The importance of dividing entrepreneurs into two distinct categories: transformational and subsistence was the topic of an inspiring talk of MIT Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, Antoinette Schoar at the World Bank. In crude terms, subsistence entrepreneurs are solely concerned about their survival, and are tiny businesses and unlikely to grow or create new jobs. However, it needs to be said that they remain an important economic pillar, especially for developing countries. Contrarily, transformational entrepreneurs, the considerably smaller group of the two, strive for growth, are generally larger business owners, and provide relatively secure employment opportunities for others. They are the catalysts of innovation, job creation, productivity, and competitiveness. This leads to a crucial question for development – should we target our policies towards entrepreneurs with transformational qualities even though they may not be the poorest of the poor since these are the ones that create more, sustainable and (often) productive employment?
Aleem Walji, director of the World Bank’s Innovation Labs, recently gave an interview to Forbes and the Skoll World Forum on all things innovation and development. This blog post highlights some of the key points from that interview.
When I joined the World Bank at the end of 2009, I was asked how we could more systematically support innovation. We started by building on the Bank’s own “access to information” policy, which was foundational for our Open Data initiative. When we made our data available to the world in a machine-readable format, searchable, and reusable, back in April 2010, people came in droves. Within months, we had more traffic to our data catalogue than the World Bank homepage.
Another powerful insight we had was to link maps through “Mapping for Results” with poverty data and project results to show the relationship between where we lend, where poor people live, and the results of our work. While it may sound simple or obvious, even today development partners struggle to map the relationship between projects they fund and poverty indicators in a given country. We quickly realized the value of “mapping aid” and making aid data transparent and comparable. The Open Aid Partnership grew out of that impulse.
Brace yourself for some dramatic new evidence about innovation and entrepreneurship – and and circle the dates October 16 and 17 on your calendar.
Propelling leading-edge ideas about competitiveness, Professor Mariana Mazzucato will be among the luminaries at a major conference at the World Bank in mid-October, organized by the Bank's global practice on Competitive Industries. An all-star array of policymakers, academics, business leaders and development practitioners will focus on today's top global economic-policy challenge: spurring growth and job creation.
Exploring “Making Growth Happen: Implementing Policies for Competitive Industries,” the conference in the Bank's Preston Auditorium will include Mazzucato among
some of the world’s foremost analysts of competitiveness. A professor at the University of Sussex in the U.K., Mazzucato’s iconoclastic new book – “The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths” – is now rocking the economics world. Mazzucato's insights are forcing a rethinking about the essential role of the public sector in driving the investments that are shaping the modern economy.
Public sector? Shaping the economy? Yes, you read that right: Mazzucato amasses persuasive evidence that the government-funded development and deployment of advanced technologies has been pivotal in changing the economic landscape.
Government’s role as a growth catalyst has been just as creative as the role of the private sector – and perhaps even more venturesome. Despite their buccaneering bravado, for-profit firms have lately shied away from high-stakes, high-risk investments in unproven technologies. Mazzucato refutes the defeatist dogma that claims, falsely, that public-sector investment can never do anything right.
The future will be won or lost in the world’s cities. With half of humanity now living in cities – and with the breakneck pace of urbanization likely to concentrate two-thirds of the world’s population into metropolitan regions by 2050 – getting urbanization right is the over-arching challenge of this globalizing age.
Urban policy is now at the top of the news due to the bankruptcy filing of forlorn Detroit, which has long been a symbol of urban decay. Yet the urbanization drama goes far beyond the de-industrializing North: The destiny of cities worldwide will determine the success or failure of virtually every development priority – and it will be especially vital for job creation, innovation and productivity growth, environmental sustainability and social inclusion.
For those who work and live in Washington DC, flying into Dulles airport at the end of a long journey only to be greeted by long queues at immigration is never easy. One hears a lot of complaints about immigration processes and it is human nature to talk about it when the government does something wrong rather than when things go right. Global Entry - an initiative of the US Government (Customs and Border Protection) - a neat way to avoid the long line - is getting it exactly right. I recently signed up for the Global Entry Program that allows travelers returning to the US, a quick entry back through fewer checks at immigration. In my case, I got through immigration at Washington Dulles in 15 minutes from landing to a taxi!
The Global Entry Program is a great example of using technology to spur innovation and efficiency in the public sector in the following ways:
“You have a good social project, but it is not an investable company”, I heard fellow judge and technology activist Mariéme Jamme say to a South African entrepreneur who had just given his best business pitch. He was taking part in the Dragons’ Den at the 5th Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship, a fantastic 3-day learning and networking event organized by the World Bank’s infoDev and the South African Department of Science and Technology. You could see the entrepreneur (let’s call him ‘B.’) gasping for air, and one could hear a pin drop in the completely filled auditorium of the Global Forum. Over 800 people, mostly entrepreneurs, financiers, policy makers and technology ‘evangelists’ from all over the world had gathered here.
Students in a technical education program supported by the World Bank in Antioquia, Colombia.
I spoke about how the World Bank engages with youth, the largest demographic in the world right now. In an auditorium at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C., young professionals, recent graduates, and college students were eager to find out how the Bank is helping and working with them. As a young person from a developing country, I could relate to their challenges and frustrations.
How are emerging market entrepreneurs leveraging technology and changing development paradigms? Why are the rewards of funding innovative new ventures in emerging economies worth the risks, and what makes these investments succeed? How can investors, policy makers, and the private sector in general help find and groom transformative high-growth enterprises?
This week, I had the opportunity to discuss the rise of citizen participation in Morocco with Tarik Nesh-Nash. If the name means nothing to you, it’s time to discover the man behind it!
Tarik is 34 years old. He’s a computer engineer and is acutely aware of politics in his country. Youth, skills, and an understanding of the issues: Combine ingredients, mix well, and finish off with a generous dash of inventiveness. What you have is a young social innovator ready to revolutionize the role of citizens in his country.
Early 2011. The first buds of the Arab spring are about to bloom. The Moroccan people take to the streets to denounce social injustice, unemployment, and corruption and call for a genuine constitutional monarchy. In March, King Mohamed VI announces the launch of constitutional reforms. Several days later, Tarik launches Reforme.ma, a participatory platform he co-founded with another young computer engineer, Mehdi Slaoui Andaloussi. The platform will enable thousands of Moroccans to contribute to drafting the new constitution.
The Chinese economy has changed dramatically over the last three decades. While its per-capita income was only a third of that of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1978, it has now reached an upper-middle income status, lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty. The numbers are dramatic: per capita income has doubled for more than a billion people in just 12 years. What was once a primarily rural, agricultural economy has been transformed into an increasingly urban and diversified economic structure, with decentralization and market-based relations rising relative to the traditional government driven command-based economy.