Amy Rosen reporting in from her last day at Davos and the World Economic Forum.
Well it is my final hours in Davos and the WEF has left the most important session to the last day – The Entrepreneurship Imperative. Throughout the week there has been constant references to the need for entrepreneurs to be the future engine of both developed and developing economies, but this is the first time we are gathering to discuss effective strategies to make this happen. We are finally getting to the question – “How can entrepreneurship education drive inclusive growth and job creation?”
The organization I lead, the Network for Teacher Entrepreneurship (NFTE), was founded by Steve Mariotti on one basic principle: teaching young people living in poverty how to create wealth for themselves is the surest path to poverty alleviation. More simply put, ownership equals prosperity. And really how do we ensure inclusive economic growth – by opening the path to ownership to as many people as possible.
Entrepreneurship education does that. NFTE does that. We work in low-income communities across the globe training public school teachers to use entrepreneurship education to inspire over 30,000 young people each year, to see opportunities they never imagined. With 0.13% of the world’s population controlling over 25% of its financial assets, there is not a moment to wait in opening the doors to ownership wider than ever before.
Entrepreneurship speaks to our belief that hard work and ingenuity in the face of daunting obstacles can lead to personal fulfillment and collective progress. Students may understand this intuitively, but do not have the knowledge and skills to apply this vision to their own lives. Without exposure to entrepreneurship education, it is easy for young people to believe that this story applies to someone else or that entrepreneurship depends on luck. Overcoming these myths, while preparing students to succeed in school and in the 21st century economy, has the potential to transform the futures of our young people.
What I find interesting is that we are even discussing how important entrepreneurship is to job creation. Just last year, the Kauffman Foundation published a report finding that all net new jobs in the U.S. over the last 30 years can be fully attributed to startups. So clearly this is where job creation will come from.
Recently I came across one other statistic that I found ironic. In the U.S., 9.6% of American adults are actively engaged in starting a business or are the owner/manager of a business that is less than three and one-half years old. This sounded great to me until I remembered that the current U.S. unemployment rate at 9.4%.
The alignment of those numbers helped me see a simple solution. Entrepreneurship. We need to create a movement to double the number of Americans who start their own enterprises. Then we can solve unemployment. People will create their own jobs.
As a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability leading the work on youth, I feel a particular responsibility to trumpet the impact that entrepreneurship education can have. After all we cannot expect the revolution of startups to materialize out of thin air. We must invest in programs like NFTE that inspire young people to think and act like entrepreneurs. They need to be armed with resilient tools that allow them to claim ownership and be full participants in our economy. We will not reap the harvest of new jobs and innovation without first planting the seeds of entrepreneurship in minds of young people far and wide.
And on a related subject, next year perhaps we can have a session at Davos to discuss an initiative targeting young girls as our future entrepreneurs. Convincing data is growing that in fact women often outperform the men in this sector.
So now I must run and catch my train. I certainly hope there are some entrepreneurial young people outside willing to help me with my bags. With all of us tired and weary middle agers leaving at once, that’s a real market opportunity.