Research, reform, bad ideas and conflicts

by MMC
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“At GEN, we always say that we want to invite people to consider entrepreneurship as an option. » — Cecilia Wessinger, Global Entrepreneurship Network

From the third and final (official) day of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Melbourne, some thoughts and takeaways from another day of enlightening sessions and conversations.

Entrepreneurship as a “path to peace”

In a unique session on “Entrepreneurship in Conflict Situations,” speakers from Iraq and Syria spoke about the promise and power of entrepreneurship in these and other countries. It may seem a little glib to simply claim that entrepreneurship is the best method of post-conflict reconstruction – easier said than done. These speakers were not flippant, they were not Pollyanas. Entrepreneurship in Iraq, said Mujahed Waisi, has helped create stability, it has fueled job creation; this has contributed to skills development and diversified the economy.

Ahmad Soufian Bayram, who has written three books on refugee entrepreneurship, observed that entrepreneurship is often “not optional” in conflict situations. It is necessary. People don’t necessarily talk about entrepreneurship – and they don’t intend to “build a unicorn” – but for them, starting a business is the only way to survive. Refugee entrepreneurs, he says, are “real scammers”. But again, we shouldn’t be flippant about this and just applaud human resilience. Ahmad pointed out that many external efforts can actually “do harm” when trying to help local entrepreneurs. When you have to chat with your co-founders daily to see if you can even meet in person – “is our building still there?” » – external interventions must be carefully calibrated.

Absurd bad ideas are still circulating about entrepreneurship policy

A next one Startup fever This article will examine what we might call the “we can’t be serious political agenda.” This agenda is full of ideas that have already been proven wrong or are so counter to what entrepreneurship is that it’s hard to believe they are still seriously considered. One was alive and well at at least one GEC session: the idea that countries should succeed Stronger start a business, because then only the “right” types of people will go into entrepreneurship.

Where to start with this? This is an idea that has been around for a long time. One of the major college textbooks on entrepreneurship had it years ago. This is hidden in political circles. A complete takedown of this idea will be carried out via Startup Fever; suffice it to say here that we I just can’t know which new businesses will succeed or not. Why would we try to prejudge who will and will not – who should and should not – be an entrepreneur?

Process > Substance

In a highly engaging session on “Startup Laws and Regulatory Reform,” three speakers spoke about entrepreneurship policy at the local, state, and national levels.

  • Jennifer McDonald from Institute for Justice spoke about his work with cities to remove (sometimes ridiculous) barriers to business creation and growth.
  • Jason Grill Right to start discussed this organization’s work with U.S. states to pass new legislation giving citizens the “right to begin.”
  • Jon Stever from Policy Innovation Foundation spoke about their work facilitating grassroots policy development. Their efforts resulted in the adoption of several startup laws across Africa.

It was, of course, ironic that three Americans (including an expat based in Africa) were invited to discuss the Startup Acts when the United States has not passed one, despite repeated presentations to Congress. The most interesting point to remember from listening to them is that even if the substance of the Startup Acts is important, we must pay attention to the process to get entrepreneurship policy across the finish line. And this process does not end with adoption: the entities (departments, ministries, offices) responsible for implementation can actually object to what has been enacted.

Grill highlighted the area of ​​public procurement, where contracting officials may not welcome disruption to their established bidding and award processes. Stever emphasized that a participatory upstream policy-making process, including direct input from entrepreneurs, can help ensure downstream accountability when it comes to implementation. Entrepreneurs (and others) involved in the design and creation of a Startup Act will expect and demand that reforms be implemented.

Does research not respond to policies?

One of the themes of the GEN Research meeting, led by Ted Zoller, was that there is a “lack of connections” between the entrepreneurship research and policy communities. For those of us who have spent a good portion of our careers trying to make these connections, it was disheartening to hear this. But it’s not for lack of trying.

Philip Gaskin of the Kauffman Foundation, in his remarks on inclusion (or lack thereof), highlighted the persistent and pernicious gaps in access to capital which hit women and people of color particularly hard. Research on this topic, he said, is “now sufficient.” It was the “failure of policymakers to accept the research and do something about it” that prevented meaningful action.

Chris Haley of GEN and Startup Genome reviewed what is and is not known about the effectiveness of entrepreneurship support programs such as accelerators and incubators. The strength of many research findings, he said, is “still not great.” This is mainly due to gaps in research design rather than program failures. However, he acknowledged that the results were “mixed” for many programs.

Ironically, during the session on Conflict Entrepreneurship, Ahmad noted that “overweighting effectiveness over inclusion” is an approach that can actively harm fragile states emerging from conflict. Too often, he says, outside interventions have focused on the effectiveness of a program, such as an accelerator, rather than the many ways it could help the community.

Final word from the GEC

One of the most important comments made today came from Chad Renando of GEN Australia. Chad led a discussion at the GEN Research meeting on “ecosystem mapping.” We cannot limit our entrepreneurial ecosystem mapping exercises (or all of our approaches to cultivating vibrant ecosystems) to what is directly intended or designed to help entrepreneurs:

  • “If we don’t recognize the role of things like child care or housing,” Chad said, “you’re not going to get the entrepreneurial ecosystem that you want, even if you’ve created 10 accelerator programs. »

Exactly.

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