The purpose of this study is to capture the variation in entrepreneurs' understandings and experiences through which they contextualise cultural factors within a national setting to articulate how they use their knowledge and social capabilities to advance their activity.
This study adopts an interpretivist approach through which culture is investigated at the individual level. Phenomenography is used as a methodology to capture the variation in the entrepreneurs own understanding and experiences of the cultural factors.
The findings introduce four different understandings and eight experiences to explore how entrepreneurs contextualise culture in their environment. The findings present a change in the role of culture in influencing entrepreneurial social capabilities and confidence; and a change in the local culture from collectivism to individualism. Furthermore, the findings show how entrepreneurs use their knowledge, experience and understanding to achieve socially driven acts to pursue economic value, integration and acceptance.
We encourage further research in the Middle-East region to examine the model and identify other factors that affect entrepreneurial behaviour, including the important developments with regard to women entrepreneurs. While Jordan has embarked on introducing policy level changes to support entrepreneurship, the findings report that the culture of collectivism is changing. This requires a longitudinal research to capture the change and its implication on entrepreneurial activity in Jordan and its impact on unemployment and economic value.
In terms of practical contribution, the study introduces a policy level contribution by answering the question presented by the GEM report (2014) pointing out the high entrepreneurial opportunity identification in Jordan, yet the country has the lowest entrepreneurial activity in the region. Although the report pointed out issues in policy and institutional support the role of culture was not addressed. The study recommendation is to celebrate and entrepreneurial activity and introduce entrepreneurial studies at schools to influence a positive change.
We addressed some of the several calls to further investigate and understand the role of culture, how entrepreneurs contextualise it (Foss and Klein, 2012; Garud, 2016; Zahra et al.>, 2014; Welter et al., 2019). Our research provides a fertile ground for further enquiries that pose questions such as “What other factors do entrepreneurs contextualise in their environment?” and “how these factors are contextualised?” The use of phenomenography as an interpretive methodology might therefore assist in revealing further shared understandings of the variation in entrepreneurs' behaviours. Further research on capturing “understanding” presents the complex forms of interactions and mechanism in the cognitive world of the entrepreneurs (Barandiaran et al., 2009; Brannback and Carsrud, 2016). Originality/value. In this study, phenomenography has enabled new insights into the multiplicity and idiosyncratic role of culture within a national setting and introduces a model of social capability and integration which capture the contextualisation of cultural factors. The study contributes to entrepreneurship literature as follows: first, the implicit assumption in this research is that culture is an active construct that entrepreneurs understand, experience and also influence; second, the variation in entrepreneurs' outcomes is based on their subjective and personal understandings which form the ways of contextualisation. Third, the variation in understanding and experiences captures the different ways entrepreneurs use their social capabilities to achieve integration and economic value.