SINGAPORE - The World Entrepreneurship Forum was born in 2008 from a simple idea: in the coming decades, the world will, more than ever, need entrepreneurs. We were convinced then that the world was facing the most important challenges and discontinuities of human history since the first industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century.
Six years on, with the annual forum taking place for the second time in Singapore, the current worldwide crisis and increasing unpredictability of events show that the original idea was, and still is, very relevant. Throughout the world, entrepreneurship is in the process of becoming the dominant business philosophy since it combines virtues such as creativity, innovation, initiative, flexibility and, above all, it is at the basis of job creation.
At the same time, the spirit of entrepreneurship is expanding dramatically into the social area. Social entrepreneurs are the VIPs at global events. Large-scale organisations such as Ashoka, Skoll Foundation or the Schwab Foundation provide support to social entrepreneurs on a large scale.
Over the past six years, the World Entrepreneurship Forum, session after session, has promoted and carried the idea that entrepreneurship has to serve the ideal of the invention of sustainable development in a spirit of global citizenship to create a better world for 2050.
The Forum Members are business entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, policy makers and all leaders involved in the global entrepreneurship ecosystem who share the same values and beliefs: entrepreneurs are creators of wealth and borderless social justice.
So far, the World Entrepreneurship Forum has been able to bring together over 600 selected members from 76 countries at its annual forums, thus creating a large community of entrepreneurs from five continents. Through three white papers, this community has diffused its recommendations.
This year, the Forum has published its first book entitled Planet Entrepreneurs, the Forum's guide to successful business and social ventures. It aims to provide inspiration through entrepreneurial stories and shows how entrepreneurial initiatives can contribute to moving towards our vision of the world in 2050.
The Forum is not simply a think tank; it also aims to be what we call a "do tank". Each member of the Forum defines a commitment for initiating an action to develop his entrepreneurial ecosystems at the local, regional or international level.
For instance, in July 2013, our Indian members organised the first Rural World Entrepreneurial Forum to display entrepreneurial initiatives for sustainable development in the Maharashtra region of India. We believe initiatives such as this are a great benchmark for transferring entrepreneurial best practices and experiences across countries, boundaries and local ecosystems.
The World Entrepreneurship Forum believes that the best way to make the millions and millions of entrepreneurs needed for inventing the World of 2050 is to promote entrepreneurial education around the world.
For this, the Junior World Entrepreneurship forums were created to bring together students and young entrepreneurs to celebrate entrepreneurship, to share entrepreneurs' experiences and to make recommendations. Up to now the Junior Forums have gathered 10,000 participants in 14 countries.
What does the Forum's future look like?
The World Entrepreneurship Forum has a clear mission statement: "to solve the world's problems through entrepreneurs as creators of wealth and social justice". The start-up stage allowed us to create a unique concept to fulfil this mission.
Now the next stage is to scale up the Forum by:
Creating the most inclusive network, with a very high impact, of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship leaders on a global scale.
Making the Annual Forum the global meeting of reference for entrepreneurship.
Broadening the geographical impact of the organisation by increasing local presence in the key national and regional entrepreneurial ecosystems.
Developing the largest junior forum of the world to boost global entrepreneurial education for the youth. The key challenge for the World Entrepreneurship Forum for the next six years is exactly the same as the topic of the sixth annual meeting of the Forum: navigating change for sustainable growth.
The World Entrepreneurship Forum needs to manage change to enable it to expand at a global level.
The first strategic move is to extend the geographic coverage by organising some of the next forums on the American and African continents.
However, this geographic expansion must be accompanied by the deepening of the Forum's local presence in the national and regional entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world. This second strategic issue is the most important one and has already started with the organisation of the Rural World Entrepreneurship in India.
Next December, a regional forum will take place in Dubai. It will bring together stakeholders from throughout the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region to share ideas and best practices and develop new solutions to ensure collaboration in building sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems in the countries of MENA.
In the next five years, around 10 national or local chapters will organise think tanks and forums to bring answers to regional entrepreneurial issues and will launch local initiatives to improve national or local entrepreneurial ecosystems.
The third major, strategic initiative will be the development of junior forums in 15 to 20 countries in line with the global quality charter and guidelines of the World Entrepreneurship Forum. These junior forums will have their own Global Annual Forum. The objective will be indeed to develop a global youth movement devoted to entrepreneurship inventing New Humanism but also to develop a transnational network of students who are intending to create businesses or social new ventures. The aim will be also to organise meetings between young future entrepreneurs and current senior entrepreneurs in order to develop mentorship across borders.
The fourth initiative will be complementary with the former one: creating a transnational network of incubators. Through summer sessions it will be possible to welcome students with the best ideas selected from junior forums. The purpose will be to turn the best ideas into new venture projects to be incubated in different parts of the transnational network.
Finally, the fifth initiative will be to develop some transnational thematic chapters such as woman entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship at the base of the pyramid or entrepreneurship at the age of digital age, giving the leadership of such forums to certain leading countries.
All these initiatives will transform the format of the global annual forum. The aim is for the Forum to become the place where local practices and experiences are presented in order to understand better the universal issues and practices and the locally specific issues and practices. The annual forum will give the opportunity to consolidate recommendations and ideas at the global level, providing a vital benchmark for advancing ideas and practices.
So let's navigate the change for scaling up the World Entrepreneurship Forum with sustainability.
The writer is executive chairman of the World Entrepreneurship Forum. He is also the vice president and professor of strategic management at EMLYON Business School in Lyon, France.
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