Natasha Ashley Headshot

Research Topic

Responding to crises: how innovative SMEs in Rwanda, Kenya, and Nigeria deploy resilience strategies, social capital, and founder identities to survive and thrive

Research Summary

My research aims to contribute new insights about the multiplicity of threats to survival and the unique combinations of resilience strategies used to respond to these crises by small and medium enterprises in Rwanda, Kenya, and Nigeria. In addition, it will explore the influence of social capital, incubator support, and founder identity on the resilience strategies used to survive and thrive in the face of crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.


Research Area


Natasha was awarded a prestigious Skye Scholarship from her native South Africa which facilitated a move to Scotland to read for a second masters degree at the University of Edinburgh Business School, following on from a Master of Commerce degree as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar at the University of Pretoria.

Her research has focused on African entrepreneurs and social innovators in Rwanda and Nigeria. She received the Robertson-Ness Travel Scholarship and Academic Excellence Award from the University of Edinburgh.

Experienced in working in the third sector, Natasha has worked on projects extending from child refugee education in Lebanon and Africa to widening access to higher education. She is passionate about youth development, increasing opportunities, and the importance of levelling-up education for all.

She currently works as Programme Executive at the final and only remaining home of 18th century Scottish philosopher and economist, Adam Smith. Natasha was raised in South Africa but the hills of Scotland have captured her imagination. She is energised by long distance road running, Scottish history, and photography.

Education and Qualifications

Institute Award Dates
University of Edinburgh Business School PhD Management Part-time candidate (expected completion date 2026) 2020–Current
University of Edinburgh Business School MSc International Business and Emerging Markets (1.1 with distinction) 2017–2018
University of Pretoria Master of Commerce – Business Management (with distinction) 2016–2017
University of Pretoria Honours Bachelor of Commerce – Business Management (with distinction) 2015–2016
University of Pretoria Bachelor of Commerce – Business Management (with distinction) 2012–2014

Professional & Voluntary Experience

  • Programme Executive, Adam Smith's Panmure House (2020–Current)
  • Senior Partnerships Coordinator, Theirworld (2018–2020)
  • Strategic Project Assistant, University of Edinburgh Business School (2018–2019)
  • Behavioural Team Advisory, Mbegu Platform (2018–2019)
  • Student Warden, Collegiate AC (2017–2018)
  • Member of the Business Advisory Board, Enactus South Africa, University of Pretoria Chapter (2016–2017)
  • Research Assistant, University of Pretoria (2016)
  • Assistant Lecturer, University of Pretoria (2015)