Telling the stories of our researcher whānau – Dr Nadeera Ranabahu

17 February 2022

Research needs to have a bigger impact

Dr Nadeera Ranabahu has now joined our Researcher Database Whānau. We spoke to her recently about her mahi and her journey as a researcher.

During her research, Dr Nadeera Ranabahu has been moved many times by the experiences of refugees and migrants, listening to their stories and the many challenges they’ve faced. It is an area that continues to drive her.

“Some have been in prison, some have gone through a lot of difficulties. The resilience, flexibility, adaptability: those things are good to see, it’s really heart-warming and moving. It’s sad, it’s difficult to listen to sometime.”

Nadeera says it’s really good to see how those with a refugee or migrant background have integrated and become New Zealanders – and how they are contributing to society.

Having worked for not-for-profit organisations in Sri Lanka for six to seven years, Nadeera completed her PhD in Australia, at Wollongong University. This started her research journey. She got passionate about the entrepreneurship field and then applied for a job at University of Canterbury.

Nadeera is extremely proud of the research that she’s done, especially in the field of Inclusive Entrepreneurship.

“I study about immigrants, refugees and women. My current project is with former refugee communities in New Zealand and how they start and develop businesses. We look at individual entrepreneurs, we look at businesses, and we look at organisations that are supporting former refugees. That’s the most prominent research I’m doing right now.”

Nadeera’s current research on Inclusive Entrepreneurship is done in collaboration with two other researchers: UC Business School colleague Associate Professor Huibert (Herb) de Vries and independent researcher Dr Zhiyan Basharati.

“Herb and I were interested in this area and in a forum, we met Zhiyan. Then we thought, ok, this is not a well-researched area, at least at that time in New Zealand. Why don’t we do something in entrepreneurship for former refugees? We have done this for three or four years now.”

She is also doing research with immigrant communities in The Middle East.

When it comes to methodologies, Nadeera is a qualitative researcher. She looks at stories, narratives, and main ideas. 

Nadeera wears many hats in her role at the University of Canterbury. She teaches Social Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Management subjects, and does research, teaching and other administration duties at the university. But it is research that aligns with her values that is at the heart of what she does.

“You want to continue with research that drives you. We use research in our teaching, so the students and younger generation are aware of what’s going on, and think critically. That’s what’s needed right now in this misinformation era: Critical thinking, looking at the data, making a standpoint, understanding things. That’s my goal for the students.”

Is research shared widely enough in Aotearoa? Nadeera thinks not.

“I think it should be shared more with the wider community. I want to see more research being used in the public sector, by practitioners and policymakers more often. Used in a much broader entrepreneurship and management context.”

Collaboration is the key – working with others on the same wavelength. Nadeera and her colleagues do just that.

“I’d like to acknowledge Herb and Zhiyan. And other department colleagues, who encourage and give feedback, that helps a lot. There is a lot of support from the university community and the wider community. I also acknowledge organisations who give time, support and information. Community and their support, former refugees, immigrants and others.

“Everyone involved in studies needs to be acknowledged, I’m just the researcher.”

Community Research


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