On June 23, 2013, the Development for People and Nature Association (DPNA) and Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) hosted a workshop of the Entrance to Enterprise (E2E) Alumni Network in Saida, Lebanon. Ms. Mona Hassouna of DPNA facilitated the gathering of 22 young participants from the local community.
The topic of the workshop was “Creative Leadership” and explored the concept of appreciative inquiry and the leadership skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur. I had the great honor of representing CIPE at this event, and was inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of these young leaders to build a better community through entrepreneurship. The sense of camaraderie was palpable. These young people could have spent this sunny Sunday afternoon at the beach, but they chose to come together in pursuit of knowledge to advance themselves and their society.
Ironically, we gathered in the midst of chaos. As the afternoon session got underway, fighting broke out between the Lebanese Army and an armed group just up the road. Armed men took to the streets below DPNA’s office in anticipation of the battle’s spread. To ensure the safety of the participants, DPNA wisely suspended the remainder of the workshop and sent the participants home. An E2E Seminar scheduled for later that week was already postponed due to the instability. Saida Start-Up Weekend (of which DPNA is an organizer), scheduled for the following weekend, was similarly postponed.
Much is often made, and rightly so, of improving the entrepreneurship ecosystem in countries. Indeed, it is a pillar of CIPE’s work in many places, and usually revolves around our partners’ efforts to reform the legal and regulatory environment. Education and mentorship programs, such as DPNA’s, are another important way of improving the conditions for entrepreneurship. When a need as fundamental as security is not guaranteed, the challenges of entrepreneurship are that much more daunting.
It is unfortunate, to say the least, that violence interfered with learning last week; that hatred overshadowed tolerance; and that the sound of bullets was louder than the voices of the aspiring young entrepreneurs of Saida. However, I take heart knowing that these were merely temporary interruptions. The workshop will resume, the seminar will be rescheduled, and the youth of southern Lebanon will be undeterred in their quest for democratic empowerment through entrepreneurship. DPNA and its E2E Alumni Network – and, above all, the power of their ideas – are stronger than any guns in existence and more durable than any conflict.
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