By Meegan Scott
The CoP is not a startup community!
It is that safe place where trust is built, collaborations, cooperation, friendships, and partnerships are forged― in a market place and research hub for delivering dynamic and inclusive entrepreneurship for and by Caribbeans. It is where Caribbean entrepreneurs and their businesses will draw on connections, knowledge, opportunities, and support to help them thrive and grow.
The same is true for members of the African community, immigrant entrepreneurs who are not native speakers of the English language, African-Americans, and Canadian entrepreneurs with no history of entrepreneurship in their families.
The CoP is that space were tacit and formal knowledge blends, and is transferred within the community among retired entrepreneurs, more seasoned, not so seasoned entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurs (over 18 years old), young entrepreneurs (those over forty who are embarking on their first business), individuals who have or are approaching retirement and are starting their retirement business, as well as startup entrepreneurs over the age of eighteen years old.
Many who still do not quite understand technology as a method, tools, or equipment for executing strategy and tactics during operations, view the CoP as another Facebook group.
Let us take our governance related responsibilities seriously, and engage in needed research when steering organizations or seeking to influence public opinion. Let us make it a habit to step outside of the domain of our core areas of expertise and engage in research that will enable us to understand and to twin both risk intelligence and risk management for delivering real and lasting solutions. Leaders and entrepreneurs must engage in research that will inform decision making and put them and the organizations they serve in the position of innovators and first movers.
With its day-to-day work, connection, research, and market place housed on the Facebook social media platform the CoP is positioned to deliver relevant solutions that are inclusive in terms of access to information, markets, and networks as well as financial accessibility.
It is where families, friends, fellow alumni, social workers, politicians, members of the diaspora in different continents and others can stumble upon the CoP opportunity and bring it to the attention of one of our entrepreneurs, or a community member sitting on the fence of becoming an entrepreneur. It is where the real entrepreneur who constantly seek out knowledge will come across its existence and seize the opportunity to give and to receive.
The CoP is therefore in a perfect space as a solution that is relevant, effective, and inclusive as it relates to access, as well as for facilitating formal and informal learning on how-to do business for entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey ―from the retired to the startup.
Moreover, where social media and the CoP hub intersects is fertile ground for the kind of shared knowledge that is equivalent to social capital―a concept advanced by Harold Jarche’s framework for Personal Knowledge Mastery (PKM). The planned and desired unintended results of the CoP cannot be delivered by a regular Facebook Group (The ties of a regular Facebook group are too weak to deliver the objectives of the CoP.).
In keeping with the PKM model (And its’ seek, sense, and share approach), we say with confidence that the CoP provides a safe environment for testing innovative ideas, market research, and building trust (a challenge in our community, and a barrier to doing business).
Furthermore, the CoP is supported by a backbone for conducting virtual face-to-face meetings, market connections, team work, and conversations. This was demonstrated in the form of training events, its virtual launch, and the panel discussion “Born Global & Born-Again Global Businesses: Pathways to Internationalization (Caribbean Immigrant Entrepreneurs & Peer Entrepreneurs), held during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2018. Additionally, the CoP will be supported by face-to-face meetups in various cities in OECD countries and wherever members of the diaspora reside. We invite community members who share the vision of the CoP to put themselves forward to lead a hub in their city.
At the next level the rich ecosystem of the CoP―intersects with work teams in individual businesses, core working committees of the CoP, supporting entities and partners such as JAMPRO, Jamaica National, The Centre for Entrepreneurship Thinking and Practice (UWI), and prospective host cities for delivering innovation and co-creation of value. It is at that intersection that knowledge is translated and put to work by individual businesses, partners, and the CoP. At that intersection we will also see solutions to social problems, scaling-up of Caribbean businesses to mainstream businesses with that ethnic or local Caribbean flavor, job, intellectual property, and wealth creation. It is also where the job of Caribbean and host country trade and business support agencies will become easier and can focus resources at a higher level on the value chain, and on the results chain.
That intersection is also where shared practice and reputation flows back from work teams, individual businesses, and entrepreneurs into the Community of Practice for the benefit of all. The CoP and its stakeholders will be able to assess how well shared practice is working and delivering impact, or to make suggestions for improvement by interrogating the CoP’s theory of change and performance results, in addition to member and partner testimony over time.
Even in its early days the CoP is backed by decades of experience in corporate strategy, organizational performance management and measurement, marketing, research, education, social and economic development, entrepreneur and private sector development, business incubation, ethnic media, finance, FDI and trade promotion. The core actors and shapers of the CoP are themselves serial entrepreneurs with experience establishing businesses in the diaspora. The door is open for others to join and contribute to leading the CoP.
The CoP aims to deliver shared visions, acts from a position of inclusiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability. It values and is grounded in the principles and practices applied by performance driven, learning organizations, that are designed to facilitate improvement, and acting together. Our work will be informed by rigorous research, and evidence. We are entrepreneurial in thinking, and we value and collect dissenting perspectives for driving the delivery of innovative solutions, innovation, and for putting forward a best solution that continuously gets better.
It is therefore clear that we are equipped with a rich talent pool, tools, different perspectives, and mindsets for growing a CoP that will manipulate the “foreign” or “local but unsuitable” entrepreneurial ecosystem to deliver our objectives (that of member businesses, entrepreneurs, partners, and the CoP) while adding value to society and customers. It is where we will develop greater mastery of entrepreneurship.
(Meegan Scott, B.Sc. Hons, MBA, ATM-B, CL, PMP., is a Jamaican-born Strategic Management Consultant, at Magate Wildhorse Ltd in Toronto, and the CoP Secretariat).