So Professor Mohammed Yunus is the winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace. Didn’t mean much to me, until entrepreneurs I admire spoke up. Tom Peters is ecstatic, Rex Hammock is all for it and I’m beginning to see why this is important to me and you: entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship is one of the few great strategies for building our rural communities in the US and all over the world. What did Prof. Yunus do that is so remarkable? He is a microfinance lender – an entrepreneur builder in rural areas, starting in Bangledesh.
It is simple, he says. Don’t try and tell people how to solve their poverty. Give them opportunity to bring out their inner entrepreneurial creativity and they will change their own lot. Every human being wants to improve their lives. Our challenge is to let that urge bear fruit. And the way to do that is to give them loans–microcredit.
The message is that entrepreneurial development actually fosters peace globally. The lesson locally is that entrepreneurial development affects the whole system, all the way from jobs and personal income to reducing crime. That’s why it matters to you and me.
So what entrepreneurship ideas can you put into action in your community?
Take the advice offered by Jack Schultz, the acclaimed author of a book and a blog titled Boomtown USA. (He is also one of our readers.) His recent trip to Marshall, Minnesota, made the local papers, including a discussion of promoting entrepreneurship.
One way is to develop entrepreneurship curriculum in schools, Schultz said. Some schools start in elementary school while others start in high school, he said.
Communities, many in Minnesota, have facilitator projects where resources are provided for those with business ideas, Schultz said.
Schultz said towns have been successful forming clusters such as growing lavender and grapes. Towns also need to form public and private partnerships because those that have done so have had job growth and other improvements.
Take a look at this example from Kenya. It includes entrepreneur training, a facilitator project, and building clusters around the local resources.
Having great business ideas is not a problem as most entrepreneurs will tell you, it’s having the ability and knowledge to do something with those ideas that is difficult. Production processes, marketing and capital investment are, more often than not, the major hurdle with such ventures. The solution: get the knowledge, skills and cash from those experts willing to share.
Kwetu Training Centre based in Mtwapa, Mombasa is one such place where entrepreneurs are created. Practical skills are imparted to trainees along with the theoretic knowledge needed to start and run a business. Food processing, herbal remedies and organic farming are some of the specialities that the trainees learn, along with business skills and life skills.
“Our aim is to give rural communities and groups the skills they need to successfully sustain themselves and their families” said Consesa Wachenje, Entrepreneurship coordinator.
My neighbors in Parsons, Kansas, are contemplating asset-building programs that every declining town in America had better look into. The idea is the same as microfinance: make it possible for people to improve their own position. It’s a system to promote entrepreneurship, improve local housing, address dilapidated buildings, send more people to college, and improve financial management skills. Are you excited yet? Learn more at the Corporation for Enterprise Development.
Prof. Yunus’ award has put a spotlight on microfinance, entrepreneurship, and rural communities. Examples are out there all over the world. It only takes one person on fire with passion to make an enormous difference in a community. Are you that person?
What is your community doing to promote entrepreneurship? Share your ideas!
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