What Global Policy Means for Your Hustle. Really.

Today the UN declared that fostering entrepreneurship is a development goal, akin to promoting safety and ending world hunger. Here's why you should care.

By Sarah Robbins September 25, 2015

Earlier today in New York City, the strike of a gavel at the United Nations sounded in a new era for sustainable development—and on the slate of to-dos, in a very prominent position, was the imperative to improve life for the entrepreneur. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, ratified by 193 countries during a session kicked off by none other than the Pope himself, were developed to promote peace and safety, gender equality, and human rights over the next 15 years.

So what does Goal 8, which promotes job creation and entrepreneurship, mean for poverty, hunger, and all the other things you might think the UN cares about most? And what does it mean for you?

Two hours before the vote, we asked this question—and several others—of Elizabeth Gore, entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell, which mounted the #EntrepreneursUNite campaign to rally support for the initiative, rallying heavy hitters from both the public and private sectors to raise awareness. (Gore is pictured here in June, during a roundtable that Dell founder Michael Dell convened in San Francisco to discuss sustainable development and entrepreneurship. That event was also attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon; Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos; Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich; Founder of Box, Aaron Levie; Founder of Airbnb, Brian Chesky; U.S. Senate Minority Leader, Nancy Peolosi; Deloitte CEO, Cathy Engelbert, among others. (Gore is standing in the third row, center, in between Ki Moon and Dell.)

Here are Gore’s answers.

Why does this vote matter—and what does it mean?

Today the UN is basically creating the world’s to-do list, relevant to every human being on this earth. One of these 17 items is to help 600 million jobs come to fruition, and not just any jobs—quality jobs. The fastest way to get to those jobs is to enhance entrepreneurship. The irony is that all 17 of these goals—which vary from education to climate change to technology transfer, gender equity, the oceans—will be achieved by entrepreneurs. They’ll figure out how to monetize sustainability. Or revolutionize the education system. Or get rid of 40 percent of food waste in this country. It’s going to be entrepreneurs who do this… and while they’re doing it, they’re creating 90 percent of the world’s jobs.

A lot of people don’t think that government and private sector should criss-cross, but, in fact, there was a survey over the last two years called My World 2015, and when millions of people were asked about the most important thing that the UN should vote on, one of the top issues for people under 35 was jobs.

What does this vote mean for the owner of a restaurant—or a refugee?

The number one issue facing every entrepreneur, no matter where they live, is access to capital. So how do we change laws where women aren’t even allowed to have bank accounts? That’s in Pakistan. In Silicon Valley, women are only getting 3 percent of venture funding. We need to create laws that allow access or incentivize it—it’s a game changer for so many people.

Refugees are on everyone’s mind, with Syria in the news. Some countries still are not allowing refugees to work. They’re not allowed to earn money. But today, the average stay of a refugee is 15 years. How do we help them be contributors to society? How do we help them become entrepreneurs?

What was adopted today is the first policy roadmap that countries have to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s not just a law, it’s a business model. And that’s huge. Because not everyone has a Congress that’s writing a Jobs Act every two to three years. And for the 150 or so countries that don’t have extremely modern economies, this is really important. We want other countries to step up and have the same type of ecosystems that we do.

What were the biggest sticking points? 

We got into this as a business issue, not a gender issue, but gender was a major sticking point for Goal 8—even though Goal 5 is gender equality. In a lot of countries, there is still debate about women owning businesses, which is shocking. It shows that it’s a cultural issue, not an economic issue, because if you purely look at economics, it’s not a debate.

The second one is technology transfer. There’s a lot of debate over intellectual property—what is state-owned and what is private. Even though that was debated by fewer countries, they are bigger, more powerful countries.

The third is back to this question of what is the UN’s role? Is it a humanitarian organization, or is it one that helps economies flourish? These were all visceral debates.

What would you say to someone who says, “I don’t have time to read about policy”?

Entrepreneurs are not good advocates. They’re too busy. They have their heads down; they’re trying to stay profitable, to make sure that whatever they’re doing is top notch. Our hashtag (#EntrepreneursUNite) has become a bite-size way to say hey, I’m worried about this or that in my state, or my country.

Because every entrepreneur, at some point in the lifecycle of their company, is going to run into a policy, whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I guarantee. Understanding what they are, and spending a second on it, is going to be critical.

And there will be a trickle-down effect: The fact that it’s in these goals today, and every head of state has to look at it and vote on it, means that entrepreneurship will be in the vernacular—and that matters to the everyday entrepreneur. It’ll matter to tax incentives, to immigration. If I have a start-up today and have to hire 10 people in the next year, all of this matters.


Sarah RobbinsSarah J. Robbins is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor and the co-author of Keeping Hope Alive: One Woman—90,000 Lives Changed. Her work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Newsweek, Glamour, and Marie Claire, among other publications.

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