Entrepreneurship: It may not be what you think

Posted on June 16th, 2009

President Obama recently revealed plans to host a summit on entrepreneurship for business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs sometime within the next year.  This announcement comes only a month after requesting a $50 million Social Innovation Fund from congress in the FY2010 budget, which emphasizes the president’s position on the potential social entrepreneurship has to transform our society.

Social Entrepreneurship—only one of a number of new terms gaining ground in a field that is expanding at an exponential rate.  Traditionally a business term, entrepreneurship has transformed itself to include such diverse areas as health, education, law, engineering, the social sciences, and many more.  With this evolution the vocabulary of entrepreneurship itself is changing.  Capital gains might now be measured in societal impact.  Investment opportunities now include such innovative ideas as micro-financing.  And wealth is no longer quantified in strict monetary forms, but now encompasses the social, cultural, and emotional riches of our local and global communities.

The evolved form of entrepreneurship focuses on new and better ways to solve old problems.  It challenges the status quo for the purpose of exploring new possibilities leading innovative solutions.  Entrepreneurship is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of ways, but at its heart, entrepreneurship might be viewed as simply a way of amplifying personal goals to achieve maximum impact.


ASU is responding to the changing characteristics of entrepreneurship with the creation of new coursework, funding opportunities, and an array of new certificates in entrepreneurship.  The social entrepreneur project GlobalResolve is improving the quality of life for rural communities around the world.  And many more initiatives redefining entrepreneurship are springing up everywhere at ASU—from the creation of the new Master of Health Innovation program beginning this fall, to the digital media-based ventures coming out of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, to the partnership created between the College of Teacher Education and Leadership and University Public Schools Inc. that has now created two charter schools backed by the immense resources of ASU.

But the opportunity to reach more students, more faculty, and more future entrepreneurs who will help to reshape our world is the task set out before all of us.  It is not enough to merely support those who already exhibit the traits of an entrepreneur.  We must find a way nurture entrepreneurial thinking in the minds of all who wish to pursue the work of bettering our world for future generations.

Doing this requires empowerment.  The entrepreneur does not exist in a vacuum; he or she operates best surrounded by others who share their thinking.  So the questions are many: how can we spark this entrepreneurial spirit in everyone?  And once sparked, how can we then support our entrepreneurs?  How do we educate them?  How do we justify the need for entrepreneurial skills to those working in such fields as history, biology, or literature?  And what exactly are the transferable and teachable skills of an entrepreneur?  How can we make sure all students, in every program, across all campuses have the opportunity to acquire these skills?

Your thoughts on this continuing conversation are both welcome and necessary.

Posted by: Samantha L. Miller, University Innovation Fellow

Office of University Initiatives


This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 1:18 pm and is filed under Be Socially Embedded, Engage Globally, Transform Society, Value Entrepreneurship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses to “Entrepreneurship: It may not be what you think”

  1. You’ve provided lots of resources and lots of food for thought. ASU certainly has the opportunity to take pursue our lofty social aspirations through entrepreneurship. Your line about entrepreneurs not working alone reminded me of something I was reading recently here:

    Higher education absolutely has the chance, and even the responsibility, to foster innovation and collaboration sufficient to tackle the problems of the world. I don’t have the answers to your questions, but asking them is the first important step.

    • Samantha L. Miller says:

      Thanks so much for the link, Julie–some great info there!
      I agree with you that asking questions (especially the ones that are hard to answer) is the first step toward any kind of change. I’m really excited about the possibilities that entrepreneurship has for supporting those of us who are working to make the world a better place for everyone.
      As the idea of entrepreneurship continues to evolve, I’m looking forward to seeing how ASU responds. There’s so much potential here–I’m eager to find out!

  2. Glenn Button says:

    Junior Achievement has been one of the leading igniters of entrepreneurial “sparks”. Although they have provided instruction and training, actual hands-on practical experience is used to engrain the concepts. With entrepreneuers being most frequently visionary people, they need to see the concepts applied. FedEx is a classical business success from an educational failure. The faculty will need a strong resume of experience to keep the attention of budding entrepreneuers. Otherwise they will have drop-outs like Michael Dell and Bill Gates.

  3. If the history of new ideas in science is any indication — and I all indications say it is — there are still barriers to thoughts outside of the status quo. This was experienced by Einstein, Copernicus, Galileo, Wagner, and more recently by Lovelock and Margulis, and numerous others whose ideas fostered extremely important changes. So, can we include new ideas in science or interdisciplinary works under entrepreneurship? If so how would someone go about it?

  4. It’s good to see some promotion of the entrepreneurial mindset but even better that the underlying aspiration is no longer greed but more of a collaborative model. Entrepreneurs and ideas are needed more than ever now but if this is also done to help society rather than line the pockets excessively it is even better.

  5. Grahunt says:

    The new courses look really interesting. Any support for entrepreneurs is welcome especially if it means that like minds are around each other to bounce ideas around

  6. Adam says:

    The biggest challenge universities in developing countries is how to create college graduates who have an entrepreneurial spirit. The challenge was associated with employment opportunities that are still low or high levels of unemployment in the community.