The third annual ICSB-GW Global Entrepreneurship Research & Policy Conference was held in Washington DC over three days from 11 October 2012 (see http://www.icsbgw.org/). ACE research fellow Scott Gordon was a delegate to the conference, and reports on the meeting. This research and policy conference was organized by Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy and Prof. Paul Reynolds and sponsored by the International Council for Small Business. Events were held at the down-town DC campus of the George Washington University, and at various venues around the city, including an evening reception at the Hall of Flags of the DC Chamber of Commerce, just across the street from the White House.
As with many conferences it was a chance to catch up with colleagues you’ve known for a while and to meet some new ones. The ICSB-GW conference has grown out of the annual PSED (Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics) conference, and it is still a place for PSED researchers to meet and exchange ideas. But it aims to be something bigger. PSED initiator Prof. Paul Reynolds’ vision for the conference is to have a meeting where entrepreneurship researchers and policy makers can evaluate the many databases that exist in order to conduct their research or inform their policy decisions. Policy makers can take stock of the latest research findings, and researchers can identify topics which require attention in order to develop the evidence base for entrepreneurship policy. Perhaps, the main benefit of a meeting such as the ICSB-GW is getting all these different types of people in the same room and focused on the same goal of developing global entrepreneurship. Yet, some agencies holding data relevant to entrepreneurship policy and research declined the invitation to participate this year. However, as Prof. Reynolds points out this may change in the future as they become aware of the attention this conference attracts from hundreds of researchers and policy makers, and they realise it’s perhaps better to be inside the room than outside.
If it’s good enough for the President of the USA, it’s good enough for them: Dr. Scott Gordon (ACE) and Dr. Casey Frid (Pace University) debrief the day’s events over a “chilli half-smoke” at Ben’s Chilli Bowl (“official dog” of the Washington Nationals).
With the interface between research and policy being a focus of the ICSB-GW meeting the crowd it attracts is an interesting one. There were academic researchers, entrepreneurship policy makers, as well as a few practitioners, and those that combine all these skills. Without initiatives like this, these people may not get the chance to share a room, or their ideas. As a result the conference did not have the usual feel of an academic research conference. In fact, there were three different themes for the conference, split over its three days. There was a data day, a policy day and a research day. In addition to the usual conference presentations, and endless barrages of PowerPoint slides, the format encouraged delegates to get hands on with entrepreneurship data and think about how their research might be put into practice.
There was a database fare on the first day, and a number of data workshops on the final day. So ,if you weren’t familiar with nascent entrepreneurship data like that from the PSED or GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor), this meeting offered an instant crash-course: Starting with a brief introduction to the features of this type of entrepreneurship data on day one, moving on to hear about the current state of global entrepreneurship policy programs and possible areas in which this data may be applied on day two, followed up by learning how researchers have already been using this data on days two and three, and finally having a go at analysing the data yourself by the end of the day three workshops.
In an ideal world, data might drive policy decisions from the bottom up, based on sound evidence of the entrepreneurship phenomenon in practice. On ICSB-GW’s dedicated policy day, Prof. David Storey shared a few anecdotes of his extensive experience in providing guidance to governments of developed and middle income economies in the area of entrepreneurship and small business. His presentation relayed the reality of policy making as something that approaches the evidence based ideal, but from the other end. Often entrepreneurial goals were set top down by the different ministers charged with directing this area of government. Mostly these goals turn out to be centred on the same two ideas. Governments universally expect enterprise policy should a) create more entrepreneurial firms, and b) create better entrepreneurial firms. But, the detail of how these goals might be reached was left to the kinds of people attending this conference to sort out… That gives something for conference delegates to work on.
Perhaps, saving the best till last, Dr. Norris Krueger led a rather interactive research discussion on what constitutes an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and how would we know it when we got there? Maybe it’s like the minster requested, we should have more and better entrepreneurial firms. Part presentation, part thinking out loud about what new businesses need in order to thrive, the discussion started with the assumption that developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem was a good thing. This assumption found little argument from this audience, and aligned perfectly with what Prof. Story shared the day before. Sure, Norris’ was the last presentation, of the last session, on the last day of the conference, but no one was getting off lightly… How, would we know that we’d got there? He challenged all attendees to come up with a way of measuring entrepreneurship without repeating any others ideas. One by one, he put an audience member under the spotlight. Some shrank into their seat, others stuttered. I thought to myself, surely he will stop asking after getting a few answers to work in to his presentation, but, no! Seeing what was coming, audience members started thinking quickly about their answer, hoping that no one earlier in the line up would give their answer away. That’s one way to get the audience’s attention, and one way to wind up a conference, right back on the theme: A lively discussion about entrepreneurship.
Assoc Prof. Yang Jun (Nankai University, China)& Dr. Scott Gordon (ACE) discuss their respective countries studies of nascent entrepreneurship and the prospect of future collaboration and cross country comparisons.
All in all it was an interesting time to be in DC. I thought, being so close to the day, the US presidential election would have been the main game in town while I was there. I was wrong. For the first time in almost 80 years DC had a home team (The Nationals) contesting the baseball post-season playoffs. Cruelly, they went down in the decider to the Cardinals who scored 4 runs in the 9th innings to snatch the win 9-7. But for the Nats, like the ICSB-GW Global Entrepreneurship Conference, there is always next year…
Dr. Scott Gordon is a Research Fellow with The Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research in the QUT Business School