Nelson Duenas was hired over the summer as an assistant professor in accounting at the Telfer School of Management. He completed both his PhD and MBA at Concordia University. Prior to entering academia, he worked as a professional accountant internationally. We interviewed him to learn more about his research interests.
Why did you choose to study accounting? Any personal motivation behind your interest?
My research is about accounting practices in international development projects. This motivation comes from my time working as external auditor for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that implement these projects in my native country, Colombia. As NGOs are funded by foreign donors, it is very important to understand how funds are managed and controlled, to create meaningful impact for the communities involved.
How does your PhD training inform your current research program?
My PhD was highly rigorous. I was lucky to learn from great qualitative researchers that trained me in properly doing interviews, field case studies in organizations and, ultimately, making sense of the experiences and social phenomena I study. Also, the skills I gathered as an accountant and financial analyst in various industries allowed me to understand different organizational realities and to connect with people in organizations.
Do you have any new research highlights to share? Any interesting publications in the pipeline or new projects you’re excited about?
I just finished a three-month case study with a Colombian NGO that implements projects on peacebuilding. I studied its accounting practices, controls, management approaches and its relationships with funders. A preliminary finding is that NGOs and beneficiary communities are slowly getting more autonomy in the inception and implementation of development projects. Usually, foreign funding comes with a lot of terms and restrictions dictated by donors. However, there is a demand for locally-led development that recognizes the perspectives and knowledge of local actors in the development chain. Hopefully this will lead to a managerial reform in the international development sector.
How can your research influence business communities in Canada?
Canada is one of the main providers of international development assistance globally. Many multinational NGOs have regional offices in Canada. My research contributes to a better understanding of the managerial ties between Canadian actors, as providers of funds, and local NGOs in Global South countries, as recipients of the assistance. Different actors within international development have been calling for reforms that make this field more inclusive of the voices of local actors and beneficiaries, and my research taps into this need.