As the Presidential campaign goes down to the wire, the debate on jobs and the economy continues to intensify. One thing both campaigns agree on is the role of small business as a key engine of new job creation. This isn’t a surprise to the many nonprofit organizations across the country that have been on the front lines helping aspiring and disadvantaged entrepreneurs create their own jobs, and jobs for others, through self-employment and microbusiness. Microenterprise is now over 20 years old, and Aspen’s FIELD program estimates that it served about 350 million people in 2010. But the field is reaching a crossroads as its original leaders move towards retirement and as leading organizations scale up and need more bench strength to take them forward. CEOs of some of the largest organizations have identified the need to nurture young talent for jobs that blend social purpose with business acumen, that require creativity and risk taking, and demand a willingness to work transparently with others to strengthen local communities. Young staffers in these organizations have called out for opportunities to develop networks that will support them as they prepare to take on the mantle of leadership in the years ahead.
This is where Aspen’s new program, ELM2, Emerging Leaders in MicroBusiness (squared), comes in, so called for its ambition to strengthen and multiply talent for the field. It will provide an inaugural class of 12 high-potential staff the opportunity to explore lessons in leadership, strategy, culture, and sustainability from well-regarded leaders. The inaugural class will also participate in site visits, virtual peer learning, independent study and projects, and interactive exercises that will help hone their skills as they build their own network. Capital One, the funder of the initiative, will offer leadership development training by some of its own executives as well as access to evaluation tools that can increase the participants’ self-awareness. A request for applications will be released October 22 and can be found here.