Standards imposed by society are at the roots of our simplest thoughts and this is not entirely our fault. We are the result of social interactions, and it can be considered normal to have a certain standard based on your own life situation. For example, what comes to your mind first when you think about an entrepreneur? A well-dressed man with a suitcase maybe? Most importantly, do you picture at first a white man? Who do you relate success to? Which kind of people can be an entrepreneur? And which kind of people have bigger opportunities to do so?
A simple google search gets you to an Investopedia article written by Adam Hayes in which an entrepreneur is defined as “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The process of setting up a business is known as entrepreneurship. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services, and business/or procedures”. Entrepreneurship has various forms and it is not just simple as it might seem to outsiders, taking this into consideration, what comes to mind is: if it is not easy even for the standard white man, how it is in practice for those who do not belong to this group?
FEW SOCIAL AND HISTORICAL ASPECTS
Entrepreneurship plays a fundamental role in society in which, while it makes money and wealth of a community or country circulate, it also opens doors to new paths. Contributes directly to the subsistence of several families, to their inclusion and social ascension, generates jobs and contributes to innovation and culture. When we take minorities’ perspective, they are denied these opportunities. It is not that easy for minority groups to contribute to entrepreneurship in their communities since the number of obstacles to succeed in it is way bigger for them. For example, xenophobia, racism, lack of perspective, poverty, and many other factors make the entrepreneurship journey much more difficult or even impossible to adapt or insert into the markets. These difficulties must always be remembered by those who do not belong to these groups and valued. The truth is that, in practice, most white men would not be able to face even 1% of what the minorities do.
The aforementioned Investopedia article talks about seven steps to becoming a successful entrepreneur. The first and the main one, in my opinion, is crucial and makes it difficult for an indigenous entrepreneur to be included in the business world, is to ensure financial stability before starting the business. In this aspect, indigenous groups already see themselves on the sidelines because they are often excluded from society and, consequently, from the opportunities to enter a certain market. When included, they often receive different payments simply because of their ethnicity, which is not a logical foundation but purely based on prejudice.
The Brazilian population is extremely biased against indigenous people, who are the true original owners of all the lands of what is now Brazil. This happens due to the relationship that the white European colonizing man built with them historically and it perpetuates till nowadays. There are sayings that are sadly still very common, such as those that say that indigenous are lazy and do not like to work, which obviously was never true. One of the explanations for this is that white colonizer when arriving in Brazil, already used African slave labor in other places and Brazilian indigenous used the refusal of forced labor, wars, and escapes as a form of resistance to slavery. In addition, many died from diseases such as the flu, brought to the Americas by the European and often even used as a weapon to decimate indigenous populations.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP & COMMUNITY
Returning to entrepreneurialism and leaving the historical side a little, it is ironic to see how large, medium, and even small companies today want to be more sustainable and often do not even know the history of indigenous peoples in their own countries. After all, indigenous people are the first ecologists that ever existed and they have a very strong connection with nature both in the social and economic aspects. In addition, the approach of indigenous peoples to entrepreneurship is, most of the time, not so focused on maximum profit, but on several other aspects that make this type of entrepreneurship socially responsible.
Two extracts must be shared at this point, which complement the other and reinforce the idea of the above paragraph, defining corporate social responsibility and how indigenous entrepreneurship fits into it. Showing that it is the most correct way of doing business for the planet and for the existing failed economic system we live in at the same time. First, the concept of “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the idea that a company should play a positive role in the community and consider the environmental and social impact of business decisions. It is closely linked to sustainability – creating economic, social, and environmental value – and ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. All three focus on non-financial factors that companies, large and small, should consider when making business decisions.”
The article also talks about the operational initiatives of a CSR that are worth mentioning here, since there is no way of reading them and not recall about indigenous communities’ values, culture, and customs:
”Operational CSR initiatives are often oriented around improving business efficiency or performance in ways that also have positive social or environmental impacts in the wider community. Initiatives can fall into several categories, here are a few examples.
