GERN is dedicated to working toward a world in which entrepreneurial impact is as widely distributed as entrepreneurial potential.
Entrepreneur-led value creation is central to the progress of human societies everywhere. However, a significant variance exists across geographies in the extent to which individuals are able both to realizing their full productive potential and to building high-impact ventures. These differences are more a function of the “software” of relationships, trust, and shared understanding than to the “hardware” of physical space, funding, and formal institutions that characterize a region or country.
Theory of Change
Research-based programs and policies improve entrepreneurial outcomes largely by positively impacting the software of societal development. The Global Entrepreneurship Research Network catalyzes and aligns research that is integrally linked with the practice of entrepreneurship and the growth of entrepreneurial ecosystems.
The GERN theory of change with regard to global entrepreneurship research follows the experience of the field of management over the past five decades. That process followed three stages:
- Stage One: Practitioners Define the Field. In the first stage, a practitioner-based literature seeks to characterize parameters of excellence. Works like Peter Drucker’s 1973 book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (derived from three decades of experience working with large corporations) and Bill Smith’s Six Sigma method for process improvement, (developed at Motorola in the mid-1980s, then famously implemented at G.E. by Jack Welsh) contributed significantly to establishing a baseline understanding of effective practices in management.
- Stage Two: Practitioner Insights Are Translated Into Codified Practices. In the second stage, practitioner-initiated understanding is converted into codified practices, which form the basis for the design of instructional and certification programs. The ISO-9000 family of quality management systems standards, for which 11 million certifications have been issued globally, is an example of a codified set of practices derived from practitioner insights.
- Stage Three: Codified Practices Provide the Basis for Research-Based Programs and Policies. Research becomes relevant after effective practices have been codified. At that point, it is possible to study systematically whether one set of interventions has, or has not, achieved its intended objectives. In some instances, practices long believed to be effective are called into question by systematic research; in other instances, research results reinforce intuition and perceptions regarding accumulated experience. In either case, practice is further improved by structured inquiry. A recent, influential paper by Kauffman Prize recipient Nicholas Bloom and co-authors that documents the result of a randomized control trial related to the adoption of effective management practices is an example of research that is built upon foundations of practitioner insight, followed by codification.
Entrepreneurship research is following the same three-stage process followed by management research, but with a lag of at least two decades.
- Stage One: Practitioners Define the Field. The lean startup movement (including related work by Steve Blank and Alex Osterwalder, as well as exhaustive research by Noam Wasserman), has provided a set of practitioner insights that have establishing a baseline understanding of effective practices in entrepreneurship.
- Stage Two: Practitioner Insights Are Translated Into Codified Practices. Insights have been codified into programs such as the NSF’s iCorp and elaborated into the curricula of numerous entrepreneurial accelerator programs. Practitioner insights regarding the characteristics of successful entrepreneurial ecosystems are similarly being codified via a variety of efforts to map entrepreneurial ecosystems—a first step toward formally characterizing successful ecosystems.
- Stage Three: Codified Practices Provide the Basis for Research-Based Programs and Policies. Work in this stage of entrepreneurship research is nascent. The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI), a collaboration between ANDE and Emory University supported by GERN, is one example.
GERN aims to accelerate the transition from Stage II to Stage III by catalyzing and aligning research that is integrally linked with the practice of entrepreneurship and the growth of entrepreneurial ecosystem. GERN undertakes this work with a conscious understanding of the practitioner origin of the insights on which research is based, and a clear focus on the mission of realizing a world in which in which entrepreneurial impact is as widely distributed as entrepreneurial potential.
How GERN Engages its Members:
- Regular Convenings. Biannual meetings (GEC and SNS) and member-hosted gathering (GEC+) that build community within GERN, and connect GERN members with the practitioner-centered energy and insights of the broader GEN community
- Replicable Projects. Geographically modularized, high-leverage projects structured around distributed support at the $50-100K per implementation (e.g. Ecosystem Connections Mapping project, which has mobilized $1.5+ million of co-funding along multiple implementers including the MaRS, Nesta, the World Bank, among others.)
- Open Data Resources: Collaboration currently being designed with the World Bank
- 2014: Convening (Moscow)
- Conception of the model (e.g., discussions crystalized into the Ecosystem Mapping project, the Government Data Infrastructure, and the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI).
- 2015: Catalyzing (Milan)
- Consensus on GERN’s five collaborative research areas.
- 2016: Community-Building (Medellin & Daegu)
- Intensified engagement with partners on two collaborative projects:
- High-Growth Firms (World Bank)
- Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurial Mindset (Allan Gray Orbis, Ciputra Foundation, Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation)
- Continued engagement with partners on:
- Government Data Infrastructure (OECD, UNCTAD, Kauffman Foundation)
- Ecosystem Mapping (Endeavor, World Bank, NESTA, MaRS)
- Accelerators/GALI (USAID, ANDE, Argidius, Emory)
- Program-scale Assessment (NESTA/IGL)
- Intensified engagement with partners on two collaborative projects:
- 2017: Advancing the Frontier (Johannesburg)
- Launch of collaborative project on cities and the digital economy (Future Cities Catapult. World Bank, 1776)
- Launch of significant new collaborative research in the context of two collaborative areas:
- High-growth firms (World Bank)
- Entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial mindset (Allan Gray Orbis, Ciputra Foundation, Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation)
- Publication of initial findings from Ecosystem Mapping project
- Release of UNCTAD-OECD-Kauffman-GERN White Paper on Gov’t Data Infrastructure
- Defining potential programmatic research opportunities from combing Mapping and Accelerator datasets