Diana Hollmann

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2009

It’s Friday in the 2009 Global Entrepreneurship Week! 20,000 events involving 5 million people around the globe are taking place this week lasting from November 16-22.

On Monday, here in Washington, IFC held a one-day conference addressing the issue of achieving scale in entrepreneurship. The conference featured representatives from IFC and World Bank, the White House, the US Department of State, Kauffman Foundation as well as entrepreneurs. Michael Fairbanks from the OTF Group and Iqbal Quadir, founder of GrameenPhone and the MIT Legatum Center, were prominent guests who shared their experiences. Panels and presentations revolved around the importance of an enabling environment on the one hand and on governance structures within the enterprise on the other hand.

Adding to this more practical perspective on entrepreneurship, the political perspective was discussed as well. A representative from the Department of State talked about the importance of entrepreneurship and economic stability as a basis for political stability and security. In his Cairo speech, President Obama emphasized his commitment to entrepreneurship not only in the private sector, but also within communities in general.

Hillary Clinton was also featured (at least virtually) talking about the importance and potential of entrepreneurship:

The U.S. administration is currently organizing an Entrepreneurship Summit for the first quarter of 2010. With a focus on promoting entrepreneurship in Muslim countries, the summit will bring together 150 delegates including entrepreneurs, leaders of entrepreneurship networks, investors, and academics. The idea is to initiate a momentum in advancing entrepreneurship that begins before the summit and lasts after the summit has concluded. Information may be viewed on the summit website. The specific dates for the summit are to be announced soon.

An Afterthought

The growing interest of the public sector opens up a new question on the relationship between entrepreneurship promotion and government. Looking at the entrepreneurship.gov website (set up by a public-private partnership between the Kauffman Foundation and the U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration), is there a risk that entrepreneurship promotion becomes politicized?

On the one hand, it is certainly positive to see that actors from all sectors – public, private and citizen – become more open for collaboration across sectors. On the other hand, should entrepreneurship be promoted with political and national security considerations in mind? What is the role of the state in entrepreneurship promotion? Will it increase or decrease the credibility of other intermediaries?