There is an urgent need today, to create equitable access to opportunities that provide decent and attractive work for all sections of the society, particularly the under-privileged communities. The emerging Indian economy is characterised by un-paralleled dynamism owing to a new wave of technology and market transitions, as well as structural changes in the macro-economic environment. Rural communities, especially the backward and the vulnerable ones struggle in this new economy to adapt from traditional to new occupations. Those running small businesses or trying to make a living in the informal sector find it increasingly difficult to survive.
Micro-enterprises have the potential to address these challenges and create livelihood opportunities in large numbers. Our belief in the instrumental role they play is strengthened with each interaction and every unique story that unfolds before us in projects undertaken by the Development Alternatives Group and our partners in rural India. Each entrepreneur is a potential innovator and agent of change. And yet, their work is inextricably connected to other actors and their actions locally, in the macro-economy and perhaps even globally. Our aim therefore, is to initiate change that is systemic in nature and capable of unleashing entrepreneurship at scale.
It is essential for local narratives to move from ‘necessity-based entrepreneurship’ to ‘opportunity-based entrepreneurship’, supported by an eco-system that provides equitable access to information, resources, market linkages and finance that enables individuals and communities to realise their dream of changing their lives.
A recent trip to the Basque Country in Spain reaffirmed the power of collective action; visible in communities such as the Mondragon Cooperatives where sustained local transformation through a people’s movement helped establish a multi-billion Euro presence in the global business arena. The area has evolved from a declining, dying region to an economically progressive and resilient one.
In order to capture latent entrepreneurship opportunities, we need to strategically engineer a transition from a ‘linear, directed action based approach to entrepreneurship’ to a scenario in which ‘systemic solutions are co-created among communities and critical stakeholders’. Communities in the poverty stricken Bundelkhand region of Central India, where we work, show us a glimpse of this future. ‘Micro-movements’ that drive these change processes have emerged and are beginning to create a culture of entrepreneurship among the communities.
Going forward, the Development Alternatives Group is committed to multi-dimensional approaches, made possible by constructive communities who through collective will and effort, attract resources and enable their equitable application, thereby enhancing local value and creating jobs to become self-reliant.
The views expressed in the article are those of the author’s and not necessarily those of Development Alternatives.