On 14th July 2015, Professor Adrian Blackledge presented findings from the TLANG research as evidence provided to the Everyday Entrepreneurs Inquiry of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group at the House of Commons.

The research project, ‘Translation and Translanguaging: Investigating Linguistic and Cultural Transformations in Superdiverse Wards in Four UK Cities’ (TLang), was recently invited to present oral and written evidence to the Everyday Entrepreneurs Inquiry of The All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group at the House of Commons. Professor Adrian Blackledge presented oral evidence on July 14th. During the first year of the TLang project detailed ethnographic investigations have been conducted in small business settings in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, and London.

The inquiry looks at how small businesses are set up and sustained, the positive contribution they make to communities, and the policy barriers government can remove to help them grow and thrive. The inquiry starts from the position that the contribution to society made by small businesses, and the important social role of everyday entrepreneurs, is not fully understood or valued by policy-makers at a national and local level. The inquiry is chaired by Simon Danczuk MP, and supported by MPs from the All Party Small Shops Group.

In informal discussions before the main proceedings commenced, Simon Danczuk, took a keen interest in the TLang research project. A Sociology graduate from Lancaster University, he was happy to hear about the project’s ethnographic approach to collecting and analysis evidence about the social life of cities.

In the first half of the formal part of the event evidence was presented by Martin Christian-Kent, Executive Director of ‘People 1st, a skills and workforce development charity for employers in the hospitality, tourism, leisure, travel, passenger transport and retail industries, and by Robert Ashton, a social entrepreneur and business author. The second half was devoted to evidence from Dr Jutta Tobias, Cranfield University, and to emergent findings from the TLang project.

The main points reported by Professor Blackledge were related to everyday engagement, superdiversity, languaging, and small shops as community hubs. He reported emergent findings that willingness to engage with others is a social skill practised in small shops in superdiverse cities, and that in small shop encounters people acknowledge difference as a positive resource for convivial communication and social cohesion.

Following this evidence the Chair asked questions about the practical changes policy-makers at local and national levels can make to support small businesses to overcome obstacles in enterprising communities. Among other things, Professor Blackledge responded with evidence from the TLang project that everyday entrepreneurs face challenges in setting up small businesses when they are confronted by bureaucratic demands beyond their skills and experience.

In conclusion, Simon Danczuk made summary remarks. He particularly picked up points from TLang’s evidence related to the importance of relationships in everyday entrepreneurship, and about the role of small businesses as community hubs for information and support.

Download a summary of the written evidence provided to the Everyday Entrepreneurs Inquiry