Monthly Archives: May 2011

entrepreneurship as the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control

Apparently, it was Harvard Business School professor Howard H. Stevenson who first called entrepreneurship “the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you currently control” (PDF).

If you decide how to allocate a budget, personnel, or other resources that you have in hand, you are administering. If you make those allocations collaboratively, you are negotiating or deliberating. If you plan a ten-million-dollar house in your mind, without having any way to get the $10 million, you are daydreaming. If you have the capacity to seize someone else’s resources, you are stealing. But if you come up with a plausible plan to raise $10 million in voluntary investment capital, you are an entrepreneur.

You can be an entrepreneur (as opposed to a mere administrator) inside business, government, academia, or the nonprofit sector. Wherever you work, you must make plans that involve resources that you can get but don’t yet have.

The definition is not narrowly individualistic. In fact, Stevenson says,  “Entrepreneurship is greater when successful members of a community reinvest excess capital in the projects of other  community members.” So my entrepreneurship may depend on your behavior, and vice-versa.

Entrepreneurship, on this definition, does not hinge on novelty. Entrepreneurs seek resources beyond the ones they control, but they need not do so in original ways. Starting a humanities center on your campus is entrepreneurial even if there are hundreds like it on other campuses.

I suppose this definition is a little fuzzy. If you are required to propose next year’s budget, and there is a chance it will be cut, your proposal is sort of entrepreneurial. You are pursuing resources that you don’t control. But this kind of situation sounds like regular administration unless the odds of success are low and a great deal of creativity is needed to get the funding. At the other extreme, if you come up with a crazy new business plan, you are merely daydreaming, unless the odds of success are moderately good.  Since being entrepreneurial seems to depend on operating in a zone of moderate uncertainty, entrepreneurship isn’t sharply delimited from other ways of operating. Also, since efforts either succeed or fail, it can be hard to tell whether an initiative was entrepreneurial. If it works, it looks like administration; and if it fails, it looks like daydreaming.

Finally, entrepreneurship isn’t good; it is a morally neutral category. But it is useful, nonetheless.

insights on young Republicans

A couple of recent research reports have crossed my desk regarding young conservatives.  First, RK Research has a poll of 1,000 college students. As a preface, they note that young people are not always a Democratic constituency: majorities of young Americans have voted for the Republican presidential ticket three times since 1972 and came close in another three elections. But the last decade saw a generation gap, punctuated by Barack Obama’s ability to take an unprecedented two-thirds of the under-30 vote in 2008.

The RK Research poll contains some insights for conservatives who want to make inroads with college students (who are just a subset of young people). For one thing, issue priorities are interesting:

All college students:

  1. Education
  2. Economy
  3. Health Care
  4. Civil Liberties
  5. Government Ethics
  6. National Security

Republican college students:

  1. National security
  2. Education
  3. Economy
  4. Economic Freedom
  5. Government Ethics
  6. Balanced Budget

All college students rank military strength and national security as the Republican Party’s #1 and #2 strongest areas of performance. The challenge for Republicans is that their brand seems to be strongest when it comes to national security, but only Republican college students rank that as a high priority. Some of the Party’s leading national issues do not play well among college students, even the Republican ones. Economic freedom comes in at #4 for the college Republicans; abortion, at #13; and social values, at #14. Education trumps all of those at #2. I would recommend the Republicans emphasize constructive policy positions on education, including higher education.

Meanwhile, this paper by Mukand and Kaplan finds that young people who registered to vote in California right after 9/11/2001 were more likely to register as Republicans than those who registered right before 9/11/01, and they have stayed more Republican since then. This is an interesting contribution to the general literature on voting, because it suggests that formative  experiences have lasting effects. It also suggests that today’s young Republicans (a relatively small group) may be especially motivated by concerns about national security–in which case the  Republicans’ priorities of tax cuts and social issues will not play particularly well with them. After all, the RK Research poll was conducted before Osama bin Laden was killed in a mission authorized by a Democratic president.

the World Bank and active citizenship

The World Bank has published a book entitled Accountability Through Public Opinion: From Inertia to Public Action. Its premise: governments perform better when citizens hold them accountable by seeking information, deliberating, and acting politically. Anyone who holds strongly negative stereotypes about the Bank–as a bastion of neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus–may be surprised to see, for instance, Marshall Ganz’ chapter on “Public Narrative, Collective Action, and Power.” (Ganz is a leading figure in the American left.)

My chapter is entitled “‘Social Accountability’ as Public Work.” I address the increasingly common practice of governments asking citizens to evaluate, influence, or inform policy. I see merit in this strategy, but also limitations …

  • Motivational: Most people lack sufficient reason to devote substantial time and energy to improving the performance of government. If governments provide incentives to participate, then citizens’ engagement is dependent on government.
  • Epistemic: If you are merely asked to assess the government, without having deep experience in addressing public problems, you may not know enough to evaluate well. You may have information but not deeply held, considered, experience-based values.
  • Political: Public forums and meetings are what John Gaventa calls “invited spaces.” The officials who issue invitations can revoke them. Power remains with the government.

I suggest an alternative, drawing on Harry Boyte’s concept of “public work.” Many millions of people are already at work addressing public problems, either as part of their jobs or as unpaid efforts. Work is motivating, educational, and empowering. If we see public consultations, deliberations, and input as aspects of public work, we can reframe these processes somewhat. In particular, we can embed them more thoroughly in jobs, professional roles, and volunteer activities.

Justice Souter at CIRCLE

Posted on the CIRCLE website today:

On May 16, U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter (retired) and Susan Leahy, the president of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society, visited CIRCLE’s offices at Tufts University to discuss civic education in New Hampshire. Justice Souter has written and spoken publicly about the need to revive civic education in order to protect constitutional principles—including the independence of the judiciary—and to preserve and spread the ideals and practices of democratic government that he learned from the New England town meetings of his childhood. He and Susan Leahy represented the New Hampshire Supreme Court Society’s Civics Task Force, a diverse group of the state’s leaders who are concerned that New Hampshire has no core curriculum in civics, nor any detailed goals for civic education. Although valuable opportunities for civic learning are available in the state (for students and adults), they are sporadic and episodic.

CIRCLE staff shared research on civic education and discussed a range of strategies for enhancing it at the state level, with a special focus on “professional development” (or educational opportunities for teachers). New Hampshire educators have identified professional development in civics as a priority, and research shows that it is valuable. For example, see the CIRCLE Fact Sheet entitled How Teachers’ Preparation Relates to Students’ Civic Knowledge and Engagement in the United States: Analysis from the IEA Civic Education Study by Judith Torney-Purta, Carolyn Henry Barber, and Wendy Klandl Richardson.

reform the university to meet the public’s knowledge needs in an age of information overload

In this ten-minute video (from the Tisch College Tenth Anniversary celebration), I argue: 1) there is just too much information available for citizens to digest; 2) in order for the public to engage with information, we need appropriate institutions; 3) the institutions that formerly played that role, especially metropolitan daily newspapers, are in desperate condition; so 4) we need to rethink the communications function of the university.