Global Entrepreneurship Summit to boost social business agenda
The sponsorship of the GES by the US government is more than promotion of ‘brand USA’ around the world
The 7th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), set to open this week in Silicon Valley, has attracted over 1,000 conferees out of 4,500 applicants from around the world. It will be hosted by President Barack Obama who, starting with the inaugural summit in 2009, has made entrepreneurship promotion an element of his foreign policy. The Summit, to be organized at Stanford University, aims to connect investors and entrepreneurs – 100 from each of six global regions plus 100 from the United States – with opportunities for investment and collaboration.
The sponsorship of the GES movement by the US government is more than promotion of “brand USA” around the world, the State Department’s Public Affairs chief, Rick Stengel, said during a summit announcement event earlier this year. He said: “It is a tool for development, for empowering marginalized groups and for combating violent extremism. It’s vital to creating the conditions for global growth and prosperity, particularly in regions where chaos and war have shattered dreams.”
The social change agenda is only one element of the Summit, which addresses a host of challenges and opportunities for global entrepreneurs. The attention to basic entrepreneurship endeavors such as creative execution on ideas, branding, startup community building, leveraging technology and managing growth, parallels the needs for social businesses.
“If what you want to do is address social problems, no matter what you want to do from an entrepreneur perspective, you still need to have the skill and knowledge that comes from starting and running an enterprise,” said Jose Gonzalez, who teaches social entrepreneurship at the Jack C. Massey School of Business at Belmont University in Nashville, the first American university with a major in social entrepreneurship. “The pieces are the same, whether it’s financing, strategy or marketing,” he said.
The GES organizers see social entrepreneurship as filling some of the gap through expansion of social finance and growth of for-benefit businessesPatrick Ryan
Social entrepreneurship, also called social business, emerged from the desire to address issues and solve problems through market solutions rather than solely through traditional philanthropic channels said, Gonzalez. “Social entrepreneurship is getting a lot of attention, trending nationally and worldwide,” he added, “It’s a term that resonates with a lot of people who want to address major social problems whether it’s inequality, poverty, environmental problems, gender issues, whatever the social issues are at the moment.”
The social business movement is best known for Nobel Laureate Mohammed Yunus who pioneered microcredit to provide opportunities for poverty stricken people. Seven million borrowers had been given loans averaging $100 by Yunus’ Grameen Bank by 2006 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
This week’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley will include high profile panelists from the social business community addressing key challenges and sharing solutions to the hurdles facing the global business community. The question of whether social business efforts are receiving sufficient attention could be answered by a panel on global sustainable development.
Its introduction noted it will take $4 trillion a year to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed to by global leaders last year, much more than governments and traditional philanthropy together can afford. The GES organizers see social entrepreneurship as filling some of the gap through expansion of social finance and growth of for-benefit businesses, as they refer to enterprises that aim for positive social and environmental impact, not just financial return.
What more can be done to build social entrepreneurship? Boost support to educational efforts and incubators is what Dr. Bernard Turner, head of the Belmont University Center for Social Entrepreneurship, said he would tell President Obama if asked. “This is not a fad, not a flash in the pan,” said Turner. “It’s important to have educational opportunities that produce professionals for this important endeavor.”
Belmont’s Gonzalez also commented on the future of social entrepreneurship, an important topic for discussion at the Silicon Valley gathering this week. “It’s well documented that much of social business is being driven by the motivations of the millennial generation.” Gonzalez said. “They are an important component in social entrepreneurship, as this model is going to be increasingly necessary, unfortunately. Our social issues are not getting any easier so social entrepreneurship is here to stay.”
Patrick Ryan is an analyst, commentator, publisher and consultant on international affairs. He has lived and worked in the Gulf at various times since the 1970s during his 26-year career as a US Navy officer and later an independent writer. He has been publisher and editor of the SUSRIS.com project chronicling Saudi-US relations since 2003. He regularly contributes to international media on Gulf affairs and he is based in Nashville, Tennessee. He tweets @PatRyanReport