How can businesses increase access to affordable and quality education amongst the poor in India? Or, use technology to increase access to health care in Bangladesh? It takes creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship to answer questions like these—and much of it is coming from young people who are putting their creativity to work in the context of development.
For example, the MIT’s Legatum Center for Entrepreneurship and Development promotes a new model for economic growth in low-income countries: entrepreneurship-led development. A group of graduate students at the Center are translating bold ideas into businesses they plan to launch in low-income countries. Prathamesh Naik, for example, is developing a business model that will provide affordable and high-quality education to millions of children from poor households in India. Sadia Sharmin plans to introduce telemedicine in rural areas of Bangladesh to enable access to health care.
This kind of creativity in action is also at work at Camfed, where young women in Ghana are exploring how to bring new business opportunities such as household solar energy, alternative cook stoves, and mobile financial services to rural areas. Youth at Digital Opportunity Trust are participating in a series of “Creativity Festivals” this year, starting with the DOT Film Fest, to showcase how they are using their IT-literacy to create educational and entrepreneurship opportunities for themselves.
This is just a snapshot of a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are applying their creativity to invent new solutions to current development problems. Their initiatives illustrate how fundamental and powerful the creative process is in entrepreneurship-led development—it listens to needs of people, bridges gaps, and looks for new linkages in cross-sector collaboration. It also has the potential to inspire ripple effects from the bottom up, such as improvements in education, financial access, health care, and environmental sustainability.
But creativity doesn’t flourish in isolation. Young entrepreneurs need an ecosystem—like that of MIT or Camfed—that provides support networks, technological innovation, and a learning environment that promotes multidisciplinary approaches to problem-solving. We need to pay attention to their ideas, and help them transform their ideas into practical and sustainable solutions.