Author: Adiki Puplampu

Tag:  The University of Alberta welcomes the Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, a unique and innovative research project funded by the Government of Canada.

Date: August 1st, 2022


On a bright and warm Edmonton morning, representatives from the University of Alberta, Carleton University, led by Dr. Gerald Grant and Dr. Rick Colbourne, and the Dream Legacy Foundation, represented by Ms. Roxanne Challenger, gathered in a boardroom in the Alberta School of Business to discuss a research initiative months in the making.

From top left down: André McDonald, Idara Effiom, Dipo Alli, Michelle Inness, Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika | From top right down: Roxanne Challenger, Andrea Pierce, Gerald Grant, Jared Wesley, Rick Colbourne

In December 2021, the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development announced that Carleton University and the Dream Legacy Foundation (DLF) would lead the creation of the Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (BEKH). One of three pillars of the larger Black Entrepreneurship Program, the purpose of the Hub is to produce academic knowledge on the Black Canadian entrepreneurial experience to better understand the systemic  barriers that Black entrepreneurs face and identify tools to support Black entrepreneurs and their businesses. Over a four-year period, the Hub will receive $5 million in funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada.

As the organizations leading the hub, Carleton University, through their Sprott School of Business, and the DLF, a Toronto-based nonprofit committed to supporting Black entrepreneurship in Canada, are tasked with managing regional hubs housed in post-secondary institutions across the country. The University of Alberta with Dr. André McDonald and Dr. Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika at the helm, will lead the Central Regional Hub of the BEKH to develop innovative research projects in collaboration with community partners and other academic institutions in the Prairie region.

Beyond establishing the BEKH’s mission to lead the development of community-led research projects in collaboration with academics, community organizations, and post-secondary institutions, the Carleton University delegation sketched the short, medium and long term goals of the Hub, which include developing partnership capacity, producing large scale quantitative and qualitative research projects, and fostering tangible research outputs with the goal of building project sustainability.

This BEKH’s focus is to engage not just academia but the community in general. In actual fact our focus is ensuring that everything that we do is community focused, community co-created, and that we are hearing the voices of actual entrepreneurs and community partners.

Dr. Gerald Grant, Professor, Information Systems & Director, Centre for Information Technology, Organizations and People

After Carleton University established the framework of the Hub, the members of the Research and Community Intervention Committee led by the University of Alberta presented some of the research projects envisioned for the Central Regional Hub. The BEKH is an inherently interdisciplinary undertaking with a strong focus on community-led and community-driven research. The presentations were reflective of this with project ideas from the Alberta School of Business, the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Arts, and the Faculty of Engineering. Francophone engagement is also being prioritized through the involvement of Dr. Sedami Gnidehou from Campus Saint-Jean.

The Central Regional Hub team also clearly outlined the goals and outcomes they envision for the BEKH. These include developing strategies for knowledge translation, reinvesting funds directly into Black entrepreneurship through scholarships and pilot programs, and conducting research meaningful to community partners that are led in tandem with those community partners. In sharing their respective visions for the BEKH, the teams from Carleton University, the DLF, and the Central Regional Hub realized that their conceptualizations of the impact and reach of the BEKH were strongly aligned and continued the day with a sense of a shared vision.

Following the respective presentations, the conversation quickly turned to plans for collaboration with community partners and research innovation. Among the many ideas and priorities shared across the table was the notion of taking a broad view of entrepreneurship that looks beyond technology, fostering mentorship for Black graduate students within research programmes, and creating projects where research outcomes are developed at the community level. This concept of community is a central tenet of the BEKH and an area of expertise for the Dream Legacy Foundation who will be collaborating with regional hubs across Canada to ensure that research projects have strong footholds in community. The BEKH imagines projects that actively engage and are accountable to community organizations, communicating with these organizations about everything from research design to results and knowledge mobilization.

At the University of Alberta, many researchers involved in the operation of the Central Regional Hub have strong ties to the Black community, including  Dr. Jared Wesley who leads the Common Ground initiative, Dr. Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika who leads the P.A.C.E Project, Dr. Shirley Anne Tate who engages with Black Canadian Women in Action, and Dr. André McDonald and Dr. Adetola Adesida who lead the ELITE Program for Black Youth, a program that provides paid full-time internships in STEMM to Black youth. Community partners such as Dipo Alli from the Black Business Ventures Association and the Africa Centre are also integral in ensuring that communities remain at the heart of BEKH research projects.

So Black professors (at the University of Alberta and beyond), with their allies can create a theoretical framework from the research to then build the knowledge mobilization efforts that answer the questions that the community has.

Dr. André McDonald, Associate Vice President Strategic Research Initiatives and Performance and Professor of Mechanical Engineering

The sun still high in the sky, the day concluded with concrete steps forward on both sides and a sense that the BEKH was well on its way to finding a home at the University of Alberta. Together the regional hubs, with support from Carleton and the DLF, aim to fill a gap in research on Black entrepreneurship in Canada. From a policy and development perspective, this deep and nuanced knowledge around the Black entrepreneurial experience is integral to developing programs and initiatives to support Black business and entrepreneurs. Through deep and comprehensive collaborations with community organizations, the University of Alberta and its academic partners look forward to advancing novel, creative, and thought-provoking research projects that will produce essential, actionable knowledge under the banner of the BEKH.

From left to right, front: Roxanne Challenger, André McDonald, Rick Colbourne, Idara Effiom From left to right, back: Dipo Alli, Andrea Pierce, Gerald Grant, Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika, Jared Wesley



Central Regional Hub Research and Community Intervention Committee Members

  • André McDonald (co-lead), Associate Vice President (Strategic Research Initiatives and Performance) and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Alberta.
  • Philomina Okeke-Ihejirika (co-lead), Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Alberta.
  • Michelle Inness, Associate Dean and Professor of Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Management, University of Alberta.
  • Rebecca Hudson-Breen, Professor of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta.
  • Adetola Adesida, Professor of Surgery, University of Alberta.
  • Shirley Anne Tate, Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta.
  • Jared Wesley, Professor of Political Science, University of Alberta.
  • Sedami Gnidehou, Professor of Biology, Campus Saint-Jean, University of Alberta
  • Dipo Alli, Executive Director, Black Business Ventures Association.