A Passion for Hope – Visiting Scholar Oana Branzei

August 21, 2012

By Janet Max

Oana Branzei is an associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario.  She is Visiting Scholar at the Center for POS for the 2012-13 academic year.

The Center’s new visiting scholar, Oana Branzei, is passionate about the overarching theme of the positive function of business in society, and is drawn to learning about what people in extreme situations think that business can do for them.  “They see business as almost a salvation.  Often, they learn to imagine the future through the business itself,” she notes.  “It’s really hard for someone who has been marginalized or traumatized to imagine a better life.  Hope is an essential part of lifting them up.”  Oana focuses on the dynamics of hope: dreams of better lives, and actions needed to achieve them.  Her field work in areas such as Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, Peru, and Bangladesh documents the incidence and resilience of enterprise under extreme scarcity, adversity, and conflict.  Oana also researches the emergence and evolution of pro-poor business models in North America, Asia, and Latin America.

Oana’s work in the last year with post-genocide widows and orphans in Rwanda has led to deep introspection about all aspects of “our role as researchers and our role as human beings in the academy.”  She feels a deep sense of responsibility to the subjects of her research, and strives to reach “as honestly and deeply within myself as I can so I can make a difference for the participants themselves, if not materially at least humanly.”

In crafting her goals for her time at the Center for POS, Oana notes that, “Looking back over the last seven years [of my research],. . . each stream generates something new and different, but they all revolve around a deeper question of whether, when, and how positive social change happens.”  Oana believes the data she has collected over the years “has answers about a new theory of agency, one that helps us understand new forms of organizing, far from equilibrium.”  She feels the community of the Center for POS is uniquely fitting as the incubator for the ideas she is developing now, and wrote that she hopes “to draw inspiration and energy from the wonderful work done at the Center.”

Oana Branzei’s website

Research Statement – Oana Branzei