Humanizing entrepreneurship

Muna Abbas (Photo: Jordan News)
In Jordan, the concept of entrepreneurship was introduced in the last 10 years as an innovative solution to youth unemployment. With the public sector’s declining ability to provide jobs and the limited job opportunities in an already struggling private sector, there has been an increased need to find solutions for youth unemployment. اضافة اعلان

Programs were launched to train youth on how to be entrepreneurs, and financial support was provided to startup businesses in various sectors. The once ministry of ICT evolved to become the Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, with a mandate of providing support for entrepreneurs to overcome various challenges such as access to funding, market accessibility, regulation and talent acquisition.

Entrepreneurship has always been defined as either starting up a new business or scaling an already established one, and achieving huge profits in the process. The names of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are synonymous with this term, and they are often used as examples of entrepreneurs who have transformed the world, either by attempting to send people to Mars or building a software that powers computers in households all around the world. 

But the truth is that entrepreneurship is a concept that emerged from a neoliberal philosophy that focuses on an economic dimension that combines competition and an individual’s desire to make a profit. With this vision in mind, youth and individuals are made to believe that they are solely responsible for their successes or failures, regardless of their disadvantages or vulnerabilities. In this neoliberal model, entrepreneurs are highly individualistic and try to find innovative solutions to make use of their environment and afforded opportunities. Driven by a deep, strong survival instinct, real entrepreneurs are their own enterprise.

But there is a need to humanize the concept of entrepreneurship so that it not only serves the individual but the common good. To develop a new vision of the entrepreneurial self; a personal and collective self, rooted in the community that interacts positively with the wider world. In addition to being a free and an authentic thinker, these types of entrepreneurs will also be empathetic people who are committed to their communities and believe that things, people, relations and networks have a value not simply a price.

As human beings, we are entrepreneurs by nature. If we observe how children develop and learn, we will find that they are born with this entrepreneurial spirit. From their very first days, children start discovering their environment and the world that surrounds them. They are curious creatures who ask questions about life and what things mean. Children also have an instinctive need to connect, communicate and share with others and from an early age can be seen to express empathy, solidarity and care for others. 

It is our responsibility to nurture these skills and behaviors in our children and youth as they grow to become entrepreneur students, employees, businessmen, decision makers, leaders, workers, friends, lovers, family members, community members and global citizens.

And it all starts with families providing safe environments for children to learn and try. By allowing children to fail, make mistakes and try again, they become real adventurers. A child’s first encounter with authority and power is through their relationship with their parents, so they should be allowed to challenge that authority from an early age. If children are denied the chance to test their limits inside the safety of their homes, they will never test it anywhere else and will grow to be defeated adults who feel weak and helpless. Families also need to emphasize to their children the importance of being empathetic, showing their emotions, and supporting others. That is how children learn how to share and respect the value of the common good.

Also, our education system needs to stop providing textbooks full of facts instead of knowledge, and teachers should stop requiring students to simply memorize and recite. Students should be made to feel that they can make mistakes and not be afraid that they will be punished. Schools are a place where students discover their own intelligence and develop their understanding of the world through a participatory journey of self-exploration. 

The education system should redefine education as a right, a free service provided to all children and youth to grow and flourish as individuals and as vital members of their communities. The philosophy behind education needs to stop envisioning schools and universities as factories that pump out workers shaped and molded according to market needs. 

We need to branch out from this narrow understanding of neoliberal entrepreneurship that only presents it as a solution for unemployment. And we need to bear in mind that youth will not become entrepreneurs overnight by simply attending several training sessions and being provided with financial support that they may not even know how to manage. 

Instead of that, entrepreneurship should be envisioned as an identity and mindset built on the foundation of cooperation, one which appreciates the value of social and economic justice. It is our responsibility to help our youth become both active community members and global citizens who are inspired by the ethics of caring, sharing and interdependency.

Read more Opinions.