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The political and developmental agendas on MSMEs, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, being the engine of growth continues.

As we see further defining of the much used term entrepreneur, then the idea of all would-be entrepreneurs becoming billionaires is being surpassed by agendas to create millions of self sufficient entrepreneurial people earning a living. This is reinforced as we witness the new age of capitalism alongside the political agenda of job and work creation for a youth with competing demands on time and much changed opportunities to be expressive for themselves, their families and any sense of community they care to define.

Two themes continue to resonate in terms of MSME support:-

How To’

The ‘How To’ in terms of helping a business in its formation, shaping of its own objectives thence strategy and the agendas of the key people in such a business enterprise; the need to look at the resilience, the durability, of the business. No matter the motivations and incentives of a business, the churn rate remains a major issue as businesses fail and people must not.

Why To’

The motivations and incentives for starting a business at a personal or collective level or causing people to become self-employed/enterprisers. In the individual and collective case, rarely is this to create larger pools of employment as per government, or development actor, wishes. These actors (continue to) see MSMEs, social enterprise and cooperatives and production associations as the panacea for the post 2015 Development Goals (notably Goal 1, 8 and possibly 9, 3 and 2)1

How: One Size Does Not Fit All because of Why to

In answering the why at the individual level, the pitch becomes essential. The pitch may be to yourself to create resources within your sphere of influence. The basic could be simply finding time to turn an idea into a plan to be able to raise wider resources. The fact of the matter is virtually all of us require continuity in terms of earning a livelihood and those without a livelihood require basic support ahead of needing input on the tactical side of starting a business (even when they have the technical skills on which to base the business and may even have some of the managerial attributes for running the business)

Work in the psychology of being an owner operator, sole practitioner, or enterprise manager requiring different personality traits through the phases of development and how we, as individuals are able to work through the range of emotions caused by the issues raised during the business start-up and development cycle. Even in businesses established then we see the need for the support to people in, for example, family business continuity planning

The separation and then bringing back together of ‘How To’ from ‘Why To’ is a critical point whereby we look at the core process; causing the questioning of the process in terms of how it immediately interacts with the variables; notably the entrepreneur / enterpriser and their own motivations and incentives for starting the business.

Knowing the general flow, defining points for decisions, going route A, B or 3, then we start to be able to have the next steps whereby we see the process and allow the individual to adapt and adopt the ‘how to’ within their answer to the why to start a business?

Certain tools have transferred across cultural and communication divides. Have we systemised these in terms of the core process thence looking back as to how the core is adapted and adopted to fit individual and collective needs and the operating environments beyond the direct control of both the individual and the collective? Policy feedback loops – fitting to themes throughout as a number of donors now see making markets work is fundamental. Making markets work: be it for the poor, the disenfranchised or the way to address the emergent issues of overloaded social protection and basic services systems – see http://www.economist.com/news/britain/21665072-revival-labours-moderates-will-come-local-government-jim-mcmahon-reluctant-maquisard – how business is transcending ‘normal’ political affiliations. Lobbying moving into direct action with collectives run and owned by MSMEs

Bullets for firing off further work:-

  • On the growing sense ‘entrepreneur’ as a term and meaning now applied to micro and small business set up does not encompass the needs of individuals and their enterprises.
  • Micro business – The nature of survival for many people (how many? Where?) with little or no alternative
  • The belief we are seeing the franchising of aspects of service provision particularly so as to be efficient in delivery of business models set up by large companies and the means to circumvent established social protection laws, policies and protocols
  • A step back to the process flow. Evident we have articulated the steps, can we now show the core steps and look at the various alternate paths (along the core), which show, and reflect, decision points, divergence to different types of enterprise structure?
  • Policy work to fit the individual’s desire for work to the community thence institutional levels of decision making and support

Questions posed:

  • Proprietorial nature of knowledge? Have we managed to cultivate real depth in the how to support an enterprise develop in the last half century? Or have we developed tremendous numbers of different means to return to the basic building blocks without truly answering the fundamental questions in terms of incentives and motivations and then the core, key, elements for starting and running a business capable to meet the needs of those directly involved with the business?
  • Market, supply and value chain development. In a number of settings, this work is undertaken by development organisations. The sense is one where the work has evolved and improved; there remain issues of proprietorial knowledge and/or research for the sake of research divorced from the market functionality of MSMEs.
  • A theme now resonating is the use of mass data collection approaches whereby ‘citizen input’ is used as a means to provide basic employment (could be used as a conditional cash transfer approach for those where the usual physical work immediate employment is not the best way forward). In the more developed economies, then the role of decentralised government structures could be reinvigorated?

The for the future? Infrastructure to Facilitate Individual and Collective Growth

Regeneration work in Western Europe, cash for work in humanitarian crisis, urban programmes refocusing local economies, infrastructure works inside resilience and post conflict societies, work to forestall migration – The common thread is the political statement (often driven by expediency) of building physical infrastructure. The differentiation of geography is there and whilst we have micro and small business centres established in different guises, the issues of wider infrastructure to facilitate start-ups and support the development of micro and small businesses is not wholly understood let alone done well.

A major issue remains the ownership of base platforms on to which businesses and enterprises build their individual efforts. The control of the means of promoting, remains not with MSMEs or within the remit of MSMEs to influence beyond the incentives of the organisations providing infrastructure. This is not to say aspects of infrastructure should be under government ownership.

The issues are with regard to protection of inventive and innovative business ideas; how to protect start-ups who have financial cash flow issues and are susceptible to being brought out (below ultimate market value) before they reach durability?

Mutual support appears to be a key ingredient when we do not / will not see further controls on the movement to monopoly / oligopoly with regard to, particularly, Internet control and, increasingly, electronic money. How to sponsor competition alongside accountability? Greater public liability companies? Continued innovation with regard to how to move beyond the Internet? The role of crowdfunding and reciprocal trade agreements forestalling monetary transfers?

Collective knowledge and capability to influence the design (and ownership) of infrastructure is fundamental for the durability of MSMEs

Lastly, we always have to finish on the old adage, the children are the future and why not go with the flow here to make note of how education is ‘becoming entrepreneurial’. Germany’s Realschule is nothing new; positively medieval2, and shows the ‘how to’ par excellence as the basis of past and future generational learning and development. The International Baccalaureate echoes points regarding ‘cooperative learning’, ‘constructivist’, ‘experiential learning’ and ‘inquiry based instruction’3. This last point is noteworthy as students, young people, are not seen simply as sponges onto which to pour processes, techniques and, often, dry facts; which are themselves all essential, but to look at how we learn and add value to these facts and processes.

It is as much about deliberately shaping the attitude as culturing the aptitude – addressing the ‘Why to’ whilst ensuring the knowledge to access the ‘How to’.

1 2015 Development Goals

2 http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21643732-vaunted-system-excludes-minorities-no-guest-workers-please

3 Lifted from The Aga Khan Academy – PYP (Primary Years Programme) at the Aga Khan Academy. These are factors within a seven-factor development of young people – The others being: Student Centred and Driven, and Differentiation.