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Better Entrepreneurship Research for Policymakers Worldwide

Jonathan Ortmans on October 14, 2013 Source: Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship

While the number of programs aimed at encouraging more entrepreneurship has increased rapidly, research has not kept pace. A new effort announced last Friday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry aims to help fill that void. The Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) was founded by the Kauffman Foundation, World Bank and Endeavor Insight to standardize data and work to gain a better understanding of policy barriers and what the right policies are for fostering entrepreneurship. 

As noted in my last post, I participated in a summit in Malaysia convened by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and U.S. President Barack Obama. While President Obama had to join by video due to the U.S. government shutdown, he still sent two members of his cabinet, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. The event was well planned and a sincere effort by all concerned to foster smarter government worldwide that is more responsive to the importance of new firm creation as opposed to the larger mission governments have of supporting SMEs.

There were several announcements made at the conference, but I think the alignment of major institutions that conduct research in the field was perhaps the most important at an event convened primarily by government entities. Too often, efforts to promote entrepreneurship continue to operate on assumptions that cannot be backed up by data. Yet there are plenty of research institutions committed to providing policymakers with what they need to make smarter decisions.

"We must make sure governments support entrepreneurs and the amazing work you are all doing," Kerry told the Global Entrepreneurship Summit delegates. "That's why President Obama is joining forces with organizations like the Kauffman Foundation, the World Bank and others to create a new research network that will help policymakers promote growth in startups."

Likewise, in comments shared via video broadcast, President Obama shared his enthusiasm for "a new research network that will equip governments with proven tools to help entrepreneurs succeed." 

Joining the key founding partners are the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, the Argidius Foundation, the Lemelson Foundation, MaRS Data Catalyst, Nesta, Omidyar Network and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The research network will engage in the following activities:

  • Support research that advances the network's goals;
  • Translate research into policy actions; and
  • Generate lessons and insights for entrepreneurs and programs.

Next steps include:

  • Sharing a research agenda that will guide the activities and decisions of the network;
  • Identifying researchers and programs for collaboration;
  • Organizing events that allow participants and others to come together and advance the network's goals.


As part of the preliminary work leading up to forming the research network, Kauffman researchers looked at 10 assessments of global entrepreneurship and innovation, all produced within the past few years, containing 71 individual indicators. The researchers found that eight of these indicators correlated well with each other and had the highest correlation with the World Bank's measure of new firm density.

Because simple rankings often can be misleading and unhelpful to policymakers looking to promote entrepreneurship, the researchers compiled the eight indicators into scorecards for selected countries that can be used for gauging a country's progress on certain measures.

"This exercise certainly is not definitive – it represents a rough attempt to synthesize various global measures of 

entrepreneurship, and we are happy to share these scorecards," said Stangler. "Most importantly, this illustrates the need for not only standardized data but also better research on the entrepreneurial process and what policymakers can do to support entrepreneurial growth."

At a policy roundtable I led at the summit (which I will write about next week), it was clear there is plenty of sincere experimenting by governments keen not to miss the startup revolution along with the jobs, innovation and economic growth they bring. And now that the battle to convince nations that entrepreneurs are more important than they had previously thought has been won, more cohesion among the global entrepreneurship research community is a natural next step. 

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