Tutorial: Business Thinking for Ethnographers

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Instructors: REBEKAH PARK (Director of Strategy, Gemic), ABBY FIFER MANDELL (Professor of Entrepreneurship, USC Marshall School of Business), LOUIS ELTON (Strategist, Gemic)

Learn concepts and mindsets of business culture to make your work more intelligible and influential.



This tutorial was conducted at EPIC2021. Exercises and discussions have been omitted to protect the privacy of participants.

Ethnography and social science bring value to business, but we often struggle to articulate that value in business terms. In this tutorial you’ll become more fluent in the vocabulary and mindsets of business culture, and practice using this fluency to make your work more intelligible and influential.

We will review basic terms that have currency in corporate spaces (B2B/B2C, ROI, revenue streams, market sizing…) and what it means to frame researchers as consultants operating within business cultures and industry paradigms (whether our “clients” are internal or external). The tutorial will be strongly interactive, with activities and exercises focused on scoping, selling, and presenting projects to key decision-makers and executives. We’ll also delve into the crucial process of transformation of insights into recommendations and business models that corporate colleagues can act on.

Drawing on the deep experience of the instructors and other tutorial participants across a wide range of industries and roles, we will surface a range of situations and strategies for wielding business mindsets. Participants will leave the session feeling more confident about working in private industry and growing into strategic and managerial spaces.


Rebekah Park is a Director of Strategy at Gemic where she co-leads the healthcare practice. Previously, Rebekah was a senior manager at ReD Associates, where she worked across all industries and led the healthcare practice for the New York office. Rebekah holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, a MA in Applied Medical Anthropology from Universiteit van Amsterdam, where she was a Fulbright scholar in the Netherlands, and a BA in American Studies from Northwestern University. Prior to consulting, Rebekah was a tenure track professor of anthropology at Marlboro College in Vermont, and had also worked at the African American Policy Forum, Poverty and Race Research Action Council, and Washington Citizen Action. Rebekah has been the PI for several studies since 2001, including: HIV/AIDS harm reduction for public health interventions in Chicago and Amsterdam; Transitional Justice Reparations in Argentina; Lung Cancer and Immunotherapy in the UK, Denmark, and the U.S.

Abby Fifer Mandell is a professor of entrepreneurship at the USC Marshall School of Business. She teaches human-centered design to more than 100 students each year. She lectures internationally and leads workshops and training for mid-size and large social impact organizations. She won the 2018 Academy of Management Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award for her work with undergraduate students. Abby holds a M.A. in education and received a B.A. in Religious Studies and American Studies from the University of Virginia. She is a Wexner Heritage Fellow and serves on the advisory boards of United Parents and Students and Swipe Out Hunger.

Louis Elton is a London-based Strategist at Gemic. He believes that the most thrilling innovation comes from the alchemy of combining disparate ideas and methods from multiple disciplines. Louis brings a wealth of niche expertise, insatiable curiosity, and a passion for generating unique and useless thoughts and speculations. Louis was trained as a chef at Leiths School of Food and Wine. He then graduated with a BA in Theology, Religious Studies, and the Philosophy of Religion from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in the Social Science of the Internet from the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. Before Gemic, he spent his early career juggling artificial intelligence policy and working at a beloved fermented foods laboratory under a railway arch in London. Outside of Gemic, he can be found eating, drinking, walking his poodle Moses Mendelsohn — and obsessively doing the washing up at 2 am while listening to audiobooks.

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