MSB supports rural entrepreneurship

January 16, 2014

Georgetown students now have the opportunity to build entrepreneurship in America’s rural communities through a partnership among the American Farm Bureau Federation, Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative, and Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative announced on Monday.

The AFBF has collaborated with other universities on rural entrepreneurial development in the past, but this partnership is the first of its kind, according to Bill Novelli, Georgetown professor and head of GSEI.

“Our Global Social Enterprise Initiative is ideal for this partnership and this program because we focus Georgetown’s many resources on creating both economic value (for farmers and ranchers and for rural America) and social value (for all stakeholders),” Novelli wrote in an email to the Voice.

According to Jeff Reid, founding director of GEI, the partnership arose from Georgetown and AFBF’s mutual concern for rural entrepreneurship following the 2007 recession. Novelli hopes the partnership will help resolve the issues that hinder the development of rural communities.

The program’s goal is to give farmers tools to connect with other rural communities across the country and reenergize the agricultural industry. According to Novelli, Georgetown students will play an integral part at every level of the project by conducting fieldwork and research, and organizing initiatives such as summits on rural leadership, online rural innovation hubs, and training workshops and webinars.

Mace Thornton, AFBF executive director of communications, emphasized that the program would have a holistic approach to rural entrepreneurial development. “We want robust rural communities where our farmers and ranchers can live and raise their families, to entice their kids to want to stay there and continue farming, and to attract new and beginning farmers and ranchers to rural areas,” Thornton said.

Novelli expects this initial partnership to continue to grow in size and scope in the future. “We expect rural entrepreneurship to be the first of several initiatives between AFBF and Georgetown. The mission of strengthening rural America is an ideal and very important undertaking and will be important for the entire country.”

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