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Enterprise, Entrepreneurs and the Fine Art of Progress


‘Enterprising’ people can recognise a gap between the way the world is, and the way they would like it to be and are taking actions that they think will help to close the gap between the two.

They are practitioners of the fine art of progress. I would also make a case that everyone is already enterprising, acting in ways that we think will make things better. We are all practitioners of the fine art of progress.  It is a fundamental characteristic of of healthy people.  It is just that some – many –  of us have got ‘stuck’.

For some the nature of ‘progress’ is purely personal – making things better for themselves and their immediate families. For others it is a much more social objective – about making things better for others or for the planet. For the vast majority it is some combination of the two – which is why the distinction between the entrepreneur and the social entrepreneur, enterprise and social enterprise is such a tricky one to maintain.

If we want to develop more enterprising communities then our task is to:

  • encourage more people to reflect on the gap between the way the world is and the way they would like it to be;
  • nurture the skills and passions required to help more people believe that they can take action to close the gap;
  • help people to recognise that action can and often does lead to progress;
  • recognise that each ‘failure’ represents progress – a lesson learned.

It is about helping more people to become active citizens in shaping their own futures rather than to be passive consumers of whatever ‘life’ throws their way. It is about helping ‘stuck’ people to ‘unstick’ themselves.  If we can help more people to get on this ‘enterprise journey’ then incredible progress becomes possible. We will be building more enterprising communities. We will even find that the business startup (and survival) rates go up as some enterprising people become entrepreneurs. This will be a by-product of our efforts to develop a more enterprising community and not a cause of it! Indeed by pusuing business start-ups direclty we may become the victims of at least two unintended consequences:

  • we ‘skim’ the most enterprising people from the least enterprising communities
  • we temporarily increase start-up rates with a parallel increase in business failure rates  – the net result of which is more people even more certain that ‘enterprise’ is not for them

In some of the most deprived communities we have to recognise that large numbers of people have become stuck. The options for progress that they see are narrow. Their belief in their own ability to make progress has been eroded. They have little or no confidence in their own skills or their ability to develop them. This is one of the reasons that I have been finding out more about the work of The Pacific Institute.  The Pacific Institute started life in 1971 with a simple idea – if you open people’s mind to their own potential and how to achieve it, step changes in organisational and community effectiveness will follow.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr Neil Straker who heads up TPI here in the UK. I found out that they are already massively engaged with Leeds City Council and with Education Leeds – although the links to enterprise in the city do not yet seem to have been made.  They seem to have developed a strong track record in the city for helping individuals to recognise and develop their own potential.  They have developed a large number of ‘facilitators’ in the city who have worked with both children and parents in many of the secondary schools throughout the city as well as with young people and adults in some of our most deprived communities.

They may have an important part to play in the enterprise agenda in the city.

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