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A real thesis specialist? Max Pater's prize winning theses about 'social entrepreneurs'

25 February 2013

FEB graduate Max Pater (23) won the NBN-Rabobank thesis prize for his BSc IB&M thesis on social entrepreneurship. And his recently finished MSc thesis has already been presented at academic conferences in Washington and London, soon it will be submitted for an academic journal. Are we dealing with a thesis specialist here? Let's talk to Max – who currently works in Uganda, at one of the social entrepreneurs he studied!

Max Pater
Max Pater

Max, you won a 1.500 euro prize of NBN - Rabobank, what is the subject of your thesis?

I have studied the internationalization pathway of “social entrepreneurs”. A social entrepreneur is someone who tries to combine for-profit economic objectives with social goals and is an increasingly popular type of entrepreneur. I strongly believe in this hybrid form, since the traditional socially oriented organizations, like NGOs, are hardly able to operate sustainably. Social entrepreneurs adopt economic principles, and therefore they are more sustainable and deliver more social returns in the long run.

Many social entrepreneurs operate quickly, and often in many and/or distant countries. It has not been researched before why they behave this way.  I was the first to combine the field of international business and the social entrepreneurship domain.

I interviewed a variety of Dutch social entrepreneurs who have internationalized to different countries in the world. International business scholars often predict certain pathways, like the Uppsala Model, which I critically projected on social entrepreneurs. I found a very distinct pathway though, which can not be explained by any of the ‘models’ or ‘theories’ yet.

What did the jury say made you win?

I have to admit that the popularity of the subject might have contributed to their judgement. However, they also liked my style of research and of course, the results were interesting enough. They said it was an innovative approach in the field and I think the case examples were quite appealing.

Why did you decide to compete for the thesis prize?

When my supervisor (Igor Kalinic) graded my bachelor thesis with a 9 and said he wanted to submit it for a conference in Washington, I realized I somehow did a good job. Perhaps, I thought, I can do more with it and after Googling I found the NBN-Rabobank thesis prize. Since it specifically asked for theses within the ethical domain, I thought mine would be eligible. I actually forgot about it when the jury called me about 10 months later, when I was in Uganda, telling me that my thesis was selected for the finals.

What do you do now?

After finishing my MSc thesis in Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I started working for one of the social enterprises I used as case study: BBROOD Uganda. It is a Dutch bakery chain which opened a shop in Kampala in 2011. Early October 2012 I started here for a one-year term as Operations and Sales Manager. Here I can see how a social enterprise works on a daily basis. The bakery is doing very well, both in terms of commercial and social impact! In less than two years we have grown to 4 shops and over 40 employees in Uganda.

Also your MSc thesis proved to be of good quality. What is it about?

My MSc thesis actually elaborated on my BSc thesis, getting to know the explaining mechanisms of the social entrepreneurs’ specific internationalization pathway. In my BSc thesis the main question was ‘How?’ and for my MSc. thesis I tried to find out the ‘Why’ of this phenomena.
Both of them are qualitative and explorative in nature, enabling me to conclude my MSc thesis with a conceptualization of a new breed of entrepreneurs: the social cosmopolitan. Met with doubt by my supervisor at first, it became the key element of my thesis after receiving pretty positive feedback from the conference in Washington.

You are planning to submit this for publication in an academic journal?

In December last year my thesis was presented at a conference in London; in order to collect more feedback. (I was in Uganda so my supervisor did the presentation.) When he came back he suggested we could submit it a journal. It would be stupid to ignore such a suggestion from a scholar with quite some experience.

Are you maybe planning a career in scientific research?

I liked to do my research and have no problems to work on some other pieces part-time, but I am not sure whether I would really aspire an academic career. The work in Uganda is really great, challenging and very rewarding. I learn more than ever and it links to my bachelor, master and thesis subjects. After this year I would like to live, work and/or study in the U.S. for some while. Or Asia. I’m not sure yet but it will be abroad and linked to social entrepreneurship I guess!

Do you have some advice for students writing their theses now?

I found it successful to link two different domains, as it most likely will be something new. Choose one domain which really interests you (for me that was social entrepreneurship) and link it to a required domain (for me that was international business, as I did my BSc. IB&M). While writing, try to think in structures: first establish the entire framework, every chapter and every subheading. Look closely at other papers/articles (in your domain) to copy a proven structure. Then you only have to fill the gaps with your findings.

For those interested in BBROOD Uganda: or

Thank you Max! And lots of success in your career!

Last modified:05 February 2018 3.43 p.m.

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