Entrepreneurship — Hype or Help?

The lack of access to real opportunities is an ongoing problem that many of our Jamaican youth have to confront on a daily basis. Too many today appear hopeless and desperately in need of direction and support. They live in situations that are extremely difficult and oftentimes end up making decisions that are harmful to themselves and to society.

Still, it is always interesting to listen to individuals speak emphatically about what needs to be done in order to transform the complex systems that perpetuate seemingly intractable social, economic, and spiritual problems in Jamaica and across our globe. The truth is, no one really seems to have a definitive answer. And even if some genius has found a solution, this person has clearly not figured out how to implement it in a way that will permanently solve our woes. Maybe it is time for our pundits to stop being so sure that they know the correct answers and to humbly adopt a posture that is open to new learning.

Entrepreneurship is the new kid on the block.  Many are touting the value of entrepreneurial training for at-risk youth.  Interestingly, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (2011)  makes a distinction between necessity- and opportunity-based entrepreneurship.  We find this distinction very helpful when looking at Jamaica.  Necessity entrepreneurs are forced into starting a new business because of unemployment and other economic lacks, whereas opportunity-based entrepreneurs make an independent choice to start a new business to pursue what they deem to be a specific and worthwhile business opportunity.  "Entrepreneurs in developing countries face a different set of circumstances that their counterparts in developed countries"  (Lingelbach, de la Vina, & Asel, 2005).  We must, therefore, be careful about the way we make sense of pre-existing models.

At Jalawelo, we want to learn and to keep learning about how we can engage strategically with those in need. We try to become familiar with what has been written, and, yes, we listen to pundits too. But, we listen particularly closely to the individuals who need our help. It may just be that the stories these individuals tell can give us a window into their reality and provide us with the insight we need to begin chipping away at the pain and frustration they are experiencing.


Global Entrepreneurial Monitor: 2011 Jamaica Report

Lingelbach, D. de La Vina, L.  Asel, P. (2005). UTSA College of Business Center for Global Entrepreneurship Working Paper