There is a reason that we call the interlocking network of institutions, attitudes, and policies that enables entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses an “entrepreneurship ecosystem.” An ecosystem is not planted like a garden: it is too complex and unpredictable to simply build from scratch (as the famous Biosphere 2 experiments showed). And, like natural ecosystems, entrepreneurship ecosystems are challenging but vital to cultivate — and all too easy to destroy.
Over the past two days here in Chicago at the Democracy that Delivers for Entrepreneurs conference, panelists from the worlds of business, finance, education, associations, and nonprofits engaged in a lively and productive discussion of how this ecosystem can be nurtured and developed.
It would be impossible to completely distill the diverse range of topics covered at this conference into a single blog post – and we intend to share much more conference content (including videos of each panel) in the coming days and weeks here on the blog and at democracythatdelivers.com. As a start, below are are four of the key lessons that came up repeatedly throughout the conference:
As today marks the inaugural United Nation’s International Day of Girl Child, a day to promote girls’ human rights, let’s reflect on why it matters to invest in girls.
Study after study has shown that education for girls and women has ripple effects within the family and across societies. Girls who have been educated are more likely to marry later in life, have smaller and healthier families, and have greater job prospects.
Youth are an integral part of economic and democratic development, yet all too often face a situation of high youth unemployment or are left out of the policymaking process. Today in celebration of International Youth Day, we’d like to share glimpses of how young people themselves are taking action and assuming leadership in these programs and beyond.
After completing the Tashabos program, Amena Mohammady turned a community problem into a business opportunity that now allows her to earn a living and helps cover costs for her entire family.
Recognizing that heavy snowfall and rough roads during the winter make delivering fresh produce to Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Province extremely difficult, Ms. Mohammady built her own greenhouse to grow and sell vegetables. Drawing on skills learned from the CIPE’s Tashabos program, she sells her product every two days at the Bamiyan main bazaar.
In Peru, Instituto Invertir also developed a business training program for University students. EmprendeAhora not only teaches the principles of starting a business; it also dispels negative perceptions of democracy and market economy. Wilson Cotrina used the knowledge he gained from EmprendeAhora to open a pizzeria, Amore Pizza, in Cajamarca. It offers over 20 pizza varieties, take out and local delivery service, and has recently expanded to a second location. Cynthia Apaza Panca opened DeliFru, a local juice bar that also offers snacks, and supports the community by seeking local ingredients. These are just two examples of the over 40 businesses that have been created by EmprendeAhora alumni.
In 2009, Irina Alionte won the CIPE Youth Essay Contest and was so inspired she organized a similar competition at her family’s business, Shakespeare School, in Romania. The spin-off contest has separate categories for middle and high school students between 11 and 19 years old, and awards prizes to the winners. Now in the third round of competition, students are asked to write on a variety of categories ranging from favorite literary characters for younger contestants to the future of social platforms and the social effects of volunteerism for high school students. Irina is involved in every aspect of the competition from securing prizes for contestants to seeking out sponsors and marketing opportunities. She has proven that a contest initially intended to highlight youth ideas, can turn in to something much further reaching.
A large number of university students in Pakistan specialize in business information and technology, but the majority of graduates look for employment rather than explore their own entrepreneurial ventures. In an effort to spark entrepreneurship in Pakistan, CIPE recently partnered with the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT Enabled Services (P@SHA) to identify entry barriers young entrepreneurs in the IT sector face, as well legal and regulatory reforms needed to improve entrepreneurial opportunities. During the first stakeholders dialogue participants recognized a lack of mentoring, human resources, finance, and an inadequate knowledge of local laws and regulations as major factors preventing youth from pursuing IT entrepreneurial activities.
The CIPE Regional Office (Romania) staff recently had the opportunity to meet with Irina Alionte, one of the winners of CIPE’s Youth Essay Competition (2009 edition). In a previous article, the CIPE Regional Office reported on the influence of CIPE’s essay competition on Irina’s subsequent trajectory.
