By John Hamerlinck
A recent report from the Kauffman Foundation titled, “The Economic Future Just Happened,” talks about how a lot of very successful businesses (more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list) are born during recessions. As civically-minded people in higher education and community-based organizations cope with leaner budgets, there are tremendous opportunities to develop new enterprises. Now is the perfect time to assess programs and modes of operation that may be less effective than they should be, but that persist because they are in (or were in) budgets.
Entrepreneurship is not a concept limited to business development. We need entrepreneurial approaches in every social sector and in every academic discipline. More than a decade ago, Allan Gibb provided suggestions for creating a climate for teaching entrepreneurship. They included ideas such as:
- Creating and reinforcing a strong sense of individual ownership;
- Reinforcing the personal ability to make things happen and see things through;
- Tolerating ambiguity and allowing mistakes as a basis for learning;
- Encouraging strategic thinking before formal planning;
- Emphasizing the importance of personal trust and “know who” as a basis for management rather than formal relationships; and
- Encouraging informal overlap between departments and groups as a basis for developing a common culture.
If you think about it, those same conditions make for effective civic engagement as well. While many are hunkering down and protecting as much of the status quo as they can, we should look around and see who is seizing the opportunity to innovate and create the future.