With academics from around the world in attendance, leading researchers from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) conducted a well-attended workshop at the 2021 Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference (BCERC). The draw was simple: “How can I convert research into opportunity?” For many, this was nothing short of a dream come true.
The GEM workshop was just one of 26 workshops introduced for the first time in BCERC’s 41-year history. Each workshop addressed a broad topic and was presented by the superstars of research, offering another dimension beyond the usual invitation-only research paper presentations that are popular with BCERC’s global audience of well-known academics.
“In the past, you could only attend if you were presenting a paper or you had a long history of participating in BCERC.”
Zach Zacharakis, Director of BCERC
“In the past, you could only attend if you were presenting a paper or you had a long history of participating in BCERC,” says Zach Zacharakis, director of BCERC. “But, this year, we eliminated those rules of entry, making it far more fluid and dynamic.”
BCERC this year attracted an unprecedented 585 participants who attended the live virtual sessions. And, more than 500 registrants attended at least one of the new workshops.
The BCERC team puts out a call for papers in the fall, the papers get reviewed, and the best papers get accepted, according to Tamara Lamenzo, assistant director of BCERC. Only the people who have been selected to present their papers are invited to attend BCERC, making it a quintessential goal for global entrepreneurship researchers. With the introduction of the workshops this year, researchers who didn’t get their paper accepted could still attend, casting a wider net and increasing attendance at BCERC overall.
The workshops were focused on a topic area, such as women entrepreneurship or the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and led by three to four scholars. Attendance was open to anyone who had an interest in that topic.
“The academics who led the workshops know the value of having people in a room together,” Lamenzo says. “They want to go deep into the topic and learn from each other.”
For the researchers in attendance who may not have had the chance to attend the event otherwise, or who may not have had the backing or the funding to attend a conference in person, this year’s BCERC workshops were a golden opportunity.
Many panels used breakout groups to increase the learning, networking, and tap into the expertise of the wider cross-section of attendees. The ambiance at this year’s BCERC was nothing short of exciting.
“And, because of this dynamic,” Lamenzo says, “the full range of researchers—superstars, experienced, published, mid-level, and juniors alike—got to know each other.”
One of the shining examples of this year’s workshops was “Research Opportunities with GEM,” presented by GEM Executive Director Aileen Ionescu-Somers, and Board Chair Professor Niels Bosma. The workshop attracted 60 attendees and demonstrated the raw power of the new BCERC workshops in action.
GEM is the world’s leading global consortium of entrepreneurship research. It began in 1999 as a joint research project between Babson College and London Business School. GEM publishes the annual GEM Global Report, and is a huge draw in academic circles.
Playing to her audience, Ionescu-Somers went through the steps of what it takes to put together a GEM National Team—the type of team that could successfully embark on career-defining research, and eventually present its research findings at conferences such as BCERC.
“At the workshop, we looked at GEM primarily from the point of view of the academic,” Ionescu-Somers says, “because GEM attracts a great deal of attention from academics and is highly rigorous research that leads to world-class publications. The theme lent itself well to the workshop format, and to this year’s audience.”
The workshop provided opportunities for breakout groups, which were also well attended, according to Ionescu-Somers.
“We thought it would be really great,” Ionescu-Somers says, “to get some input from the younger academics in the breakout groups about their ideas for how GEM might transform in the future and reach its next level, as well as discuss their research styles and methods as they pertain to GEM.”
Yet, the younger researchers kept steering the conversation back to the value of GEM for the academic, as the excitement of being face to face (even virtually) with the biggest names in the industry simply took over. The presenters were more than happy to oblige, adding value to the appreciative academics in attendance.
The success of the workshop experiment is something the BCERC team plans to pursue in the future.
“It might be in person for the paper presentations, with an added hybrid element for workshops,” Lamenzo says. “This would open it up to academics who didn’t get a paper accepted but could attend the workshops, along with the networking advantages that go along with that.”
Learn about BCERC’s 2021 Doctoral Consortium.
She added that, even with the addition of a hybrid model, not all researchers would be able to attend the paper presentations.
“That’s the privilege of having an accepted paper,” Lamenzo says. “That’s the carrot that makes you work harder to get your paper accepted, and come to BCERC. But, the workshops allow you to get part of the way there.”
Next year’s BCERC will be at Baylor University, June 1-4, 2022.