Diaspora's Great Promise to the Global Economy

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Source: Ashoka

Ashoka's Diaspora Networks establishes a space to learn, co-create, and drive change between Ashoka's community and Diaspora leaders and their networks, organisations, families both at home and in their countries of origin.  

Immigrants and Social Entrepreneurs 

Social entrepreneurs can sense problems approaching from a mile away, so they observe and adapt to their countries' situations to make change happen anyway.  In our increasingly globalized world, it is those innovators straddling two worlds—the old and the new-that are best position to forecast the future. 

This entrepreneurial spirit is inherent in most immigrants-we see the examples everywhere, technology, science, activism, etc..— We must harness the spirit present in these communities to become a key player in the Everyone a Changemaker movement of Ashoka.  Providing opportunities for these communities to drive change at home and back home.  Ashoka Diaspora Networks offers a new framework through which we can connect carefully identified diaspora leaders with our community of innovators to help their communities thrive in this rapidly changing context and ensure their commitment to mobilise and foster changemakers around the world.

When old rules no longer dictate the status quo, citizens will have to rely on their sense of empathy to achieve success.  Exchanges will be more open and adaptation will be critical as ever.  Ashoka knows that diaspora groups have been some of the first to engage in this process; and thus it is strategic that these communities become a key constituency in the Everyone a Changemaker movement.

Jumpstarting the Economies of Countries of Origin

With the goal of jumpstarting the economies of their countries of origin, "diasporans" have been crucial in generating the support necessary to re-channel global investments.  Countries entering the global market are often censured because of small domestic market size or inadequate infrastructure (Gillespie et al 1999: 623).  But despite these risks, diasporans' maintained connections to their countries of origin leads to exchanges beneficial to most parties involved.  These diaspora groups take the lead in instilling confidence in their countries' ability to deliver change—often economic development—by being some of the first to invest.  "Migrant communities can help facilitate across-national portfolio investment by reducing barriers to entry—through knowledge of language, institutional rules, and/or regulatory hurdles—that may otherwise prevent a foreign investor", according to David Leblang, professor of governance and chair of the department of politics at the University of Virginia. 


“When dated rules no longer dictate the status quo, citizens will have to rely on their sense of empathy to achieve success."

If familiarity does indeed breed investment, in the comings years to get more actors involved, we must continue to break down barriers to change and get historically divided individuals to speak.  Diasporans have already begun to answer the question. "How?"

Connecting Two Worlds

Silicon Valley and Bangalore are joined to the hip: the Indian diaspora has jumped over the walls to live in multiple communities simultaneously.  This is one of the famous examples of power of diaspora groups, and it's been going on for decades.  Already in 2003, AnnaLee Saxenian explored the idea of Asian-American entrepreneurs as agents of globalization in her paper Local and Global Networks of Immigrant Professionals in Silicon Valley.” Aiming to understand the extent of transnational business activities by Silicon Valley immigrants, Saxenian drew her sample from seventeen leading immigrant professional associations in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Half of Silicon Valley's foreign-born entrepreneurs in the survey had established subsidiaries, joint venture, subcontracting, or other business operations in their native countries.  Eighty-two percent of the region's foreign-born respondents reported sharing information about technology with colleagues in their countries of origin.  Saxenian also found that 40 percent of foreign-born respondents reported arranging business contracts in their native country, including 46 percent of Indians, 42 percent of Taiwanese, and 34 percent of mainland Chinese.

Johanna Lilius and Hossam Hewidy study the phenomenon of entrepreneurship among immigrants in Helsinki, and the ways it impacts their country of residency and origin in their 2019 paper, "Serving whom? Immigrant entrepreneurs in a new local context".  The paper aims to understand what motivates immigrants to become entrepreneurs, and what is the impact of their background? The authors concluded that through their practices, immigrant entrepreneurs shed light upon immigrant needs and make them visible to politicians and policymakers.  IOM's 2020 World Migration Report confirms that immigrants entrepreneurs and SMEs enhance diversity and bring together people from different cultures due to their transnational networks.

These immigrant communities have clearly discovered the value of linking their two worlds.  But what is the best method for social support?  Though we could persist with the historical framework of direct service— remittances, for example, are at an all time high with $529 billion transferred to developing countries in 2018—these communities need to move to create higher-level change. 

One of the first Indian-American diaspora members Bhagat Singh Thind wrote to his father from Oregon in his native Punjabi in 1920, "I wait for your letter daily, and get worried if it is delayed.  Hopefully in the future you will be kind enough (to reply immediately).  On June 26, I sent to you a check of Rupees 1250.  On receipt, please inform immediately.  And I shall send more on hearing from you."  Remittances to India have since increased to $58 billion in the past year.  Almost a century later, the Indian diaspora can still have a significant impact by supporting collaborative innovation.

Helping diaspora communities thrive as changemakers is essential, their leaders will empower millions of people around the world to transform their realities to everyone's benefit.  Thus, Ashoka Diaspora Networks is altering the framework so they can effectively achieve this.  By providing opportunities to invest in social entrepreneurship co-creating initiatives with the best social innovators and Young Changemakers in the world, diaspora can create more lasting and widely shared systemic changes in the regions they care about.