This week, I arrived in Washington DC to attend President Obama’s Presidential Entrepreneurship Summit. I arrived with my family, since it is also our summer vacation here in the States. We try to make the vacation an annual thing for bonding moments. The summit just fit right into our itinerary. My kids were more excited about me getting to see Obama and Clinton.
Bai Sandra Basar, from Cotobato City, was the other participant who represented the Philippines. She is a mother who sends her only child to La Salle Taft. She is also an entrepreneur and an energetic woman who is not shy to approach people in the summit. I guess this is why USAID chose her to join the summit. Bai Sandra is quite active in Cotobato – a place which we all know has issues. She has been active in the business community. And, yes, Bai Sandra is a Filipina Muslim. I told her that I think I was the only Christian participant in the summit but it didn’t bother me. The two-day experience made me reinforce my realization that Muslims do have the same vision as Christians. We all have the same goal of helping the poor through entrepreneurship. There were about 250 people from 50 countries.
President Obama delivered his remarks on the first day of the summit. His staff and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) were very thorough in the selection of the participants. All organizations helping entrepreneurs were present. Among the present were Bill Drayton of Ashoka, Nifti Founder Steve Mariotti, Endeavor Founder Linda Rottenberg, Babson College President Leonard Schlesinger, Sally Osberg of Skoll Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, Junior Achievement and many other enablers, social entrepreneurs, and top entrepreneurs with amazing stories, such as Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang and Facebook Founder Chris Hughes. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, among many others took part in the forums. The Secretary of Commerce even served as forum moderator, which was truly remarkable. I also saw a clear collaboration between the Departments of Commerce and Education. This is something that I have personally been pushing for in the Philippines.
Secretary Locke also had his own story to tell, coming from a humble beginning as his grandparents migrated from China. He shared that his father had to clean floors and set up a small grocery to help pay for his schooling. He also became the Governor of Washington before his present post as the Secretary of Commerce. While he may not technically be an entrepreneur, he definitely possesses the attitude of an enterprising enabler. He helps others achieve their dreams through his work in the government.
Many social entrepreneurs have their own version of Go Negosyo in their respective countries. In fact, quite recently, our Go Negosyo Executive Director also had the chance to meet up with a number of social entrepreneurs in United Kingdom who are enablers like the School for Social Entrepreneurs, UnLtd, Volans and Coin Street, as endorsed by the British Coucil. They are also enterprises helping solve community problems on a sustainable basis. We are definitely not alone. My participation in this summit is an affirmation that we are on the right track.
It was music to my ears listening to social entrepreneurs speak the same language of Go Negosyo – having the right attitude, hard work, passion, optimism, patience, perseverance, love of country, hope, and dreaming big. These were all clear and common words, which determine the success of an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs become successful, they arrive at a realization. From purely material objectives, the goal shifts to giving back and to helping others achieve their dreams. It all starts with a dream. This dream can start even at a very young age and should never be discouraged.
Education is the great equalizer. Many of the top entrepreneurs studied in America or in the United Kingdom. Though this is not an assurance for success, education is clearly the key to the development of creativity. This is why America is so good at it.
Organizations like NIFTI and Junior Achievement provide learning to would-be youth entrepreneurs. This is also what Go Negosyo does through our Negosems (Negosyo Seminars being done around the country with the DTI). There are many other similar organizations with a very similar approach. Since the short curriculum is done by entrepreneurs, there is no doubt that the approach is the same.
Many other countries in attendance during the summit are similar to the Philippines. Education standards, especially in the public level, are sorely low. It is the basic element needed to bring about creativity. Creativity is what makes entrepreneurs rise above the chain, from small to medium to large. Another factor that is also common among the countries present was the big role that women play in entrepreneurship.
Clearly, Go Negosyo is not alone in this quest to help entrepreneurs. All countries realize that entrepreneurship is the solution to poverty. Putting aside differences in religion, our basic concern is how to give our fellow brothers and sister a chance to improve their lives. As we help create wealth for others, we bring about spiritual wealth for ourselves and a change in our view in life.
The success of Go Negosyo relies primarily on the successful entrepreneurs who have joined us as mentors and who are proud to tell their story. Their story may just help mold other mentors.
In summary, the answer to poverty is entrepreneurship. In our language it’s negosyo. In Arab, it’s riyade. There are numerous organizations around the world similar to Go Negosyo. They are what I call entrepreneur enablers.
Organizations similar to Go Negosyo have the same purpose and approach in their programs. In countries that do not have resources, private sectors must step up and help organizations that are enabling entrepreneurs. Most importantly, at the end of sessions or summits, all entrepreneurs who have achieved success must learn to give back and help others achieve their dreams. More mentors and enabler organizations and foundations increase the chance for people to realize their dreams.
During the closing remarks of Hilary Clinton, it was very clear that America will make a big push for entrepreneurship starting with Muslim countries. She acknowledges that top entrepreneurs can serve as mentors, which is an important lifeline for any would-be entrepreneurs and for those who would want to scale up. So, they will support mentorship programs through USAID. This was good news, as Go Negosyo is basically a mentorship program with the close to 500 entrepreneur-mentors. At the end of the session, I was fortunate to greet Secretary Clinton and Grameen Bank Founder Muhammad Yunus.
Everyone in the summit are all great inspiration for us to continue our cause of helping Filipinos achieve their dreams and not to lose hope. With all the help of our successful entrepreneurs we will definitely succeed in helping many Filipinos beat poverty.