Office Hours: Unearthing the Value of GEM

Portrait of Donna Kelley
Donna Kelley P’24, who leads the U.S. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor team, will serve as the chair of the Entrepreneurship Division beginning this fall. (Photo: Justin Knight)
Babson Magazine

Summer 2021

Professor of Entrepreneurship Donna Kelley P’24 joined Babson in 2000, a year after the College co-founded the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). But, despite numerous opportunities, she declined each invitation to join the GEM team.

By 2007, though, when pressed by Professor Emeritus and GEM co-founder William D. Bygrave—one of the pioneers of entrepreneurship at Babson—she couldn’t refuse any longer.

“I’m glad I didn’t say no,” Kelley says. “The project has grown to have a major impact for policy audiences, researchers, and educators.”

Indeed it has, all because of researchers such as Kelley, who serves on GEM’s oversight board and who has led the GEM U.S. team for many years. Since joining the GEM board in 2007, Kelley has written more than 30 reports for the organization, which has grown into the largest and most developed research program on entrepreneurship in the world.

“GEM went from being a niche project for academics to being the most used database in academic publications for entrepreneurship,” Kelley says. “Our understanding of what’s going on globally through entrepreneurship has been fostered by the availability of GEM data.”

In its 22-year history, which began as a joint venture between Babson College and the London School of Business, GEM has surveyed about 3 million people and explored entrepreneurial activity in more than 120 economies.

Over the years, entrepreneurship has flourished around the world, in established areas like the United States and in countries, such as many in the Middle East, where it is experiencing a boom. GEM has been there to report on all of it, and it is the range of disparate reports that Kelley is most proud of.

“All of these reports, for different reasons, have been impactful,” she says. “We’re looking at the people. Each economy approaches entrepreneurship differently.”


DIGITAL BOOKSHELF: Check out the latest publications by Babson faculty


GEM is not Kelley’s only endeavor, however. She holds the Frederic C. Hamilton Professor of Free Enterprise Studies chair, and, beginning in fall 2021, she will serve as the chair of Babson’s Entrepreneurship Division, a role in which she will oversee not only the curriculum and course staffing but also the generation of entrepreneurial knowledge through research, and Babson’s evolving teaching methodologies.

“Everybody is incredibly collaborative at Babson. We have some of the most phenomenal teachers in the entire field,” she says.

“What’s the next step in entrepreneurship education? It’s amazing what the education experience has evolved into. It’s very experiential in the classroom. You’re not just learning from the experience of others; you’re learning from doing it yourself.”

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