There is no doubt in my mind that community based and bottom up approaches to enterprise support like those pioneered by Ernesto Sirolli and subsequently developed and transformed by projects like Bizz Fizz and on a much more modest scale Elsie, provide significant clues to the emergence of truly sustainable and enterprising communities.
But instead we get celebrity entrepreneurs and academics delivering masterclass after masterclass after enterprise competition on a seemingly endless treadmill driven by incoherent policy and the increasingly desperate search for those Holy Grails of ‘narrow’ economic development – the quick win and the high-growth start-up.
It must be time for us to develop a focus on long term, community building approaches to sustainable development that embraces the economy, culture and social cohesion as an inseparable trinity. These things cannot be pursued successfully as separate entities managed by different silos. They are all part of the same process of ‘development’.
We need to develop affordable processes that engage the whole community in nurturing the development of those willing to act boldly and helping more of its members to see that bold action will often reap its reward, not just for the individual but for the community as a whole. We must help to build communities that know how to recognise and help enterprising people who are looking to make a living and leave the community better off as a result.
And we must persuade policy makers, economic planners and perhaps most importantly our fellow citizens that entrepreneurship is not the only valid form of expression for our enterprising souls.