Using Entrepreneurship to Empower the Marginalized

Pamela Guerrero
Aug 19 · 6 min read

Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day is an annual United Nations event meant to raise awareness of the role that small and mid-sized businesses play in the international economy. This event also addresses the main challenges that MSMEs face such as a lack of accessibility to formal training, funding, local politics and the international market. It places a spotlight on enterprise and the contributions MSMEs have made to the development of local communities. MSMEs are recognized as private sector entities that occupy a unique position where they can tackle important social issues and offer additional opportunities for marginalized communities. As stated by the United Nations (UN), “MSMEs tend to employ a larger share of the vulnerable sectors of the workforce, such as women, youth, and people from poorer households” [1]. Furthermore, MSMEs are at the forefront of innovation, development, and growth within various countries. The International Trade Centre (ITC) recently found that MSMEs account for more than 90% of all businesses and around 70% of jobs worldwide [2]. These numbers show MSME’s play a larger role in global economic development and meeting the 2030 agenda set forth by the UN.

Global entrepreneurship must be encouraged in areas with tougher living conditions so that those left behind can utilize the new opportunities being created by MSMEs. If MSMEs are to change the world and contribute to development, then the marginalized must be involved through their own bids for entrepreneurship.

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Poverty as a Barrier

Poverty is traditionally affixed to the sheer lack of basic income or the presence of homeless people on the streets. It is a term that is often associated with physical characteristics when in reality it can be used to describe a mental or societal state. Poverty can be a severe lack of opportunity for social mobility or an absence of proper education, training, and resources to move ahead in life. It can also be associated with the fear of entering a state of destitution due to high unemployment and a lack of proper support. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs works to combat these issues through:

  • Providing support to member states in achieving the goal of eradicating absolute poverty through national and international cooperation
  • Promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective of both national and international policies
  • Facilitating a space for various stakeholders to interact, exchange views, bring different perspectives, and promote mutual understanding and learning in order to create a common platform for creating an inclusive society [3].

Poverty of opportunity is the type of poverty that the youth, women, immigrants, refugees, indigenous people, and the disabled often face. It is a grave crisis among marginalized communities that is difficult to alleviate. However, global entrepreneurship provides the tools and opportunities needed to improve the conditions of marginalized communities [4]. Entrepreneurship can directly lift low-income families out of poverty by creating new employment opportunities. MSMEs provide support toward solving other intersectional issues such as gender inequality and environmental pollution that contribute to poverty.

(Portrait of clothing designer Lara Khoury in her studio in Beirut. UN Women/Joe Saade)

Entrepreneurship as a Solution

On MSME day, Jeffrey Alves, the editor of the International Council for Small Businesses journal, reported that 43% of the world’s population is under twenty five. This means that nearly half of the world’s population is about to enter a workforce plagued by concerning rates of unemployment. Further concerns such as the lack of women in business, conflict in various regions, as well as the lack of vocational training make poverty of opportunity seems certain. Nevertheless, entrepreneurship can help combat these issues as a career option. Facilitating the inclusion of entrepreneurship in educational curriculums around the world can change the perception of opportunity and encourage marginalized communities to consider additional options [5]. A curriculum revolving around entrepreneurial values, such as innovation and perseverance, is also able to instill skills in people that can be utilized for other available jobs. Additionally, entrepreneurial success is not an isolated incident and often gives back to local attitudes, resources, and infrastructure. Entrepreneurship gives various marginalized groups the opportunity to start their own stable source of income and consequently give back to the community they came from. It inspires a proactive approach toward local, regional, and international participation that is not traditionally granted to those that are denied an active role in society.

Many methods are employed everyday to promote the path of entrepreneurship to the marginalized, but what really matters is that these programs aim to improve the basic conditions of high-risk communities. For example, an entrepreneurship project developed by the International Labor Organization and the Japan Fund for Building Social Safety Nets contained the following objectives:

  • Improve employment opportunities for poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups through access to skills training on enterprise development;
  • Empower vulnerable groups to start or improve their businesses through the new skills acquired;
  • Create an enabling environment for entrepreneurship through establishment and strengthening of networks for implementing social safety net services, providers of working capital, and participants from vulnerable groups [6]

These are goals that could assist in developing communities which can support those that are frequently left behind. A set of standards is needed to create a foundation for the marginalized to move ahead in their own communities. By encouraging women, immigrants, refugees, the disabled, youth, and other high-risk groups to take part in entrepreneurship, individuals will be given the power to create their own opportunity. For further information on the impact of entrepreneurship in development, visit http://www.intracen.org/ or https://icsb.org/.

References

  1. “Micro-enterprises, Small Enterprises, Medium-sized Enterprises, Business, Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Development.” United Nations. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://www.un.org/en/events/smallbusinessday/.
  2. “Export Impact For Good.” ITC. Accessed July 24, 2019. http://www.intracen.org/MSME-day/2019/.
  3. “About Us | Poverty Eradication.” United Nations. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://www.un.org/development/desa/socialperspectiveondevelopment/what-we-do.html.
  4. “Message from the President of ICSB 2019–2020.” International Council for Small Business. July 22, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://icsb.org/2019presidentmessage/.
  5. “Five Mindsets That A Great College Education Helps To Cultivate.” The Aspen Institute. July 18, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/of-interest/five-mindsets-that-a-great-college-education-helps-to-cultivate/.
  6. ILO/Japan Fund for Building Social Safety Nets in Asia and the Pacific. “Empowering Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations through Community-Based Entreprise Development (C-BED).” Empowering Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations through Community-Based Entreprise Development (C-BED). August 13, 2017. Accessed July 26, 2019. https://www.ilo.org/asia/projects/WCMS_569489/lang--en/index.htm.

Bibliography

“Micro-enterprises, Small Enterprises, Medium-sized Enterprises, Business, Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Development.” United Nations. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://www.un.org/en/events/smallbusinessday/.

“Export Impact For Good.” ITC. Accessed July 24, 2019. http://www.intracen.org/MSME-day/2019/.

“About Us | Poverty Eradication.” United Nations. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://www.un.org/development/desa/socialperspectiveondevelopment/what-we-do.html.

“Message from the President of ICSB 2019–2020.” International Council for Small Business. July 22, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2019. https://icsb.org/2019presidentmessage/.

“Five Mindsets That A Great College Education Helps To Cultivate.” The Aspen Institute. July 18, 2019. Accessed July 26, 2019. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/of-interest/five-mindsets-that-a-great-college-education-helps-to-cultivate/.

ILO/Japan Fund for Building Social Safety Nets in Asia and the Pacific. “Empowering Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations through Community-Based Entreprise Development (C-BED).” Empowering Marginalized and Vulnerable Populations through Community-Based Entreprise Development (C-BED). August 13, 2017. Accessed July 26, 2019. https://www.ilo.org/asia/projects/WCMS_569489/lang--en/index.htm.

“Entrepreneurs’ Organization — EO Is the World’s Only Peer-to-peer Network Exclusively for Entrepreneurs.” Entrepreneurs. Accessed July 26, 2019. https://www.eonetwork.org/.

“Division for Sustainable Development Goals, UNHQ .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations. Accessed July 26, 2019. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/about/dsd.

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