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New Center to Foster Startup Cities in Developing Countries

By: Joel Fensch - Nov 5, 2013, 11:24 am

Babson College, the private business school located near Boston, has created the Babson Global Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project, to advocate liberalized trade, more competitive markets, and stronger property rights in partnering countries.

The school has ranked number one for entrepreneurship in the U.S. News & World Report for 20 years in a row, and administrators hope to apply the institution’s expertise and recognition to champion merit-based competition, foster healthy economic growth in developing regions, and enable a route out of poverty.

Headed by Shanker Singham, the project builds on the work already done by Singham through the International Roundtable on Trade and Competition Policy, which he founded in 1997.

“By leveraging the forces of the competitive market system, as opposed to relying on aid, [the new project] seeks to identify new ways of delivering economic growth to countries around the world,” said Singham.

Arguably the most ambitious of the project’s four missions, is the development of “Enterprise Cities” or “Startup Cities.”

While Startup Cities are a relatively new concept, the potential for growth and development within these “opt-in” communities is gaining traction around the world, because of the political and legal reforms offered. There is so much promise in these special regions that even Cuba has announced a “special development zone.” The objective is to offer a more flexible and innovative legal framework that facilitates increased international trade, updated technology, and employment opportunities.

The Babson project aims to encourage the development of these entrepreneurial cities through a defined set of goals and actionable documentation of the progress in these areas. The program will be lending influence to a trend that has already begun to take off, particularly in Honduras.

The Startup Cities Institute (SCI), based at Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) in Guatemala City, is working in a similar realm of research and advocacy. Its executive director, Zachary Caceres, says he is “thrilled that Babson is moving towards making this powerful idea a reality around the world,” since it is “clear evidence that the idea of Startup Cities will only continue to grow.”

Caceres believes that “higher education institutions — especially entrepreneurial universities like UFM and Babson — are a natural home for this innovation,” and while Babson administrators have yet to reach out, SCI would be happy to collaborate.

Although Babson administrators first announced their project in late September, they have yet to finalize its own website and begin activities. Speaking on the importance of this objective, though, Singham observes that “there is simply no greater challenge faced by mankind than helping to lift people out of poverty and frame a world of abundance, and not of scarcity.”

Joel Fensch Joel Fensch

Editor of InsightSur, Fensch covers geopolitical and historical events in Latin America with the PanAm Post.