Ralph Hamann Named Pearson Visiting Professor of Technology and Entrepreneurship

Ralph HamannRalph Hamann, Professor and Research Director of the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, has been named the Hugh W. Pearson Visiting Professor of Technology and Entrepreneurship in the School of Engineering at Brown University.


Specifically, during his six-week appointment in Providence, Hamann has three objectives: He is working with Angus Kingon, Brown's Barrett Hazeltine University Professor of Entrepreneurship and Organizational Studies, on a design principles research project for student immersion programs in low-income communities; he is supporting Kingon and Engineering Professor of the Practice and IE Brown Executive MBA co-Academic Director Pat McHugh on specific tasks for the EMBA program in Brown's School of Professional Studies; and he is developing teaching material for Brown's entrepreneurship and innovation courses.

Each year, Brown's EMBA students travel to Cape Town to study how inclusive business models may address complex social problems in low-income communities. Being immersed in a context so unlike what they are used to, and grappling with multifaceted problems in this context, gives these students a unique opportunity to expand their abilities to innovatively address management problems anywhere. Hamann is exploring with Kingon and McHugh how to focus students' efforts during this immersion to effectively meet Brown's pedagogical objectives while also ensuring benefits for local residents.

"My collaboration with Angus preceded, and will continue beyond this appointment," Hamann said, referring to both himself and Kingon as "hybrids," intentionally using their engineering (Kingon) and environmental science (Hamann) backgrounds to combine with entrepreneurship and social responsibility for the greater good. "The time here at Brown serves as a catalyst for our ongoing, collaborative work, rather than a once-off engagement," Hamann said.

Hamann's research focuses on organizations' contributions and responses to complex social and environmental problems. Some of this work has a distinctly critical bent, such as a recent article in Journal of Management Studies on employers' historical efforts to perpetuate labor exploitation in the South African mining sector. But his focus on entrepreneurship involves a more positive orientation, including a recent paper in Journal of Business Venturing, in which he and a previous visiting professor at Brown, Erin Powell, and colleagues show how founders of cross-sector partnerships can harness material tensions to better address complex social problems.

Rated an "internationally acclaimed" researcher by the South Africa National Research Foundation, Hamann has published in environmental policy, development, and management journals. He is an executive editor of Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development. Among his other roles, Hamann is founder and academic director of the Embedding Project in South Africa and co-founder of the Southern Africa Food Lab, for which he received UCT's Distinguished Social Responsiveness Award. He is also founding director of FutureMeasure, a company that provides a web-based sustainability performance management system.

Hamann has been a visiting researcher, teacher, or consultant at a range of organizations around the world, including business schools and universities, companies, governments, and international agencies.