A World of Entrepreneurs

11/22/2010 09:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As they enter the job market today, young people worldwide are looking for more than money. They want to better the world.

As entrepreneurs, they develop life-changing products, from new medical technology to safer cars, raising living standards and generating jobs in the process. Furthermore, entrepreneurship fosters an environment that favors the free exchange of ideas, tolerance for difference, social mobility, and self-direction -- exactly the positive change that so many people strive to create.

Take the example of Lithuanian-born Ilja Laurs, who has created a community of developers that rivals Apple's App Store through his online platform, GetJar. With a team of five Lithuanian programmers, Laurs set out in 2004 to develop mobile-phone applications. To test products, his small team launched a Web site inviting other developers to use products for free. Within months, an online community formed with over 200,000 active users. Today GetJar is a hub for mobile-phone developers and receives over 60 million downloads per month.

In developed and emerging economies alike, citizens recognize the power of entrepreneurs to spark prosperity. Entrepreneurial economies experience improvements in myriad areas: food production, sanitation, and rights for women -- to work freely, to own and manage property, and to start their own organizations.

Pro-entrepreneurship reforms have had a transformative effect across national borders. In Eastern Europe the entrepreneurial boom fostered fair business practices, reducing rampant corruption and bribery. The Estonian-born software company Skype is now a global leader, blazing the trail for dozens of other new enterprises. And many other countries are quickly realizing the value that entrepreneurs have.

"We have set a very ambitious target of transforming Chile into a developed country during this decade. In order to get to that end, we have to promote productivity, innovation, [and] entrepreneurship," said Juan Andres Fontaine, the Minister of Economy in Chile.

Through the common language of business and innovation, entrepreneurs can reach people and places that were previously inaccessible. "China is building an innovation oriented country. We particularly need to unleash everyone's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit," said Yan Junqi, the Vice Chairwoman of the National People's Congress of China.

To unleash their ideas for the world's benefit, today's young entrepreneurs need a climate that makes risk less intimidating and failure less detrimental. To connect with resources, ideas, and like-minded peers, they benefit from initiatives like Global Entrepreneurship Week which brought together over 10 million participants across 100 countries this past week.

If we want to encourage human rights, prosperity, and peace across the world, we should look to inspire entrepreneurs. A new generation of global innovators has the potential to spark global growth unlike anything ever seen before.

Amy Wilkinson is a senior fellow at Harvard University, public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and is writing a book on global entrepreneurs.