There is an urgent need to help find ideas and propositions that have the capacity to transform people’s lives. The drivers for a sea change in entrepreneurship started in 1991 when the Berlin Wall came down and when India and China embraced open(ish) market systems. It’s been said there used to be two labour forces, one in the Soviet (closed) economic system and the other in the capitalist system with one and half billion working people in each. After 1991, we have one overall system of three billion workers.
The impact of such a shift, tied into the internet and telecoms revolution, means that we really have to think differently about the world, its resources, opportunities, political stability, empowerment and inclusion of numerous societies. The world is dividing and power bases are changing. There are demographic changes too. Not only is the world ‘flat’ but also at the same time there are increasing new demands. For example, the Middle East and North Africa region alone will need to help create tens of millions of jobs over the next decade or so. How is this going to happen?
Meanwhile, due to the inactivity of policy makers, individuals and communities are getting on with it all over the world. Entrepreneurship has become a social movement.
Is it time to help create meaningful enterprise?
We need to harness the technology, the social movement of entrepreneurship and the increasing levels of support for enterprise to help create and support ventures that can make a deep impact on society. When you see ventures that only rely on providing convenience shopping for the rich, shouldn’t we instead work on things that can answer questions for more people?
What kinds of enterprises might be meaningful?
Well there are the UN Millennium Development Goals – poverty, water, health, literacy, infectious diseases and so forth. There is climate change and sustainability. There is health care for the elderly. There are civil rights, human rights, improved and more efficient public services. Civic services, Fairtrade, micro lending, family support, child welfare. Frankly only our imagination limits the scope and scale of what we might do that is meaningful.
We might wish to limit the boundaries of what is meaningful. You might consider families, community, country or region – or to save the planet. At whatever level you see the opportunity, it can make a difference.
Growth businesses, too – need to work on thinking about the impact they make
Businesses that have been going for a number of years, perhaps owned by families for several generations, sometimes lose sight of why they are in business. The daily challenges can get the founders ground down. So, how will they get their mojo back and re-energise their businesses? It is this question when answered effectively which gives us an opportunity to make an impact. And the satisfaction that comes from making an impact is a huge measure of success.
The use of social media during the so-called Arab Spring was one of the most amazing examples of seeing a bottom-up call for change. It was not about making profits and listing for IPO – but it was for something much bigger. Sadly the lack of effective follow through by the so-called forces of democratic change has led to a human disaster. From our business perspective, this provides us with a lesson about ensuring we have mechanisms for following up on new and big ideas we may generate in our businesses.
And, by the way, what is wrong with doing well from doing good?
Many thanks to Dr Shai Vyakarnam, Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship, Cranfield School of Management for this blog content.