Expanding Human Dignity with Entrepreneurship

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Many readers of this blog are familiar with the Kauffman Foundation and its work around the role of the entrepreneur as the chief agent for innovation, job creation and economic growth. Today, I would like to comment on another contribution of entrepreneurship to society that Kauffman Foundation President Carl Schramm has lead the way in making an integral part of our understanding this field - the expansion of human dignity. 

This fall, a new movie will be released called Ten9Eight.  If you were lucky enough to be invited to a pre-screening as I was, since a picture tells a thousand words, you will not need this blog to show how expanding opportunities for entrepreneurship is a powerful tool in tackling social challenges. Before you have even finished your 10-second countdown for the film to begin, another high school student in America has decided to throw in the towel. Statistics show that a kid drops out of high school every 9 seconds in the U.S. But the numbers also indicate that the majority of high school drop-outs say they would have stayed in school if they could take courses that seemed more relevant to their lives.

This short documentary reveals the opportunities that entrepreneurial skills can open for an average young high school student in struggling neighborhoods, such as 19-year old Rodney Walker who is the proud founder of Forever Life Music and Video Productions. For many of his peers and members of his own family, success seems like a remote road. But for Rodney and those who are offered basic training in entrepreneurship, opportunities for a successful future open up. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, NFTE, is offering just that. Through an innovative entrepreneurship curriculum, NFTE has been helping young people from low-income communities around the country build skills and unlock their entrepreneurial creativity.

Entrepreneurship education programs and business competition programs tap on our youth’s inventiveness and give them opportunities to interact with more seasoned entrepreneurs. We need more entrepreneurship education early on to inspire a new generation of innovators to direct their energy toward transforming their ideals into real-life ventures. Such programs can endow young minds everywhere with the resilience to rise well above the statistical norm.

If you have not seen the film, I hope you will when Ten9Eight is officially released during Global Entrepreneurship Week on the evening of November 16, 2009 in Washington, DC and throughout the Week across America.  Details will be posted here on our entrepreneurship events directory nearer the time. Be warned though for if, as many readers of this blog, you are already passionate about entrepreneurship, plan ahead as this film will drive you to take action to go out to a high school and light the entrepreneurship candle in as many kids as you can.

Jonathan Ortmans is a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation where he focuses on public policies to promote entrepreneurship in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, he serves as president of the Public Forum Institute, a non-partisan organization dedicated to fostering dialogue on important policy issues.

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