The role and nature of networking in the entrepreneurial process
The research was carried out in rural areas of the Highlands of Scotland. This location allowed patterns and links between the entrepreneur and the social context to be identified. The study did not specifically deal with rural entrepreneurship, instead it used respondents within this context to interrogate the research issues. To operationalise the research issues, a subjective approach using ideographic methodologies was employed. During the research period, a total of forty entrepreneurs were interviewed at length about the relationship between entrepreneurship and networks. From these preliminary interviews, sixteen entrepreneurs were identified and used to fully explore the issues under investigation. These sixteen respondents include two extreme cases which were used to test the emerging theory. The findings from this study make four significant contributions to the field of entrepreneurship. Firstly, the research demonstrates that networks are the dynamic link between the entrepreneur and the context, providing a mechanism to operationalise the context so that entrepreneurial outcomes can be achieved. Secondly, the research illustrates that opportunity recognition and realisation are conditioned by the dynamics between the entrepreneur and the context. The structure affords these opportunities which are subsequently manifested by the action of entrepreneurial agency in using social networks. Thirdly, the research reveals that although there is a rural structure, its manifestation and effects are social rather than economic. Within the rural context, entrepreneurship is a social process with economic outcomes and needs to be sustained by, and anchored in, the social context. Finally, the research shows that networks are not context bound. Through the identification of a common affinity, relationships are converted into socio-economic bonds for entrepreneurship.