Investigating Social Enterprise in Small Island Developing States

For several years, the SE@UVA Global Field Experience in Dominica program has presented a microcosm for UVA students engaged in Social Entrepreneurship and/or Global Development Studies to learn how local resources and policy are used to promote social entrepreneurship, sustainable development and resilience for economic growth. Although Dominica offers an abundance of renewable resources such as wind, water and sun, and fertile land, the development of these resources to improve sustainability and resilience on the island has been limited to nonexistent. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island’s infrastructure and agricultural economy in fall 2017, Social Entrepreneurship at UVA decided that more must be done.

The Lab

In 2018, Professor Bevin Etienne founded the Sustainable Social Enterprise for Resilience Lab, creating opportunities for student research fellowships throughout the year, and transforming the Global Field Experience course into an intentional exploration of how the Small Island Developing State of Dominica could become the first climate resilient nation by using social enterprise and community development to create a self-reliant economic and agricultural system.

This year, the Lab is focused on exploring the potential for hydroponic systems to improve the resilience of the agricultural economy, and the capacity for rapid response to climate disasters. In partnership with UVA startup Babylon Micro-farms, led by Alex Olesen ’18, we are developing and testing a prototype of an automated, solar powered rapid rollout hydroponic system. This system has a unique opportunity to be applied to areas globally that may be affected by climate change, devastated by hurricanes or are not able to sustainably grow food. In the coming year, we will evaluate the potential application of the hydroponic system on the island of Dominica.  This island presents an ideal case study, as a microcosm of an independent developing state reliant on imports of food and traditional energy and water systems in the immediate aftermath of climate change related disasters such as Hurricane Maria on September 18 2017.

Working in collaboration with a broad assortment of affiliated faculty bringing expertise in Engineering, Politics of Food, Health, Sustainability & Global Development, Social Enterprise, and Environmental Sciences, the Lab is expanding its research into innovations in our use of natural resources such as food, water and energy in order to create a more stable, sustainable and climate resilient world.


Meet the Team: