Island Life: I Admit It, I Was Surprised
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Everyone that I met in Bahrain told me that we were on an island, sometimes multiple times in the same conversation. At first, I thought people assumed that I didn’t have a handle on basic geography, but throughout my week there, I realized that their unique makeup really does permeate so much of their culture, down to the way they look at business. The conversations often went something like, “Well, Bahrain is an island so...” or “Since we’re on an island...”
Sociologically, it’s a down-to-earth place. Basically, everyone and anyone will offer to drive you home, everyone and anyone will ask you to join them on a social outing regardless of whether or not they even know your last name, and finally, everyone comes to Bahrain to stay (or so it seems). The islanders are a chilled-out bunch... except when it comes to entrepreneurship. Their ecosystem is tightly-knit, highly collaborative, and enthusiastic bordering on manic. They do everything together, and by “they,” I mean that all the different NGOs, NPOs, and governmental organizations involved in entrepreneurship (even remotely) band together tightly to support initiatives in so many different ways that I found myself drawing charts trying to keep it all straight.
For those of you wondering about the “situation” in the country, I personally did not see any evidence of ongoing issues, but I was made aware that protests do still occur here and there, and that they mostly take place in certain areas (much like periodic outbursts in Lebanon). I want to touch on the recent global discussions that suggest entrepreneurship can act as an antidote to civil discontent and unrest. I would venture to tie this all back to Bahrain, and I realize my next statement may garner criticism: government projects meant to foster, assist and promote micro-businesses, startups and SMEs in the Kingdom give people a reason to hope and try, and having visited at least six different entities made to do just that, I am a firm supporter of the population unification measures (my words, not their’s) in Bahrain via business. It is true enough that when I was touring the island I wasn’t taken to protest hotspots, but I was taken to places that have been established to create an inclusive and prosperous economy- and that is the first step forward. Where there is industry and potential for growth, there is community and prospects for a strong future.
I expect many people out there will call me an optimist (and perhaps words not so positive), but I am heading a publication that looks for solutions and I found many of those in the Kingdom. Whether or not the global community is aware of these same solutions is another story altogether. I hope this Bahrain-centric edition leaves you with a new-found awareness of the proactive enterprise space on the island.