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Entrepreneurs: A Way to Change the World

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Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov 15-21) was all about initiatives to introduce the spirit of entrepreneurship to the youth, and to the general public at large. The worldwide initiative emerged in 2008 from result of Enterprise UK and the USA's Entrepreneurship Week. To date, more than 10 million people from 102 countries have participated in activities that bring together the stakeholders that support entrepreneurship: mainly the entrepreneurs, policy makers, academe, business partners, media, NGOs, service providers and politicians. This is the "eco-system" that supports and impacts the entrepreneur's decisions and chances of success. This world-wide initiative focused on entrepreneurship is key in trying to help our present world evolve out of so many problems (social, economic and environmental), especially if they are social entrepreneurs.

But Entrepreneurship isn't only about those who run businesses. I also mean people with the entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and change. And this can also be found in people who look to change the status quo, to break boundaries in academia, in corporate groups and even in government. This entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and the courage to try something new is a much-needed ingredient today as we face problems brought about by old forms and mindsets. This is why entrepreneurship has become a major buzzword, arising perhaps in the past decade that the academe has started to make it a "subject" or a science that actually, it really is not. The study of the process of what entrepreneurs do and how they do it may be called Entrepreneurship, but not everyone can be an entrepreneur if they don't have the passion, the spirit and drive to bring opportunity towards creating innovative changes in society and the world for a better future.

I love the fact that I am brought amongst people who want to change the world. Representing our social enterprise ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle, I was invited to be member of the World Entrepreneur Forum's think tank grouping of close to 250 people from many countries around the world. We converged in Lyon, France in a fifth forum last month put together by EMLyon Business School, KPMG France, the NTU (National Technological University) of Singapore, Lyon City's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ACE (Action Community for Entrepreneurship) of Singapore and the Zheijiang University of China. The main direction was to bring entrepreneurs together to discuss directions for a new humanism to arise. This is only one such forum that has been happening around the world, and I marvel at how global convergences (also through social networks) are bringing about discussions that focus on: the emergence of new economic centers (as in Asia); how social life's increasing restructuring due to population growth; how climate change is leading to massive environmental changes; how technological breakthroughs are coming to new levels and how all the institutions and frameworks that world has created are all broken. We really are in a world in transition with sustainability as its vision. Our "think-tank" discussions were focused on identifying the various stakeholders of entrepreneurs and how such eco-system could further help develop and strengthen more entrepreneurs, especially amongst the young. Aside from all the sharing, the big take-away of course, the networking.

Because more and more women are becoming entrepreneurs, a special Women's Workshop discussion was held and broadcasted to 90,000 listeners all over France. Invited as a panelist, I shared the good news fact that the Philippines, a matriarchal society, has 30 percent of women in managerial jobs and positions of power and decision-making, quite a high rate when compared to other societies. The Geneva-based Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program did a review at how countries divide resources between men and women. The Philippines came in eighth, the only country in Asia to have eliminated the gap in health and education.

The Philippines is a highly entrepreneurial country. But the main reason that drives our entrepreneur spirit is poverty. We have so many small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), including micro-enterprises, account for 99 percent of all business establishments and 60 percent of the exporting firms in the Philippines. Women hold significant leadership positions in national and local government, universities, business corporations and family business enterprises in the Philippines. Fifty-one percent of entrepreneurs in Philippines are female. With such rising positive facts, we in the Philippines have both key drivers to reposition our country in this global world in transition. We have entrepreneurs and dynamic women. I like to add on the "social" aspect to entrepreneurship, the social innovations that can be created to help better other people's lives while also taking care of the environment. It is because businesses alone for profit will not make us create real changes; rather, businesses with compassion and heart (but with strong business and financial frameworks) is what will create change.

And so I end with my usual motto: that outer positive actions for change comes from inner change. That first we begin from the person himself or herself... one with an entrepreneurial mindset with the passion to create innovative solutions to tackle society's most pressing social problems for wild-scale change. Rather than waiting for these needs to be answered by government or big businesses, social entrepreneurs look squarely at what is not working and try to solve the problem by changing the system, and persuading everyone to take the leap. I would like to say that social entrepreneurs are futurists... obsessed by their ideas, committing their lives to changing the direction of the old forms that don't work, stepping into gaps. As visionary and down-to-earth realists, theirs is the how to implement their vision in a practical way.