I began this discussion with the trouble defining both terms: entrepreneurship and ecosystem; particularly in the field of international development.

[…] development professionals are susceptible to a host of cognitive biases, are influenced by their social tendencies and social environments, and use deeply ingrained mindsets when making choices.

WDR 2015, p. 181

The World Development Report underlines the argument I tried to make. Us development professionals have a tendency to over analyse systems in an attempt to normalize them towards a mean we understand (i.e. Western standards). So, what entrepreneurship is for us or for “them” should not matter. Our analysis and solutions should always be based on the beneficiaries’ ideas about the research topic and for their benefits.

A partiality towards a preconceived response based on the structure, phrasing, or tenor of questions asked in the interviewing process. Questions laced with interviewer bias can influence respondents in such a way that it distorts the outcome of the interview.

source unknown

Unfortunately, the development professional bias isn’t the only one we are facing, no matter how hard we try to understand our “clients:”. Interviews tend to be precomposed, the script is set before we even start. So, also during our study of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Nepal. Partly due to the limited amount of (online) data available about the phenomenon – entrepreneurship – in question. Also, however, as we had some very good ideas about what we wanted to hear and see.

Further, while we initially translated each question from German, to English, to Nepali and every answer vice versa, we tried to eliminate the translation bias in round two. Nevertheless, it was us from a well-known development cooperation asking the questions. The tone makes the music, they say. So, we might have even further distorted the outcome of the interview. Not to mention that occasionally it wasn’t our first run on some partners, specifically official ones. The talks that had happened before might additionally have influenced the interviewees’ answers and determined the course of the interview. Yet another reason why we concentrated our efforts on entrepreneurs the second time around.

People only see problems and do not think about solutions

An entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs were the ones thinking about solutions, not problems, and oftentimes found them: no matter how small in scale. Partially due to the fact that Nepal is virgin to most ideas, as I quoted while reporting about the business environment dimension. Also, as their definition of entrepreneurship was much wider than in my geography. Though, also trading. seizing investment opportunities, or having real estate could be understood as an entry gate to engage in a more value adding activity.

Doing agri-business is no more a priority, it is the last option

A professor

While investments are limited due to natural disasters among others and meager returns, who could be blamed to be risk-averse? In fact, I do not think it is much different, where I am from. Nevertheless, Nepal’s natural resources are unique and if we would be able to find social investors, who like to see a country becoming self-sustaining, Nepal could become a breeding ground of a first of its kind circular economy.

That skill to hire the right people makes you different in the crowd and an entrepreneur

Another entrepreneur

Indeed, there is that other kind of resource, which I purposely left out in the investment climate chapter, even though this is where we started asking about human capital. However, it turned out that there is enough supply, but that the educational system was the one being blamed, So, which is why I discussed the issue under the actors and their capacities heading. Although, some businessmen were complaining, more entrepreneurial oriented youngsters saw it as an obligation and opportunity to invest in their people.

My dream is to make a better home for my community

Many entrepreneurs

My final quote says a lot about the collectivist nature of a country like Nepal: an attitude which I without a doubt enjoy in my former home away from home. Everything, besides the pollution, seems to welcome you with open arms. We as well, development professionals or otherwise, should respond accordingly. There is no need to be overly academic or to throw around buzzwords to show we know what we are doing. It’s the people we say we support, who will have the answers. Entrepreneurs is one breed of people, which might have plenty of them. And it is not just about the amount of money they make, their passion and attitude is what allows them to overcome any obstacle and be a support to society at large.