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A case study in social entrepreneurship

Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Political Science Denise Horn will set sail for Indonesia for five months of research and teaching abroad in spring of 2014 with the help of a prestigious Fulbright grant which she was awarded for her project, “International Relations and Democratization in Indonesia.” The grant will provide support for Horn to work with local scholars at an Indonesian university while honing her language skills in Bahasa. She plans to collaborate with local professors on curriculum development regarding active learning methodologies and analyze the relationships among U.S. foreign policy, democratization, and interactions between state and civil society.

On this next project, Horn will expand on her recently published second book, Democratic Governance and Social Entrepreneurship: Civic Participation and the Future of Democracy (February 2013). In Democratic Governance and Social Entrepreneurship, she analyzes the complex relationship between development and democracy, focusing on social entrepreneurship and democracy in two case studies: Southern India and Northern Thailand. In the Thailand case, for example, Horn explores what is referred to as “Thai style democracy,” linked to a strong monarchy with an emphasis on the community.

Horn’s research focuses on social entrepreneurship—or innovative models such as micro-credit and micro-finance—and varying conceptions of democracy in Thailand and India. She found that lenders specifically targeted women for micro-credit because they were viewed as better stewards of these resources, but, “in reality this targeting can further add to the burdens of domesticity since women’s duties at home do not necessarily diminish with added responsibilities of entrepreneurship.” Contrary to certain assumptions that micro-credit necessarily leads to women’s empowerment, “traditional roles can even be reinforced,” according to Horn.

Indonesia presents a particularly interesting case study since it is emerging from a recent dictatorship. Horn intends to adapt models she developed in her first book on democratization in Eastern Europe, Women, Civil Society and the Geopolitics of Democratization, in order to investigate the role of outside funding sources in determining democratic reforms.

“I expect to find some differences here since the state appears to play a larger role in controlling and monitoring the use and application of outside funding, particularly in development and democracy-building projects,” she says of Indonesia.

Horn’s Fulbright will enable her to broaden the scope of her second book by incorporating Indonesia into a project that approaches Southeast Asia from a comparative perspective. She started laying the groundwork for this larger project by taking Northeastern students on the summer Dialogue of Civilizations programs to Bali. Leading workshops on social entrepreneurship focused on building civil society, Horn pairs Northeastern students with Indonesian university students to collaborate in the creation of community-based projects. Horn notes that the experiential, fieldwork-oriented nature of the program has helped advance her research.

“Students meet community leaders and establish contacts that help connect me with the local communities in ways I would not be able to on my own,” she says.
Many of Horn’s former students conducted research for her most recent book, and she plans to locate additional assistance for the current project.

“It’s an opportunity for me to identify students who would be strong researchers,” she adds.

Beyond her many scholarly contributions on development and democracy in Southeast Asia, Horn’s hands-on approach to research has also fostered lasting community ties between Northeastern and Bali. Horn is particularly pleased that students on both sides stay in touch, and some Northeastern students return to Bali for co-op opportunities created out of one of the Dialogues.

Horn is looking forward to leading her third Dialogue to Bali this summer where she will guide them toward the goals of establishing “sustainability and replicability” in their development projects.

– By Burleigh Hendrickson

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