How can immigrant communities in the United States work closely with their respective homelands to create entrepreneurial opportunities that benefit both places? That was the poignant theme of Global Diaspora Week (October 12-17), a national conversation organized by the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Calvert Foundation.
Diaspora is from the Greek word διασπορά, and refers to the “movement, migration or scattering of a people from their ancestral homeland.”
Over 70 events took place across the nation, including several in Massachusetts, which helped underscore the entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and innovative ideas prevalent in immigrant communities, according to the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance.
Local Chinese leaders organized the forum, Entrepreneurship Development and Opportunities for the US Chinese Diaspora at Harvard University. Hosted by the United Cultures Innovation Center for International Cooperation (UCIC) and the Harvard US-China Economic Interaction Council (HUCEIC), the all-day conference drew over 250 entrepreneurs, business leaders, public officials, students and academics for a robust discussion and exchange of ideas.
Topics included Translational Medicine in the Genomics Era, US-China Capital Market Relations and Dialogue Opportunities; and Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Education, Cultural and Tourism Industry.
Organizer Xin Li said she hoped the forum would “bring the Chinese community together and let the older generation pass on their experience and wisdom to the next generation” while fostering innovation and creating social engagement.
Several state and local officials participated in the conference, including Tackey Chan, State Representative; Rich Elam of the Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment (MOITI); Kathleen Newell of the Massachusetts Export Center; and Jolin Zhou of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Local Brazilian leaders Alvaro Lima and Anselmo Cassiano organized a series of four lectures at MIT and Berklee College of Music to discuss Diggai, a new initiative that seeks to aggregate and curate the cultural products of Brazilians around the world.
Leading up to Global Diaspora Week, Boston hosted its 6th annual Golden Bridges conference, welcoming a delegation of officials, entrepreneurs and tourism leaders from Northwest Ireland. Drew O’Brien, head of Global Partnerships, was a guest speaker, along with Senate President Therese Murray and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. And in September, MOITI welcomed a group from Malaysia seeking to create new business and education partnerships in the Commonwealth.
Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation for newcomers, with an immigrant population that represents over 14 percent of the population. Latino and Asian-owned businesses alone employ over 50,000 Massachusetts residents, with sales of over $7 billion. Immigrants compose nearly 20 percent of the state’s workforce.
Governor Deval Patrick declared Immigrant Entrepreneurship Month, June 15 – July 15, 2014, and said, “Our immigrant communities have always been an integral part of our state’s economic and cultural fabric. I am proud to recognize the hard work of our immigrant entrepreneurs who have made Massachusetts home, and whose achievements help keep us in the leadership business.”
Massachusetts wants to enable foreign-born, American- educated entrepreneurs to remain in the country after they graduate. The new economic development bill, An Act to Promote Growth and Opportunity, calls for the creation of a Global Entrepreneur in Residence Program to retain and attract entrepreneurs who are growing companies and creating jobs in the state. Administered by the Mass Tech Collaborative, the program will place selected students – who are eligible for H-1B visas but unable to get them due to a federal cap – as “entrepreneurs in residence” at public and private institutions and will ensure that they continue to contribute to the Massachusetts economy.
For more about the international investment opportunities in the Commonwealth, visit Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment.