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Global Entrepreneurship: A Common Language

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Last week’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Dubai was a historic gathering not only because -- under the patronage of Sheik Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan of the UAE -- it brought together entrepreneurship leaders from nearly 100 nations, but because it heralded a new era of global commitment to this field.

As the chair and emcee of the gathering, I was astounded by the level of bottom up commitment to entrepreneurialism from all corners of the globe. It is aptly named a Congress for it is comprised of representatives of the leaders from those nations now committed to advancing entrepreneurship as the means to build economies and expand human welfare. As a grassroots movement, the "Unleashing Ideas" network that has been created around this is becoming a powerful force not just for inspiring people to become entrepreneurs, but in guiding policymakers and opinion leaders who want to help them.

At the GEC in Dubai were entrepreneurs, governments, foundations, global NGOs, corporate giants, universities and other leaders all sharing ideas for a massive expansion of global entrepreneurial activity in the future. It kicked off with the vision of Kauffman President Carl Schramm while a number of experts from different disciplines and cultures went to work on their ideas for campaigns and initiatives to increase entrepreneurial activity around the world.    

Take the following range of thinkers sharing a common passion for entrepreneurship: America’s NFTE Founder, Steve Mariotti and his talent for figuring out how entrepreneurship can keep kids in high school; Venezuela’s pro-entrepreneurship leader Angelo Burgazzi and his country’s negative view of capitalism; Russian Nina Kuznetsova’s recent success in inspiring 10,965 organizations to plan 15,628 innovation camps  for 453,647 young Russians; Uganda’s Charles Ocici and Enterprise Uganda’s leadership in challenging the Washington Consensus on SME’s international development in favor of a high growth entrepreneurship approach; Malaysia’s Dhakshinamoorthy “Dash” Balakrishnan’s passion for lighting millions of candles for entrepreneurship across his nation despite its negative stigma when he began.

It is not surprising that when faced with a challenge from Adel Al Shared of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation of how to help a new generation of entrepreneurs in the Arab world, Indian Sun Vice Chairman Shiv Khemka offered this refreshing view. 

"The blessing of a wealthy country is the ability to build infrastructures, schools, universities and social welfare systems for all the young people," he said "However, the curse is that the fire in the belly needed in youth to drive them to create and compete is hard to find. The thing for them to do now is to go to Africa and Asia and try to start things there. In those environments where there is the grind, it will create the entrepreneurial rigor necessary for success in markets where there is huge scope for future growth."
I was awe struck by the potential for great work at these cultural intersections and the value of such a melting pot to finding new ways of looking at things. Once again, during these discouraging times, entrepreneurship is a shining beacon. Only now it is no longer just an American beacon.  There appears to be brighter lights on hills across the world – certainly in the 100 nations who showed up last week. This is a good sign for Global Entrepreneurship Week in November which at the outset already enjoys a base of 7 million participants and 32,000 events in 88 countries. It is also a good omen for President Obama’s global entrepreneurship summit this April in Washington which focuses on nations with a high population of Muslims.
It does not matter where people are born. It will take as many smart entrepreneurs as we can nurture to innovate us away from sluggish global economic growth. The "global entrepreneur" appears to have a solid place in all of our immediate futures.

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. 

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