What is the biggest story of human existence? In a word, transformation! All human development that has been taking place from the time immemorial until Elon Musk age, has been an intelligent response to eco-system constraints be they of geographical, economic, or political kind. When faced with food shortages from their immediate environment, humans responded with Agricultural Revolution. The revolutionary cycle and subsequent societal adaptation lasted for several thousand years but humans finally started controlling their environment for their own benefit.
The second most transformative revolution was known as the Industrial Revolution. Its currency: efficiency! While Agricultural Revolution allowed men to cultivate the land they inhibit, the Industrial Revolution saw men leaving their fields and selling their labor for a wage. It mechanized and later automated productive processes resulting in mass production of goods. Many argue that we are now entering what has been termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That is clearly the story of our lives and it is completely redefining the meaning of mobility and nature of jobs. Its currencies: fusion of resources & connectivity!
This is where all borders lose their relevance. The response to this new development must come from collective polity, global if you will, or regional at least. This time around our understanding of human agency and organization including governance over resources is shifting. How we respond to it will depend on where we currently stand on a development ladder either as individual countries, but more likely as a region.
Let’s zoom into the Western Balkans. Sadly, the following are the most cited characteristics: highest level of corruption in Europe, most challenging region to start and operate a business, alarming brain drain levels, staggering youth unemployment rates (highest being 60% and 54% in BiH and Macedonia respectively), political instability. But somewhere beyond the imaginary regional fence the Fourth Industrial Revolution is happening, right?
Despite the regional macroeconomic and social indicators and what these might be telling of its overall economic performance, it has not been able to escape the reach of the latest revolution. How can we respond? Entrepreneurship, region-wide, is our most immediate tool. Although nascent, eco-system for entrepreneurship is slowly emerging in the region. Much needed mentality shift appears to be underway with more and more people turning to individual entrepreneurial initiatives. What is needed now is the license to fail and some seed capital that would condone failure. Most early stage start-up support in the region comes from NGO sector including incubators and accelerators. Building creative bridges between mature companies and start-ups could be helpful in knowledge transfer and for innovation.
Governments could work more on relaxing tax and regulation requirements for early stage businesses. Educational system reform is well overdue but some universities market themselves as entrepreneurial clearly branding knowledge in terms of its economic and social function. Challenges abound but something is happening, and we must not kill it by the absence of action.
The region is constrained in more than one way. The response seems to be ready. It just needs to be unleashed in its full learning capacity with realistic expectations and license to fail and learn from it. A real revolution, indeed.
Samira is the director of Social Business Incubator at Mozaik Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She did her PhD in Italy at the University of Trento and European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises. In 2007, Samira graduated from the University of Cambridge, UK, with an MPhil in International Relations. Samira has more than ten years of professional experience with public and international institutions in BiH and abroad.