In a recent blog by the Kauffman Foundation, the term entrepreneur was discussed as a long-standing, contested debate. Whether referring to economic activities, new products and services, or innovation; it begs the question: What, exactly, is meant by entrepreneurship? For better or worse, the word has become a ‘catch all’ term.
National focus has also been turned to entrepreneurship with initiatives such as Startup America and the Kauffman Foundation’s dedicated mission to educate others of its value and purpose for the global economy. Similarly, a January 2012 article in Time magazine titled, “Will 2012 be the year of the Entrepreneur?” included final thoughts to encourage more innovators to take action and see an opportunity to solve real problems by creating, developing, starting, etc. to change the world. Wikipedia frames social entrepreneurship around the majority of social entrepreneurs who were faced with an issue in their youth that motivated them to do something about it in adulthood, such as poverty, sanitation, and hunger relief.
One of the more interesting definitions of entrepreneurship; however, was given at the Arkansas STEM Summit in April of 2012. The panel speaker said that entrepreneurship was simply, “see a problem; find a solution.” When I later heard this statement, I replied, “well heck, that’s EAST!”
There’s more to entrepreneurship than is most commonly understood and that’s why it is the focus of the EAST® National Service Project for the 2012/2013 school year.
Every year, EAST® challenges its schools and students to go beyond the projects they are currently or traditionally developing and add projects that focus on a specific theme. Over the years we have focused on hunger, supporting our troops and their families, and energy. This year we turn our attention to a very powerful energy source, the brain power of our students. Our service project focus this year is entrepreneurship.
One way to look at the network of nearly 25,000 EAST® students is as an incredibly diverse research and development (R&D) department. Last year’s conference theme was Innovation Generation, and that’s exactly what EAST students are–eager young minds that are given the challenge to see a problem [in their communities] and then find a solution for it. They are given very sophisticated tools and guidance in planning and project management, but they have the responsibility to use their time, their creativity, and the tools to do things that no one else is doing. This is entrepreneurial thinking at its core.
For the 2012/2013 school year, the EAST® Initiative, along with business, education, philanthropic, and community stakeholders are challenging our programs and students to take that level of thinking to the next logical step: look for opportunities to add significant, long-term value in their communities. Students should use their skills to find the niches and gaps in their own surroundings and begin to be social and fiscal entrepreneurs.
We are excited about Entrepreneurship as the 2012/2013 National Service Project and anticipate innovative solutions will abound to impact communities. We already know that EAST® students and programs are ‘difference makers’, so let’s take this opportunity to take the next, concrete step to change the world, one community at a time.