Recent studies show that the Caribbean immigrant in Canada and other OECD countries are among the least likely to start and grow a business. Many Caribbean immigrant businesses fall in the micro business category with incomes well below US $500,000 per annum.
On the other hand, immigrants from Europe and Asia form and grow businesses at a rate that leaves a huge gap between them and their Caribbean counterparts. Ironically, the Caribbean immigrant is more likely be a lower income earner who is underemployed or serving in a precarious job, irrespective of qualifications. Besides paying the bills there is a serious risk to the financial freedom and economic wellbeing of current and future generations of Caribbean immigrants.
But does it have to be this way?
I doubt that I am alone in thinking— absolutely not!
The social, economic, and ideological factors that were relevant in causing the belief that entrepreneurship was undesirable or impractical for the Caribbean immigrant has been dead for at least two decades. But like the proverbial frog the community did not feel the water change temperature and now we are almost cooked. This situation is one of those rare cases when “urgent” is “important”.
Entrepreneurship experience, knowledge and big business success are needed in order to make entrepreneurship which is vital to our survival desirable, financially viable and feasible. A community of practice (CoP) provides the perfect opportunity for coming together to tackle and solve the problem of missing high-performance businesses by Caribbean immigrants in Canada and the wider Caribbean diaspora.
A CoP is made up of individuals with a vested interest in a subject who engage in joint activities, share information, stories, discussion, and approaches in order to help each other while developing and gather best practices. The level of trust and quality of relationships that exist among members is of great importance to them. It is one of the factors that distinguishes a CoP from other social networks.
Being able to learn from each other through frequent and rich interactions is key to the effectiveness of a CoP (Dialogue and engagement is essential, it does not work like one of those Facebook Group where many members merely join but do not share and engage with each other). Good old fashion social skills beliefs and behaviours are essential if a CoP is to deliver impact. By impact we mean the desired change and results for having come together for solving the problem in the first place.
When you join a CoP pretend you have entered someone’s home or a social gathering to share and exchange (There must be greetings, questions, conversation and a commitment to sharing and learning whether meetings occur in a Facebook Group, a hotel meeting room or web site.). Shared interest and a willingness to share for helping each other is at the heart of a CoP. It could not be any other way since the purpose of the CoP in not just about social networking, it is about problem solving.
Among the outcomes of a CoP are a collection of shared stories, experiences, tools, resources and knowledge collaterals for solving challenges that are common and likely to happen again.
CoPs have been used for facilitating innovative learning in various fields including health care, knowledge management and ICT as well as by professional groups. It is now being applied to entrepreneurship.
The High-Performance Caribbean Entrepreneur’s Ring has been established for facilitating the kind of sharing, gap assessment, networks, markets and problem solving for ensuring Caribbean immigrants can be among the groups with the highest rates of starting and growing successful businesses.
It provides the perfect opportunity for research, action learning and discussions for generating needed knowledge and experience.
The solutions shared and provided by a CoP of Caribbean entrepreneur in diaspora markets who are concerned and passionate about growing successful businesses will deliver significant value while increasing the viability and desirability of owing a business.
Entrepreneurs and their families are not the only ones who will benefit from such a CoP, cities will benefit from economic growth and more rapid assimilation of immigrants. The Caribbean community at home and aboard will benefit from improved levels of economic wellbeing, financial freedom and the acquisition of productive assets. The reputation of the community will be enhanced and like other immigrant groups the culture of Caribbean entrepreneurship abroad will be distinct, rich and a source of pride. What’s more it can ensure inclusiveness in the representation of Caribbean immigrants not only in terms of ethnicity but also by race.
The majority of Caribbean immigrants speak English, are highly educated or skilled and possess significant cultural assets that can be developed into profitable solutions. They come with the grit necessary for excelling on the journey of entrepreneurship, and most are entrepreneurial.
Given, those attributes and the imminent threat associated with depending on a job for making a livelihood the time for growing more high-performing businesses is now. The need for a CoP was urgent and important a decade ago and more so today.
While we must not trivialize the need for — cash from ready jobs for paying the bills and for assisting families at home, like other groups we should also view it as a source of investment into starting a business. One Caribbean-Canadian financial expert highlighted our emphasis on the acquisition of non-productive assets for communicating image related messages and needs as a major handicap.
He attributes that condition to the legacy of slavery, but it is time to unshackle ourselves. If the Caribbean immigrant is to be a part of an inclusive landscape for entrepreneurship in Canada or elsewhere we have to play a role in making that happen. We cannot expect Cities and other government departments to do it all for us. Like other immigrant groups we must take the bull by the horn to make it happen for us in a manner that is relevant to our situation and which draws on our different capabilities (As well as our wants, needs, aspirations, preferences and obstacles).
We shouldn’t blame anyone for the once valid buy-in to the idea of “a solid education is a ticket to a great job and wealth”. That idea was relevant and applicable to many groups and nations worldwide, today a solid education is still necessary but is does not bar against poverty. Many who got that solid education along with some who ventured into business lacked the social network and social capital for opening the right doors that would help them to benefit from their education, expertise or business activities.
Coming together as a diaspora increases the diversity of human and financial capital (monies earned through supporting our markets) that is key to growing an entrepreneurial community. Capital has been a big hindrance to the Caribbean immigrant who is often more than three times more likely to be denied a loan for financing a business.
A CoP such as the High-Performance Caribbean Entrepreneur’s Ring can provide the essential network, markets and accelerated learning for helping us to grow bigger and stronger businesses.
The Equalizing Community of Practice Has Arrived!
Let’s do it! Share, research, learn and grow high performing Caribbean businesses in Canada and the diaspora.
By Meegan Scott
Copyright © 2018 Meegan Scott
All Rights Reserved
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