A Global Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship
Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute
During this past Week I have been “Globe Blogging” and have reported from the road about various Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 16-22) policy events among others from around the world. Entrepreneurs, development organizations, policy leaders and entrepreneurship researchers lent their voices and experiences to some series policy dialogues. When top-level officials engaged in Global Entrepreneurship Week they sent a message to their constituents about the government’s support for entrepreneurship, making young minds even more comfortable with the idea of doing good through the marketplace. Let’s hope decision makers will be motivated to more urgently enact regulatory reforms and advance other polices to bolster their nation’s entrepreneurial climate.
From one end of the earth to the other, the importance governments attach to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation as a means to expand human welfare is emerging very strongly. In the United States, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have joined dozens of ministers and heads of state around the world in applauding and participating in Global Entrepreneurship Week. President Obama proclaimed November 16 - 22 to be Entrepreneurship Week in the United States, and called "upon all Americans to recognize the important contributions of entrepreneurs to our economy."
In Cairo, Egypt the Minister of Education, the President of the Financial Supervisory Authority and other high-ranking officials convened on November 15 to launch Global Entrepreneurship Week activities in the country and discuss how to build an entrepreneurial environment through education, cultural change and pro-entrepreneurship policies. The topic of education produced interesting idea exchanges. With a panel that included around 10 students, the recommendations that came out of the session on education were not only to introduce entrepreneurship education in schools and universities, but also to change how all subjects are being taught to encourage creativity. Students also called for more help when they turn to entrepreneurship when jobs are scare. As one student put it, "when we graduate and apply for a job, employers ask for years of experience….we do not have years of experience as fresh graduates, we need support to start our own businesses in order to gain this experience."
In Vienna, Austria the Business Council for International Understanding (BCIU) hosted a forum on "Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Central and Eastern European Competitiveness" on November 15-17. At this event, business leaders, policy leaders and entrepreneurship experts exchanged thoughts on the role of entrepreneurship in the post-Communist transition. A concern among many participants in this event was the question of how we can help governments shake the natural public sector tendency to think "programs."
In Dubai, the Best Practices in Entrepreneurship Policy (BPEP) conference on November 19-20 brought together thought leaders who want improve the policy climate for entrepreneurship in the Arab region. They explored not only the cultural aspects of entrepreneurialism, but also the incentive structures at work. Policy recommendations coming out of the BPEP conference discussed their fear of failure, which is institutionalized in many countries through bankruptcy and corporate governance regulations. For example, Dale Murphy, Senior Research Fellow at the Dubai School of Government pointed out the importance of decriminalizing bankruptcy: "youth should not fear going to debtor’s prison if their legitimate business goes bankrupt".
In Doha, the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Forum during November 16-18 gathered United Arab Emirates leaders from governments, private sector, civil society, schools and media to exchange experiences and identify new education techniques, players and technologies that will enhance human capacity across borders. An interesting theme in this conference, as in Egypt, was the call for innovation in education, from content to delivery.
In Washington, D.C., the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation brought together development partners, foundations, research institutions, IFC clients and practitioners in a workshop on "Achieving Scale in Entrepreneurship" on November 16. This event focused on the entrepreneurship landscape in emerging markets. Here, Robert Litan, Vice President for Research & Policy at the Kauffman Foundation, underscored an important backdrop of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009: the nascent global recovery from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. While acknowledging that certain excesses of financial capitalism were to blame for the meltdown, he underscored that this does not warrant broad criticism of free markets as a whole – especially in regards to entrepreneurial capitalism. Litan argued that the economy needs "another entrepreneurial revolution" in order to sustain our current recovery.
Even more policy discussion took place in Washington, D.C. at the World Bank during the “Conference on Entrepreneurship and Growth” on November 19-20. This event explored government regulations and reforms, private sector initiatives, and financial sector developments that affect firm creation and size, as well as the dynamism of incumbent firms. We will let you know as soon as the video of this conference becomes available.
Many other policy summits and conferences took place around the world, including in China, Bolivia and Chile. All these events brought together entrepreneurs and government officials to discuss how to collaborate to improve the quality of life of people around the world through entrepreneurship. At the same time, policymakers were able to witness the energy of the more than four million young people across 88 countries exploring new venture creation as a career path through Global Entrepreneurship Week activities.
The Week demonstrated to policymakers that there is a new wave of entrepreneurialism before us. If we want to build economies and make jobs, policymakers must now quickly create the most favorable environment possible for these entrepreneurs. The knowledge and policy idea exchanges have built momentum this week towards such institutionalized commitments to entrepreneurial cultures and economies.
Jonathan Ortmans is president of the Public Forum Institute, a non-partisan organization dedicated to fostering dialogue on important policy issues. In this capacity, he leads the Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship, focused on public policies to promote entrepreneurship in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, he serves as a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation.