Collective Identity, Super-Diversity, and an Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship – Interview with Dr. Adem Kumcu, UNITEE President

Brussels, 21 March 2024 – Following the launch of the European Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, we sit down with UNITEE President Adem Kumcu to talk about the intersection of social, cultural and sustainable entrepreneurship, why we need to return to the EU’s foundational principles, new interpretations of collective identity in our super-diverse societies, and why we need a European Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship now more than ever.

Q1: In what ways do you see social, cultural, and sustainable entrepreneurship intersecting within the mission of the European Union and playing a role in its future development?

Adem: “The intersection of social, cultural, and sustainable entrepreneurship within the European Union’s mission is profound and, I believe, pivotal for its future development. The European Union, at its core, is committed to fostering an inclusive, sustainable, and economically vibrant community of nations. This commitment is not just a policy stance; it’s a foundational principle that guides its strategies and actions.

Firstly, social entrepreneurship embodies the EU’s dedication to social innovation and cohesion. It’s about creating enterprises that prioritise social and environmental objectives alongside financial sustainability. By supporting social entrepreneurs, the EU is directly investing in solutions to some of its most pressing social challenges, including unemployment, social exclusion, and inequality. This approach aligns with the EU’s broader objectives of promoting social inclusion and ensuring that economic growth benefits all segments of society.

Moving on to cultural entrepreneurship, this is where the richness of the EU’s diverse heritage comes into play. Cultural entrepreneurs leverage this diversity to drive economic growth, innovation, and social integration. Through the creative industries, cultural entrepreneurship contributes to the EU’s agenda of preserving cultural heritage while stimulating economic development. It’s a vibrant sector that not only enriches the EU’s cultural landscape but also promotes cross-cultural understanding and cohesion among its diverse populations.

Sustainable entrepreneurship, on the other hand, intersects with the EU’s ambitious environmental goals. The European Green Deal, for instance, sets a blueprint for sustainable development, aiming to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent. Sustainable entrepreneurs are crucial players in this mission. They innovate in fields like renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and circular economy practices, directly contributing to the EU’s sustainability targets. By fostering this type of entrepreneurship, the EU accelerates its transition towards a green economy.

In essence, these three forms of entrepreneurship are not just intersecting; they are converging within the European Union’s strategic framework. They collectively contribute to building a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable European economy. Moreover, they are instrumental in addressing global challenges, from climate change to social inequality, making them integral to the EU’s vision for its future development. The EU’s support for these entrepreneurial sectors through policies, funding, and frameworks is a testament to their pivotal role in shaping a prosperous, sustainable, and cohesive European Union.”

Q2: How do you think Europe should re-examine its foundational principles of equality, diversity, and inclusion in the context of today’s society?

Adem: “In today’s rapidly evolving society, re-examining Europe’s foundational principles of equality, diversity, and inclusion has never been more critical. We live in an era marked by significant social, technological, and environmental changes that present both challenges and opportunities for these core values. Europe, with its rich tapestry of cultures and histories, is uniquely positioned to lead by example, but this requires a thoughtful and dynamic approach to how we understand and implement these principles.

Firstly, regarding equality, it’s essential that Europe moves beyond mere formal equality to embrace a more substantive form of equality. This means not just ensuring that everyone is treated the same under the law but also acknowledging and addressing the underlying social, economic, and cultural barriers that prevent individuals and groups from having equal opportunities to succeed. The European Union can achieve this by fostering policies and initiatives that specifically target these disparities, whether they’re based on gender, race, socio-economic status, or other factors.

When we consider diversity, the focus should shift towards actively valuing and leveraging the diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences that people bring to our communities and societies. Diversity should be seen as a strength and a source of innovation, rather than a challenge to be managed. Europe should invest in educational and cultural exchange programs that promote mutual understanding and respect, encouraging a society that celebrates diversity rather than merely tolerating it.

Inclusion is perhaps where the most significant re-examination is needed. Inclusion should not be about integrating people into existing structures and cultures but about transforming those structures and cultures to be genuinely welcoming and accessible to everyone. This means creating spaces—whether in politics, the workplace, or social settings—where diverse voices are not only heard but are also influential in decision-making processes. It involves rethinking how we design our public services, our cities, and our digital spaces to be inclusive by default.

To truly embody these principles in the context of today’s society, Europe needs to engage in ongoing dialogue with its citizens, especially those from marginalized or underrepresented groups. This dialogue should not be unidirectional; it must be a genuine exchange of ideas that shapes policy and practice. Furthermore, Europe must harness the power of technology and innovation to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion, ensuring that the digital revolution benefits all members of society equally.

In conclusion, re-examining these foundational principles is not just about adapting to change; it’s about leading change. It’s an opportunity for Europe to redefine what it means to be a truly inclusive, diverse, and equal society in the 21st century. By doing so, Europe can set a global standard for how societies can thrive amidst diversity and complexity.”

Q3: How would you define collective identity in our super-diverse societies, and why do you believe it’s important within the context of inclusive entrepreneurship, and the mission of The New European?

Adem: “Defining collective identity in our super-diverse societies is a fascinating and complex endeavour. In essence, it’s about crafting a shared sense of belonging and purpose among people who come from incredibly varied backgrounds, cultures, ideologies, and experiences. This collective identity transcends individual differences and finds common ground in shared values, goals, and a commitment to the common good. In super-diverse societies, where the mosaic of cultures and identities is both a strength and a challenge, developing a collective identity means acknowledging and celebrating diversity while also identifying the threads that bind us together as a community or society.

Why is this important, especially in the context of the European Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the New European’s mission? Well, at its core, the New European’s mission is about building a cohesive, inclusive, and resilient society that not only embraces diversity but also leverages it as a foundational pillar for progress and innovation. In such a context, a well-defined collective identity is crucial for several reasons.

Firstly, it acts as a unifying force. In a time when societal fractures seem more pronounced, a collective identity helps remind us of our shared humanity and common aspirations, such as peace, security, and prosperity. It fosters a sense of solidarity and mutual respect, which is essential for social cohesion and the successful integration of individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Secondly, a collective identity is instrumental in promoting active citizenship and participation. By feeling part of a larger whole, individuals are more likely to engage in civic activities, contribute to community life, and participate in democratic processes. This active engagement is vital for the vibrant, dynamic society that the New European envisions—one where every voice is heard, and every person feels they can make a difference.

Furthermore, a collective identity that respects and incorporates diversity is a powerful antidote to the rising tide of nationalism and xenophobia seen in various parts of Europe and the world. It provides a counter-narrative that emphasises unity over division, dialogue over conflict, and inclusivity over exclusion. This is particularly important in today’s globalized world, where the movement of people and the intermingling of cultures are facts of life.

Lastly, in the context of the New European’s mission, emphasizing a collective identity helps to foreground the economic, social, and cultural contributions of migrants and individuals from diverse backgrounds. It challenges the misconceptions and stereotypes that can hinder integration and social harmony, showcasing instead a model of society that thrives on its diversity.

In summary, defining and nurturing a collective identity in our super-diverse societies is not just an idealistic endeavour; it’s a practical necessity for building the kind of inclusive, forward-looking Europe that the New European envisions. It’s about creating a society where everyone, regardless of their background, feels they belong and can contribute to shaping a common future.”

Q4: How should we facilitate debate on our common goals and priorities between people who may not agree in our increasingly polarised societies?

Adem: “In our increasingly polarised societies, facilitating constructive debate on our common goals and priorities is both a challenge and a necessity. The key lies in creating environments and opportunities that encourage open, respectful dialogue and actively bridge divides rather than exacerbate them. It’s about fostering a culture of listening, empathy, and mutual respect, where diverse viewpoints are not just tolerated but valued as essential components of a vibrant democratic society.

First and foremost, we must prioritise inclusive dialogue. This means ensuring that all voices, especially those from marginalized or underrepresented communities, have a platform and the opportunity to be heard. It’s not just about giving everyone a seat at the table but also about making sure that the table is accessible to everyone. This inclusivity enriches the debate and ensures that decisions reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of our communities.

