Well, the work has begun. I am still in Kazakhstan, but my rest and relaxation is over. Today began with the KAFU Conference. At 10am the President of KAFU opened the conference. There will be events occurring for the next week, but we had several presentations today. I had a seat of honor next to the President at the host table. It was pretty amazing.
My presentation was first. I had a wonderful young man interpret for me. His name was Eugene. My topic was presenting the idea the Business was a power for creating positive social change. I displayed seven slides, which were in English. Eugene would read the slides off of the wall, and then I would share my thoughts. We ran over the seven-minute limit, but it was actually pretty well done. Eugene did a good job.
I presented on why I think business has the power, and I discussed what social problems impacted both Kazakhstan and the United States. I also discussed what specifically was the good things of business. Then I mentioned why business practitioners struggle with using business to do good. I then discussed Social Entrepreneurship, Corporate Social Responsibility, and then closed with the concept of a triple bottom-line.
I do think it went well, and I do think the room listened. Subsequent conversations with students and alumni have confirmed that entrepreneurship is needed to help Kazakhstan continue its march into the 21st century.
After I finished, there were a few questions. The President himself wanted me to tell the participants my back ground. I was very happy to answer the question. The next person asked me to provide an example of a company that had practices Corporate Social Responsibility.
I proceeded to tell the audience about the Boeing Company and the amount of money it gives to charity. I also discussed the Employee Community Fund. And lastly, I discussed how Boeing pays for employee tuition. I thoroughly enjoyed the plenary presentation. However, I also enjoyed to student’s presentations that were very good.
When I returned to the table where I was sitting the President leaned over and told me I did a good job. He said he appreciated that it was it common language that everyone could understand. I appreciated his comments.
After the two-hour introduction to the conference, we had a wonderful lunch. The Kazakhs love their Chicken and so do I. We sat around and talked for a bit, and then I met my first group of students. I had twelve students who were studying Servant Leadership.
I began the workshop with defining terms. I had the students introduce themselves, and then I introduce myself. We then defined terms and dug a little deeper into the subject of Servant Leadership. After my initial meeting with these students I was impressed with their level of English. However, I do think their understanding of leadership, and specifically Servant Leadership, needs a little work.
I have to admit, the Kazakh students are just like my students in Portland. They want to learn, but sometimes their own thinking gets in the way. My job with the Kazakh students will be the same as my goal with the Portland students. Get them to see how the theory works, and help them see its practicality.
From a pedagogical position, teaching Kazakh students is no different than teaching American students. However, once again I see the power of culture. During my evening session with the alumni, we discussed what entrepreneurism is. One of the participants was actually a consultant helping people start small businesses. He was the young man that gave me a ride back to the hotel.
A few minutes into the session I decided I needed to take the lesson a different direction. I really think the young people of Kazakhstan need to understand the philosophy behind the starting of a business. The philosophy first recognized by Jean Batiste Say when he used the French term for the first time.
The entrepreneur is a unique individual. Roger Martin and Sally Osberg (2007) discuss this in their Stanford article on social entrepreneurship. According to Martin and Osberg, an entrepreneur “Is [not just]. . . simply [alert] to opportunity? Creativity? Determination?” (p. 31). Martin and Osberg (2007), argue that the entrepreneur is one who “shifts economic resources out of an area of lower into an area of higher productivity and greater yield” (p. 31). From this we can conclude that an entrepreneur is someone who can recognize a deficiency within a system, but is innovative enough to create better processes that lead to a better and higher performing system. Martin and Osberg identify the role of “creative destruction” within the entrepreneurial endeavor. They use Schumpeter’s concept to describe the process of innovation. “Successful entrepreneurship, he [Schumpeter] argues, sets off a chain reaction, encouraging other entrepreneurs to iterate upon and ultimately propagate the innovation to a point of ‘creative destruction,’ a state at which the new venture and all its related ventures effectively render existing products, services, and business models obsolete” (p. 31). Not only is the entrepreneur an innovator, but he or she is also an agent of change. “Entrepreneurs are believed to have an exceptional ability to see and seize upon new opportunities, the commitment and drive required to pursue them, and an unflinching willingness to bear the inherent risks” (Martin and Osberg, 2007, p. 31).
I do think these young people get it, but as I told them, there are three important parts of creating an entrepreneurial system. First, the context is critical. The current context of Kazakhstan is still heavily influence by the old Soviet system. The student who gave me a ride home last night told me that it is very hard to start a business in Kazakhstan. This tells me the context is still unfriendly to entrepreneurial change.
Second, the people are critical. For any context to change there needs to be people who can change it. That means people who are skilled in guiding events toward a successful conclusion, and people who have the desire to take the risks necessary to take the journey.
And last, processes for creating an entrepreneurial culture need the freedom to exist. This means fewer restrictions, well defined steps on how to establish a creative culture, and even starting small businesses.
There are already many small businesses in Kazakhstan, but based on what I have been told it is very difficult to make a living in this country. The country is physically huge, it has many natural resources, and it has a young population that wants a better life. All they need is a context to thrive. I hope the President of Kazakhstan will help them accomplish this.
And that is my thought for the day!