Scott Livengood Reframes Entrepreneurship for New Audiences

Scott Livengood Reframes Entrepreneurship for New Audiences

Why isn’t everyone an entrepreneur? Perhaps we don’t explain it well enough or in language that lets everyone in on the wonders and the thrills of the pursuit of new economic value.

Scott Livengood chooses reframing — thinking in new and different ways about an established concept — to widen the audience for entrepreneurship.

Reframing entrepreneurship in the context of popular culture.

Scott recently published a multimedia e-book called The Startup of Seinfeld (Mises.org/E4E_99_Book1). In the book he articulates a comprehensive survey of concepts and principles of entrepreneurship, including the entrepreneurial mindset, risk and uncertainty, intellectual property, business models, planning, finance, and many more.

The cultural frame Scott selected is everyday city life as illustrated by the characters and situations and market interactions in 180 episodes of Seinfeld. In Scott’s hands, this is not a show about nothing, but about entrepreneurship.

The multimedia approach is facilitated by a series of links in the e-book to YouTube video clips of short scenes from multiple Seinfeld episodes that are illustrative of entrepreneurial concepts and principles. You’ll find the concepts of economic calculation, opportunity, product design, arbitrage, intellectual property, judgment, planning, uncertainty, and several more. The text accompanying the videos is an exposition of economic principles underlying these concepts.

There’s a lot to learn, and it’s fun! A major point to take away is that entrepreneurship is everyday life: people imagining new ways to serve others and meet their needs, and employing design and economic calculation, judgment under uncertainty and marketing and communications to facilitate a valuable exchange.

Reframing the teaching of entrepreneurship and strategy.

The philosophy underpinning the teaching method in the e-book has been forged in the university classes and seminars that Scott teaches, and for which he prepares meticulously and conducts comparative research into learning and teaching effectiveness.

He has found that embedding the principles of entrepreneurial economics and business strategy in cultural iconography illustrated via multimedia technology results in a significant increase in student engagement, participation, learning, and understanding. Humor, for example, is a language and a style that can draw students in, engage them at a deeper level of curiosity, and help to deliver the serious economic message.

This kind of approach helps students think of entrepreneurship as more of a normal life choice for themselves — a life of creative problem-solving. Students can think about their ends and the means open to them in a different way. If they are inclined to “social entrepreneurship”, they can learn that that simply means a distinctive identification of ends, without any attempt to operate outside the profit-and-loss system of sound entrepreneurial practice.

Reframing entrepreneurship for the disadvantaged.

Scott’s ultimate test for reframing entrepreneurship for a different audience in a different culture has been presented by his teaching for Education for Humanity. This is group associated with his university, Arizona State, and dedicated to helping displaced refugees. These students who are displaced from their homelands by war and conflict and find themselves in refugee camps in countries that are alien to them, like Uganda and Lebanon. Their prospects for further education are narrow. What are the pathways out of the poverty and restrictions of refugee camp life?

Scott’s chosen task is to teach them entrepreneurship. Where to start? The basis is empathy — digging deep to understand their situation, circumstances, and context, and understanding them as individuals and identifying their needs and wants. Language becomes critical — using concepts and examples they can relate to.

It’s contextually impractical to teach entrepreneurial finance in terms of bank loans and venture capital. But Scott can teach individual and family budgeting: how to calculate and manage income and expenditures, how to save, how to build up sufficient savings to make a capital purchase, and how to generate an income stream from that capital. The particular capital artifact may be a second cow for a head of household that uses the first one for feeding the family. The family has knowledge and skills in milking and animal husbandry that can be put to use in their new entrepreneurial business of selling milk and dairy products to other families, or bartering for other kinds of nourishment.

Eventually, the family may advance to the use of micro-loans or other forms of micro-finance and expand their entrepreneurial holdings. Scott can now teach about the trust nexus of paying interest and paying back loans, and about return on investment and capital accumulation. Progress comes quickly as a result of starting in the right place.

Entrepreneurial communities.

One of Scott’s realizations has been the power of entrepreneurial communities. In the refugee camps, family entrepreneurs collaborate, learn together, assist each other, and seek to raise the prospects of the entire community. Failure to pay back a loan, for example, would be a setback for the group, and group norms and institutions arise to guard against such a loss of trust.

Scott sees direct application of this learning about normative entrepreneurial community action in other parts of the world, including rural communities here in North and Central America, and in the inner city initiative of Entrepreneur Zones in the US.

By embedding entrepreneurship in culture, the collaborative service ethic emerges more clearly and emphatically.

Additional Resources

Enjoy Scott Livengood’s book about the culture, concepts, and principles of entrepreneurship: The Startup Of Seinfeld: A Multimedia Approach to Learning Entrepreneurship: Mises.org/E4E_99_Book1

Read the work of Nobel prize-winner Edmund Phelps, mentioned in the podcast introduction, on Mass Flourishing (Mises.org/E4E_99_Book2) and economic Dynamism (Mises.org/E4E_99_Book3).

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