Irina continues to act as marketing manager at her family’s business – the Shakespeare School, a Bucharest-based foreign languages educational institution which specializes in English courses for students between five and twenty-five years old. In addition, Irina’s plans include pursuing post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom, as well as opening a foundation aiming to support academic excellence upon completing her studies and returning to Romania.
Having won the CIPE essay competition in 2009, Irina was inspired to organize an essay competition (in English) at the Shakespeare School, for two categories of participants: middle- and high-school students. She took on the responsibility of organizing the school’s annual English competition, which is open to youth between eleven and nineteen years old. Irina is in charge of promoting the competition with current and potential sponsors and partners by preparing a customized presentation of the project (history, impact, objectives, as well as an overview of the mutual benefits of cooperation).
In 2011, the School opened the third edition of the competition. This year, they’ve invited middle-school participants to provide their personal interpretation of four images and express their thoughts on the traits of an ideal world, based on those images. High-school participants will have the opportunity to ponder the role of volunteer work and its positive social effects.
This year’s competition has been designed to take place under the slogan “Write, race, win!”, which was not a coincidental choice. With the help of a professional advertising company, the School managed to give a visual expression to the purpose of this year’s competition, namely to encourage the participants to compete for the sake of developing their competitive spirit and their desire for improvement, rather than the prize itself.
However, the prizes are not to be neglected. It is worth mentioning that the school is now promising to reward the winners with a greater number of attractive prizes, including: summer schools for high-school-level participants at Cambridge and Oxford, and similar study experiences for middle-school-level participants at St. Michael’s College, and Harrow House. Harrow House is Shakespeare School’s newest partner and has selected to work with this Romanian institution precisely because of the popularity of its programs and competitions. Other prizes include: books, dictionaries, free admission to examinations offered by the British Council, sporting goods, as well as language courses offered by Shakespeare School.
The second edition of the competition was far more successful than the previous – in 2009, 200 participants registered, whereas the 2010 edition featured 3100 essays from participants in over 350 locations across Romania. As such, the 2011 competition is expected to be an even bigger hit among the Romanian youth.
Two factors seem to support this assumption.
First, the competition has received support from some of the most prominent media outlets in Romania, among which TVR (traditionally known as the Romanian “public television”) and Kiss FM, along with other well-known institutions (British Council, Mirunette International Education, Dinu Patriciu Foundation, Carturesti Bookstores, etc.). The competition has also been advertised on the website of the European Commission office in Romania, in the context of the European Year of Volunteering (2011). To view the ad that has been aired on TVR 1, Romania’s national TV channel, please visit:
Second, the concept of the competition itself seems to have been borrowed by another Romanian foundation, which aims to support education by providing study opportunities both in Romania and abroad. CIPE programs can become a far-reaching source of inspiration at times.
Universidade Federal do Paraná (UFPR, Federal University of Parana). The oldest university in Brazil. Founded in 1912.
It is no secret that education systems all over the world are having trouble adapting to the changing needs of domestic labor markets. Fewer public sector jobs are available and university graduates often lack the needed skills for landing a gig in the private sector. Lost in this refrain, however, is the role that the private sector can play in education reform.
It's 40 days till Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010.
“In five years how many youth will you serve in your countries?” remarked Kate McKee, a senior advisor to the World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and moderator of a recent panel on youth financial services. As the panelists from banks and microfinance institutions in Africa and the Middle East tried to qualify their remarks, McKee interjected, “What is your forecast?” discouraging their attempts at injecting nuance into their responses.
McKee’s message was clear: Scale up, scale up, scale up! There are a growing number of unemployed youth in developing countries and each is an entrepreneur whose potential is idly waiting to be realized through access to credit and savings schemes.
Throughout this week, CIPE will be celebrating International Day of Democracy on September 15 through a series of blog posts. Check back with us, and feel free to let us know about your thoughts on democracy.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.