Cultivating entrepreneurial behavior through participatory culture of Burning Man

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management
In today’s interconnected world, the rate of technological progress is like something we have never seen before. For many this is a great opportunity to become an entrepreneur out of choice, while for others it means losing their old job and are possibly becoming entrepreneurs out of necessity. As a result of this, entrepreneurship education is on increasing demand, but institutions that provide entrepreneurship education cannot necessarily meet the demand. This thesis focuses on alternative sources of entrepreneurship education in unconventional environments. The study observes the theory of entrepreneurial learning in the context of Burning Man event and local communities that are affiliated to the event and how people who collaborate within these communities develop entrepreneurial skills. Theory of entrepreneurial learning is based on Kolb’s (1984) theory of experiential learning. Experiential learning happens when past experiences are turned to knowledge that can be used in the future. Entrepreneurial learning happens when knowledge gained through experiences is directed to new enterprise (Gibb, 1997). Once a year Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA becomes Black Rock City where Burning Man event takes place. 75 000 event participants create a temporary city that is dedicated to creativity, self-expression and communal effort. For the duration of one week, the citizens of Black Rock City fill the desert with awe-inspiring art installations and other activities. The event and its culture have also been said to be the cultural backbone of Silicon Valley. Many Silicon Valley companies have their roots in the event, such as Google and Solar City. The event has also expanded itself to a global movement of creative communities to dozens of countries. The research data consists of cases of two multi-disciplinary art projects that were delivered to Burning Man event in the years 2015 and 2016 and of nine interviews of entrepreneurs who are also active in the Burning Man community to know if being involved with the community has had an impact on their business and how? The data collection was made through action research and semi-structured interviews that were conduced in 2016. The study includes the narratives of both projects and interviews. Then thematic analysis was used. This thesis introduces the theories of experiential and entrepreneurial learning. Then the theoretical background is used reflect findings of this particular study that aims to discover: 1) Does active engaging in Burning Man events and culture influence the development of entrepreneurial behavior? and 2) How could Burning Man be utilized in entrepreneurship education and what are the key takeaways from the experience that are seen beneficial? The findings of this study suggest that experiential and entrepreneurial occurs when engaging in activities related To Burning Man. In addition, the findings suggest that entrepreneurship education could be organized around these activities and some of the things learned this way are difficult to replicate in other environments.
Thesis advisor
Cacciotti, Gabriella
entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial learning, experiential learning, Burning Man, participatory culture
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