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Tidings of Joy: An Optimistic Note for the Holidays

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

The spiritof entrepreneurship was alive and well at a recent gathering of more than 400 Georgetownstudents interested in globalization and entrepreneurship. When asked why theycame, it is not surprising that most aspired in some way to make a differenceas a “social innovator.”  What was moreof a surprise to me was their deep curiosity about the marketplace as a meansto make a difference in their world.

In aperiod where capitalism has been under the microscope, this new calling isbreathing fresh life into business thinking. Young people are increasinglyinspired to act on their ideas, out of a dual motivation to both do well and dogood. Young entrepreneurs worldwide not only recognize the notion that allboats rise on an incoming tide, but that they can create social and economicvalue as entrepreneurs. These young entrepreneurs may not want to work for WallStreet, but they are smart enough to welcome CEOs as their mentors andinvestors.  As they enter the job markettoday, they are looking for more than money—they’re looking for meaning and foran opportunity to help others. Business and youthful idealism are apparently nolonger at odds.

This kindof entrepreneurial drive has allowed a global movement of young peopleunleashing their entrepreneurial ideas to grow under the auspices of GlobalEntrepreneurship Week. DuringNovember 16-22 2009, more than four million people in 88 countries connectedthrough local, national and global activities ranging from large-scale businessidea competitions to intimate networking gatherings. The Week showed that thecall to be “social innovator” is a global phenomenon.

With the fading of the “do good vs. do well” hostility,the doors to entrepreneurial innovation open to a significantly larger pool oftalent. These new entrepreneurs are inspired by others already turningtheir creativity and ingenuity into products, processes and technologies thatsolve problems, generate wealth, make jobs and improve lives.

This global trend should give us all hope amid looming economicchallenges this holiday season.  It is anaffirmation that upstream there is a much larger pool of talented entrepreneursabout to enter the world stage … just when the we need them most. Policymakersshould pay attention to this job-generating resource and afford themopportunity to unleash their potential to meet global needs through morepro-entrepreneurship policies.  Let’s notlook this gift horse in the mouth!

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Jonathan Ortmans is president of the Public Forum Institute, anon-partisan organization dedicated to fostering dialogue on importantpolicy issues. In this capacity, he leads the Policy Dialogue onEntrepreneurship, focused on public policies to promoteentrepreneurship in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, heserves as a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation.

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