By Brittney Dunkins
Policymakers, researchers and academics came together for GW October, the annual Global Entrepreneurship Research and Policy Conference hosted by the George Washington University School of Business last week.
The three-day interdisciplinary event focused on the intersection of policy, research and academic study by spotlighting a global approach to entrepreneurship, honoring contributors to the field with the Three Luminaries Award and promoting collaboration and discussion.
“We have global leaders coming to Washington to talk about policy, entrepreneurship and international crisis, and GW is right next door,” Associate Teaching Professor and Executive Director of the International Council of Small Business (ICSB) Ayman El Tarabishy said.
"The concept of this conference is to bring the spheres of policy, practice and education together at GW, an open-minded environment where we can share, discuss and brainstorm. If the dialogue happens three ways, then innovation can happen,” he added.
Sponsors included ICSB, the Center for Excellence in Public Leadership, the World Bank Group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, among other public and private organizations.
The conference was preceded by a social entrepreneurship training designed by Dr. Tarabishy to teach small businesses and entrepreneurs about the concept of doing well financially while creating solutions to societal and environmental problems.
Each participant who completed the training received a certificate.
“Participants were able to build a foundation and fully grasp the real possibilities, debates and practices of social entrepreneurship,” said Melanie Fedri, the newly appointed coordinator for social entrepreneurship at the George Washington University. “The training is a key part of the 360-degree perspective that the conference offers.”
Each day of the conference was geared toward a different aspect of the world of entrepreneurship. The first day was “Marketplace Day,” opening the floor to representatives across sectors for presentations on a range of topics; the second day was “Public Policy Day,” providing open discussion among panelists about the link between research, practice and government; and the third day was “Research and Training Day,” delving into new trends in academic research.
Marketplace Day kicked off at the World Bank, boasting nearly 250 attendees and diverse presentations, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), a Three Luminaries Award nominee.
GEM is a global assessment of entrepreneurial activity co-founded by The London School of Economics and Babson College, a top school for entrepreneurship.
“GEM is a database that we use to collect data from all over the world on entrepreneurship, job creation and information on how policymakers can help entrepreneurs to start and grow a business,” said Babson College Associate Professor of Marketing and GEM team member Abdul Ali. “This conference is a perfect fit for what we are doing.” Panel discussions fueled Policy Day, creating a space for experts and practitioners to explore the issues surrounding support for small and medium enterprises (SME), startups, innovation and research and development (R&D) through policy.
“Innovative SME that are idea-rich and current capital-poor have much to gain but little to lose from innovative activities,” Chief Economist of the U.S. Small Business Administration Giuseppe Gramigna said, while moderating the first panel. “It can catapult them to the top of the economic pyramid. They are particularly effective on innovation and new growth, and thus should be the focus of policymakers.”
Jeff Hoffman, a partner at ColorJar and founder of Priceline.com, added that in addition to great ideas, globally, SME need support through infrastructure and access.
“Democracy of information enables innovators to create now,” he said. “We need to continue sharing knowledge via the Internet so that everyone has a chance.”
Friday evening, the inaugural Three Luminaries Awards were given to honor those organizations that have provided support to SME and entrepreneurs at the ICSB Foundation gala.
The winners were The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which uses its $2 billion asset base to fund grants in education and entrepreneurship; William Denny Dennis, director of the National Federation of Independent Business and; and the Skoll Foundation, an organization that awards grant-based funding to social entrepreneurs.
“We are pleased to present the first Three Luminaries Award for excellence in education, public policy and research/academia,” Dr. Tarabishy said. “Each of the honorees is illuminating the way for others in their category.”
The conference culminated in an academia-focused final day featuring presentations about female and minority presences in entrepreneurship, innovation in emerging countries, micro-financing and the changing face of social capital.
Dr. Tarabishy hopes the conference will continue to expand in the coming years.
“Attendance of the conference has continued to grow and we want this conference to become an annually anticipated event,” he said. “When people think of October in D.C., they will think of GW’s global entrepreneurship conference.”