Moreover, promoting active listening and empathy is crucial. Often, debates become confrontational because participants listen with the intent to reply rather than to understand. By fostering an environment where people are encouraged to listen actively and empathetically, we open the door to more meaningful exchanges. This can be achieved through facilitated discussions, workshops, and training programs that emphasize these skills.

Another essential strategy is the promotion of media literacy and critical thinking. In an age where misinformation and disinformation can spread rapidly, equipping people with the tools to critically evaluate information and understand different perspectives is vital. This not only enriches the debate but also helps prevent the entrenchment of polarized views.

Structured dialogues and deliberative forums can also play a significant role. These are spaces where people can engage in informed discussions about specific issues, with a focus on finding common ground and practical solutions. These forums can be supported by background materials that provide a balanced overview of the issues at hand, ensuring that participants are well-informed.

Highlighting common goals and shared values is another effective way to facilitate constructive debate. Despite our differences, there are many things we all care about, such as the well-being of our families, the health of our communities, and the future of our planet. By starting from these shared concerns, we can create a foundation for more productive discussions.

Lastly, leveraging technology and social media for positive engagement is vital. While these platforms can contribute to polarisation, they also offer unprecedented opportunities for connecting people, sharing stories, and fostering understanding across divides. Initiatives that use these tools creatively and constructively can help counteract divisiveness and promote a culture of dialogue.

In conclusion, facilitating debate on our common goals and priorities in polarised societies requires a multifaceted approach that emphasizes inclusivity, empathy, critical thinking, and a focus on shared values. It’s a challenging task, but by committing to these principles, we can create the conditions for more constructive and collaborative discussions, ultimately strengthening the fabric of our democratic societies.”

Q5: What do you see as the key challenges facing European citizens, new and old, and how can the Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the New European as a platform address these challenges?

Adem: “As the President of UNITEE, I firmly believe in the transformative power of inclusive entrepreneurship as a fundamental key to driving sustainable innovation and growth across Europe. Our manifesto “The European Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship” is a testament to our commitment to this cause. These initiatives are designed to reflect and harness the diversity of our societies, recognizing the critical role that entrepreneurs play in not only shaping our economies but our societies at large.

The challenges we face today, from climate upheaval to demographic shifts and the digital revolution, demand innovative and sustainable solutions. Solutions that are truly effective must be rooted in the realities and diversity of the populations they aim to serve. This is where inclusive entrepreneurship becomes pivotal. By dismantling the barriers that prevent cross-cultural entrepreneurs from fully participating in the economic landscape, we open the doors to a wealth of untapped potential. Our agenda calls for a supportive environment that removes these obstacles, offering tools and support tailored to the unique needs of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.

Inclusivity is at the heart of our approach. We advocate for an intersectional perspective that recognizes and addresses the diverse challenges faced by entrepreneurs. Whether it’s gender, ethnicity, age, or any other dimension of diversity, our strategies are designed to uplift all entrepreneurs, equipping them with the necessary resources and opportunities to thrive. This inclusivity is not just about fairness; it’s a strategic imperative for fostering innovation and economic growth.

Our vision for Europe is one of economic strength, sustainability, and fairness, drawing upon the rich diversity of its citizens. By promoting deeper economic connections with countries of origin and championing diversity and sustainability in business practices, we aim to catalyze innovation and development. This approach is not merely about boosting economic indicators; it’s about building a more cohesive, resilient, and innovative European community.

UNITEE, with its 30 years of experience representing entrepreneurs and business professionals from cross-cultural backgrounds, stands ready to lead this charge. We are committed to supporting ‘New European’ entrepreneurs and business professionals, enhancing inclusion through entrepreneurship. By embracing the European Agenda for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, we set a course for a future where entrepreneurship is truly inclusive, leveraging unique skills and experiences to bridge cultures, ignite new ideas, and sustainably grow our economies. This is more than a vision; it’s a roadmap for building the resilient and innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem Europe needs to face the challenges of tomorrow.


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