next generation of academic researchers in entrepreneurship and innovation. This program gathers scholars from across the world for a 10-session course in the key topics in innovation and entrepreneurship, taught by the world’s leading scholars. Students relish in the opportunity to learn cutting edge issues in entrepreneurship and innovation research from the leading scholars across the academy. As one student put it in their evaluation of the course, 

“I just want to highlight that this boot camp has truly been the best learning experience I have ever had since I started my PhD program. David and Jonathan did a fantastic job organizing the boot camp and making it super inclusive of all races, genders, and schools. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to be part of this community.”

By placing Duke at the center of that graduate student’s educational experience, we help to advance Duke’s intellectual leadership in the next generation of scholars of innovation and entrepreneurship.  

Looking Ahead

Moving forward, we intend to continue our collaborations with outside institutions to promote externally facing work to explore and teach the intellectual foundations of entrepreneurship and innovation, and we also are working to turn the researcher’s lens back on ourselves to engage in continuous process improvement. We are developing an internal activity tracking and measurement system that will allow us to measure our impact across all the constituents we reach at Duke.  Applying these analytical tools to our own efforts will allow us to continue to challenge ourselves and to improve our organization and its impact on our community. 

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