Negotiating Tradition, Power, and Fragility in Afghanistan

This PhD research at the International Institute of Social Studies examines institutional transformation and construction in women’s enterprise development in Afghanistan, and the implications for broader economic development.

Dr. Holly Ritchie successfully defended her thesis (cum laude) on September 26, 2013.

Creation and design of new market institutions (social innovations)

There is an assumption that all entrepreneurship is productive, and will facilitate prosperity and peace. Holly Ritchie's PhD research explores nuanced entrepreneurial phenomena through the lens of (social) institutions, and the role of both actors (norms, power and individual motivations) and the local context in shaping economic development in the uncertain context of Afghanistan. Drawing on in-depth qualitative research, the research examines the creation and design of new market institutions (social innovations) in three women’s enterprises.


The study highlights the strategies of the entrepreneur, local power holders and external actors (agency), and the influence of local conditions (structure) in the process of institutional construction. It is indicated that entrepreneurship can promote inclusive opportunities for (new) power and wealth through open institutions by certain entrepreneurs, even in fragile contexts. It can equally foster distorted economies if exclusive institutions are allowed to prevail.

About Holly Ritchie

With a passion for pro-poor market development, Holly Ritchie consults for various development agencies (including FAO and Oxfam) and government ministries in Afghanistan. See also her website.


  • Prof.dr. A.H.J. Helmsing (ISS)
  • Prof.dr. P. Knorringa (ISS)