„Citizen Entrepreneurship“ for a Meaningful Life

Im folgenden Artikel erklärt Prof. Faltin, was er unter „Citizen Entrepreneurship“ versteht. Der Artikel ist zuerst 2008 erschienen und wurde in Zusammenarbeit mit Fritz Fleischmann, Prof. am Babson College, USA, verfasst.

Den ganzen Text können Sie hier herunterladen.

“Citizen Entrepreneurship”: Self-Determination as a Philosophy of Life

“Everyone can be an entrepreneur,” says Yunus; he has demonstrated in Bangladesh how even
the poorest of the poor can take charge of their own life with micro-loans and a support system
that helps them succeed. But is that experience universally applicable? In most countries, but
certainly in the industrialized world, doesn’t it require a lot of resources and expertise in business
management to start a company?

Not necessarily.

First, let me point out that the customer can already be a co-entrepreneur. For instance,
the Teekampagne customer orders a year’s supply and provides storage (thus relieving us of this
task). The Ratio Drink customer buys organic apple juice concentrate and adds water. In both
cases, the customer understands the specific business concept and has a general understanding of
how markets work. In both cases, the customer may become an ambassador for the company and
the product. In both cases, the customer adds value and gets value in return. The customer thinks
and works alongside the entrepreneur.

Secondly, what I teach in my workshops and what Teekampagne (along with its
offspring) demonstrates is that an intelligent, sufficiently refined and developed idea is more
important than the availability of resources or a complete understanding of business
management. As to resources, experience shows that really good ideas do not necessarily require
a huge amount of startup funding or, if they do, funding will follow and find them. With regard
to business management, acquiring what some consider the “necessary” expertise can actually
stand in the way of refining and implementing the business idea. Management expertise can be
delegated and bought with relative ease; working through and refining concepts is something we
need to do ourselves.

Thirdly and finally: what of the ideas? Does it require genius to come up with a great
business idea? Of course not. Idea generation and refinement can be learned and taught; in many
instances, a successful business idea is the application of existing knowledge to a new field, the
combination of existing ideas, or an improvement of something that already exists. What is
required, however, is a focus on function and a willingness to break with convention. If Darjeeling is sold in 2 oz. packages, in stores, and in pretty wrapping, is that a convention or a
necessity? Once I understand that such convention is not necessary for getting the tea to the
consumer, I can begin to develop a different business model.

If entrepreneurs do not require huge capital or expertise or genius ideas to get going, what
do they need? They need three things: appropriate methods and techniques to enhance initial
ideas; perseverance; and faith in their ability to determine the course of their own lives.

The moral philosopher Adam Smith, known mostly for his book The Wealth of Nations
(1776), already envisioned a form of “citizen entrepreneurship”: the ability of individuals to
participate in the marketplace as agents of their own fate. “Every man … lives by exchanging, or
becomes in some measure a merchant,” says Smith, developing what his biographer Jerry Muller has
termed “a vision of ‘commercial humanism’”iii that is morally uplifting as well as practically
empowering. To practice economic self-determination has long been recognized as a necessary (though
not sufficient) condition for personal and political self-determination (“an empty sack cannot stand
upright,” we are told by Smith’s contemporary and acquaintance, Benjamin Franklin). So considered,
economic self-determination can become the basis of a life plan that conceives of a well-lived life as a
multi-dimensional work of art. In our own day, the futurist Max Horx describes the ideal type that
embodies this idea: “Our culture of individualism will produce a type of entrepreneur who will work for
more than money, who wants to be good because she is ambitious – ambitious in a new, qualitative sense:
he wants to create an individual life that is a work of art, as harmonious and exciting as possible.” The
citizen entrepreneur is that type: free to create, free to gain, and free to share. The “great enterprise”
envisioned in the title of this volume can be your own. Once a utopian thought, it is now within your

Finally: fun, in the sense of excitement, fulfillment, pride of accomplishment. Nothing is more
exciting than to send a brainchild into the world and see it prosper. My students who started working on entrepreneurial projects did not just start new companies; they also re-fashioned themselves as human
beings. They became more focused, more curious, and more communicative; their optimism and joie de
vivre was infectious; they even looked better. Were these changes the natural result of success? No – all
of this happened before it was even clear whether their business idea would ever survive in the market.
Was it because they were having fun? Yes, that too – but what really happened was that their life
achieved a new direction and purpose; it gained meaning and perspective. Some are getting rich now; but
that is not what makes their faces shine. They have become the entrepreneurs of their own lives.

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