- deal with diverse, local and socially responsible suppliers and partners
- consult community stakeholders about business decisions
- support community initiatives
- improveworkplace diversity, equity and inclusion
- enhance workplace health and safety
- develop acode of ethics for your business and eliminate workplace harassment and discrimination” (BCD)
Second, this is perhaps the most prominent and most interesting difference in this form of entrepreneurship. According to Léo-Paul Dan in Indigenous Entrepreneurship: an emerging field of research, “While mainstream economics suggests that rationally one might choose to maximize profit, we learn from indigenous people that entrepreneurship also has non-economic causal variables. The individual profit motive exists; however, there are also community needs and objectives. This supports the earlier findings of Lindsay (2005, p. 1) who stated, “indigenous entrepreneurship is more holistic than non-indigenous entrepreneurship; it focuses on both economic and non-economic objectives.” (Dana, 160,161)
The sense of community and interdependence is also very strong in indigenous society, something that employers and employees must cherish as in this way, the sense of belonging is heightened, and the feeling of appreciation and contribution is increased as well. Bringing this into the reality of Proakatemia and furthermore, FLIPs reality, on the essay “COMMUNITIES, YHTEISÖJÄ, COMMUNITAS, SHEQU, OR AYLLUPURA?” Omar Puebla, Luiza Vago and Xiaoqing Yang-Pyydysmäki observe: “Summing up, studying communities and participating in one such as Proakatemia is a very rich experience and that helps the understanding of the meaning of all this. The importance of community is related to the feeling of security, sharing of common notions such as the sense of values and objectives. In a political sense, communities organize themselves with the aim of achieving rights and visibility, to claim their space as a whole, just like FLIP Solutions in its journey in Proakatemia, for example. The sense of exchange and interdependence within communities is extremely important for the feeling of belonging to it and to a much larger whole. ” (Vago, Puebla, Psyydymaki, 2022)
WHAT IS INDIGENOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP ABOUT?
But after all, what is indigenous entrepreneurship about? This modality can work in several ways, being able to fit in the work norms of capitalism, in the 9:00-17:00 mentality, or have a more unique, free and flexible design and organization. It is very common for the governing values (which can also be considered their expertise) of indigenous to be seen through the performed business, such as sustainability and cooperation, whether in the production of handicrafts, art, objects, or indigenous foods produced locally, among others. For many, the services and products provided can also help with culture dissemination. There are even indigenous Instagrammers, who are indeed, very influential. You can note that, in addition to profit and partnerships, they also seek to raise awareness and spread their cultural trades to their viewers and brands. Therefore, this modality, still barely studied, has been growing more and more over the years.
O United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the importance of including indigenous peoples in society, not just because of how many they are. According to the article, “… there are roughly over 370 million indigenous peoples living around the world, from the Arctic to the South Pacific, in over 90 countries. ” (UN, 2013, p. 4) But also because of the rights to which they are naturally and obligatorily reserved. We are talking about human rights here, and these are universal, inalienable, imprescriptible, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. A couple of self-explanatory articles from the Declaration above mentioned are worth sharing:
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.” (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, pg. 87)
- Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, eco- nomic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and develop- ment, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, pg. 89)
It can be concluded that indigenous entrepreneurship is a different model, more socially responsible, and has different social and cultural approaches like no other kind. As teampreneurs and students in Proakatemia, we should get to know more different business setups and be inspired by indigenous people because are the perfect example of a harmonic community. Recapturing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, “When businesses collaborate with indigenous peoples, they are often able to achieve sustainable economic growth, for example, by optimizing ecosystem services and harnessing local or traditional knowledge.” (UN, 2013, 4) One of Proakatemias goals is now, to be more sustainable. This fragment affirms shows how, by adopting indigenous practices, values, and even mentalities, we can obtain different and essential learnings and apply in our community, our business and harvest the real advantages of the knowledge provided by indigenous peoples.
Hopefully, this text was able to help the readers to exercise critical thinking regarding history, rights, business, and some curiosities you probably would never consider alone. My wish is that we would all praise and support the indigenous peoples who fight against all the odds and have the resilience to adapt to what is pushed on them for literally hundreds of years. It is amazing to see how innovative and strong they actually are, and how they can be, at the same time, timeless. Their blood will always be on our hands, and I hope that you understand more about the social, economic and historical aspects mentioned in this text, then, being able to create empathy and respect for these peoples, the real owners of all lands.
Written by Luiza de Oliveira Vago and Saana Keränen
SILVA M, ALMEIDA S. INDIGENOUS ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE TOCANTINS: A STUDY WITH THE COMMUNITY APINAJÉ OF THE VILLAGE SÃO JOSÉ, Original Article. J Business Techn. 2019;10(2): 120-137, Available on https://jnt1.websiteseguro.com/index.php/JNT/article/viewFile/416/341, Accessed on 13.4.2022.
Hayes, A., Entrepreneur, 12.9.2021, Investopedia, Available on https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/entrepreneur.asp, Accessed on 5.4.2022
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Published by the UN Global Compact Office, December, 2013, Available on https://d306pr3pise04h.cloudfront.net/docs/issues_doc%2Fhuman_rights%2FIndigenousPeoples%2FBusinessGuide.pdf, Accessed on 2.3.2022.
Social Sustainability, Published by the UN Global Compact Office, Available on https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/our-work/social, Accessed on 4.4.2022
Rocha, A. B., Como funciona o empreendedorismo indígena?, Available on https://www.ecycle.com.br/empreendedorismo-indigena/, Accessed on 4.4.2022
BDC, What is corporate social responsibility (CRS)?, Available on https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/entrepreneur-toolkit/templates-business-guides/glossary/corporate-social-responsibility, Accessed on 4.4.2022.