The role of policy in fostering entrepreneurship is the million dollar question. At the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellín, this was a central question discussed at the Global SME Ministerial.  Representatives from 15 governments from around the world, as well as representatives from the European Commission, UNCTAD and the OECD discussed their approaches to fostering entrepreneurial growth.

Despite their differences, almost regardless of whether a factor-driven, efficiency-driven or innovation-driven economy, one striking common denominator was the consensus regarding establishing the right balance and tone of government intervention. GEN President Jonathan Ortmans highlighted the importance of building solutions with entrepreneurs, not for entrepreneurs, highlighting that only bottom-up perspectives will ultimately have the most significant impact.

That said, governments play an important role supporting entrepreneurs through shaping the “rules of the game” in terms of laws and regulations. However, we shouldn’t forget that entrepreneurs are experts at pushing boundaries and breaking the rules. The role of policy, therefore, needs to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem without unnecessarily impressing itself on it,

In summing up Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, highlighted the value of entrepreneurship across nations as the foundations of economic growth and prosperity. However, just as striking was her remarks as to the importance of entrepreneurship for social development and building societies.

The goal of government policy is not only to promote entrepreneurship, but support entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in a sustainable way that yields economic and social benefits. How this is achieved will always differ from country to country, but the GEC provides a unique opportunity to share good practice and develop new insights.

Professor Tim Vorley is a Chair in Entrepreneurship at Sheffield University Management School (UK), and his research interests are in the policy and practice of entrepreneurship from an institutional perspective.

Photo credit: Mariano Mayer