Teaching for Global Citizenship Through Entrepreneurship Education

This year, as International Education Week and Global Entrepreneurship Week overlap, I find myself reflecting on the links between the two.  In particular, two of my former colleagues come to mind: Dr. Ayubjon Yusupov and Anora Rahim.  Both are entrepreneurs, educators, and global citizens and I had the privilege to work alongside them three years ago when I was a Fulbright Fellow in northern Tajikistan.  The Fulbright Student Program is a global effort that promotes and supports mutual exchanges of over 8,000 individuals annually and because of it, I was able to spend a year problem-solving and collaborating with new colleagues. 

Anora, Ayubjon, and I were a cross-national, inter-generational team who believed that marginalized groups should have the same access to transformational educational experiences and opportunities.  We also agreed that one of the most important educational experiences we could design would be about giving people the tools they need to start and grow their businesses.  My partnership with Anora and Ayubjon ultimately resulted in a design-based, entrepreneurship education program, but creating it was an enterprise in and of itself. 

In 2011, I moved to the city of Khujand, Tajikistan’s second largest city, to conduct my dissertation research.  U.S. Embassy officers introduced me to Ayubjon Yusupov, Vice Rector of Tajik State University of Commerce and Trade, Executive Director for Junior Achievement in Tajikistan, and overall leader in the field of Education.  They also recommended that I meet with Anora Rahim, the young, entrepreneurial woman who would become my program manager and lead research assistant.

Together, the three of us designed an entrepreneurship education program for nearly 300 youths and young adults living in Khujand.  While analyzing the results of the relatively short, four-week program, Anora and I discussed the changes that we observed in program participants.  Not only did these young, Tajik citizens learn the basics of doing business, they also took advantage of the space to problem solve, think critically, and hone public speaking skills.  We also observed that women experienced the program differently than men.

After my return to the United States, over late night, transatlantic Skype sessions, Anora and I took these ideas to the next stage.  Together, we sketched a concept to give young women in a remote pocket of northern Tajikistan a platform to practice critical 21st-century skills.  Educators and entrepreneurs from Tajikistan, Bangladesh, and the United States joined our team and we founded Powerful Girls Now.  Over the course of our three year collaboration, we came to view youth entrepreneurship education as a vehicle for problem solving, creativity, and innovation. 

In order to equip the next generation of leaders with critical skills to solve the most pressing challenges that face our world today, design-based, entrepreneurship education programs must have well-articulated theories of change, rigorous assessment built into their design, and take gender in to account.  Leadership, like entrepreneurship, requires grit, determination, flexibility, curiosity, confidence, and humility.  We found that, through practice, participants adopted certain leadership skills and habits of mind.  Accordingly, we designed our curriculum around building the central skills and mindsets of successful entrepreneurs. 

I continue to have collaborative exchanges with Anora and Ayubjon.  Last year, Ayubjon was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and visited me in Cambridge, Massachusetts, bringing along a copy of The Principles of Economics that he had worked hard to translate into the Tajik language.  Before heading over to Harvard University’s Innovation Lab for a marathon white-boarding and brainstorming session on how to integrate creativity and innovation into educational programming in Tajikistan, we stopped by the Economics Department to get Professor Greg Mankiw’s signature in the textbook. 

Today, while I may be sitting more than 6,500 miles from my colleagues, friends, and students in Tajikistan, Anora and Ayubjon are only an email or a Skype call away.  Exchanges like ours, the connections and collaborations across cultures, are at the heart of International Education Week.  Global Entrepreneurship Week serves as a reminder that every single one of us has the innate potential to do something extraordinary.  Both are celebrations of limitless possibilities, leadership, and of a better tomorrow.   

About the Author: Dr. Vanessa E. Beary serves as a Franklin Fellow in the State Department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.



Bianca B.
Ohio, USA
November 19, 2014
The world is truly shrinking! This data phenomomon will only serve to eventually bring different cultures together without a ton of baggage! Love the blog! There is hope for the future!
peter k.
Connecticut, USA
January 26, 2015
"...well articulated theories of change," was an exciting line for me to read in your excellent posting. It says so much and yet leaves more unsaid. I never expected to read something as thoughtful as this on Dip Note. (I lived with a family in Ganchi for eight months, leaving the same year you arrived in Khojand.) I wholeheartedly agree with you: it's all a question of mindset. However, the sticking point beneath mindset is the word "change". Current theories in cultural anthropology aside, I believe a population's survival strategy drives it's culture and mindset. Until survival is assured, any change is almost impossible. In a place like Tajikistan where extreme poverty is the norm, survival must come first. Even so, I started an entrepreneurial program for eighth and ninth form girls in ten really remote villages (funded by the US Embassy) but I doubt it saved a single girl from self-emulation. In the Ganchi region, maybe other regions as well, the best and brightest are sent to Russia as migrant workers, the very people they need to develop their own economy. This started because someone thought the country needed a really disastrous land reform policy, one which would cripple agricultural output. To survive until a remittance arrives from Russia, parents of migrant workers borrow money from an American non-profit (at 32% interest compounded daily, completely against Islamic law). It's their survival strategy. The villages are tough place to start a business. Peter
ryan p.
January 27, 2015
Tajik Students Participate in the Opening of an American Corner Branch in Qumsangir, Tajikistan
Posted by Vanessa Beary
November 19, 2014


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