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