Entrepreneurship has been hard to define. Today, the word suggests choice, diversity, and opportunity. It is used to describe the common thread between the greatest business leaders, inventors, and movers and shakers of the century. In the past, it has been associated with the spirit and will of capital gain and greed. It was also understood as the doctrine of the business-savvy, powerful, and the well-connected.
While the image of entrepreneurship has often appeared to be a tall, western man in a business suit –today’s entrepreneurs represent a collective community of people of many genders, ages, races, classes, and academic backgrounds from all over the world. As the face of free enterprise takes on many different forms and shapes, so do its purposes and impact.
I’ve learned quite a bit about the topic since joining Meridian as an YLAI and Programs Intern in January. In partnership with federal agencies, multinational corporations, and embassies, Meridian has implemented a wide array of entrepreneurship-focused professional exchange programs over the years. Throughout the semester, I have supported programs for networks of young leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle Eastern and North African women, Russian professionals, and European youth.
To these participants, entrepreneurship is a means to affect real change in their respective communities, no matter how different their individual business goals may be. I’ve read of their missions to provide others with access to education, job opportunities, professional networks, food, and health services. In other cases, entrepreneurship is a way to organize and empower marginalized groups and minorities. As a whole, it has the power to sustain local economies.
Entrepreneurship also provides solutions to securing global cities and protecting citizens from violent extremism and organized crime. As we cope with internal struggles, attacks, and migration crises around the world, economic opportunities provide us with the tools to integrate diverse populations. People across the globe have embraced their personal power and agency to sustain their needs and provide for themselves and others.
Kheston Walkins of Trinidad is doing just that in his quest to use medical technology in his research of data-driven cancer diagnoses. Walkins, a current PhD student and the founder of a digital publishing company participated in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Pilot program in February. His leadership, along with that of the other 23 fellows, has inspired others to seek the change they want to see in the world.
Meridian has not only recognized its role and responsibility in fostering these networks, but has been at the forefront of a new global movement aimed at enhancing entrepreneurial skills and providing opportunities to interact with American counterparts. We cannot foresee the impact of this social movement but it will surely be tremendous.