SME Initiative

Entrepreneurship for Development

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are widely seen as engines of economic growth. In developed countries, they are credited with creating jobs, delivering innovation and raising productivity. But SMEs in developing countries are not currently meeting that promise. While there is no lack of interest in promoting entrepreneurship in poor countries, we do lack evidence about what helps, or even what represent the biggest barriers to growth.

The Small and Medium Enterprise Initiative focuses on building the evidence that we need to innovate, implement and scale programs that promote entrepreneurial growth.

 Initiative Objectives:

  • Build a network of researchers, practitioners and policy makers focused on SME development. We facilitate collaboration between researchers with innovative ideas and practitioners willing to test those ideas in the field; we connect people tackling similar problems so they can share and exchange ideas; and we guide policy makers on the best research and practice.
  • Build knowledge by funding, conducting and enabling rigorous research studies on the contribution of small and medium enterprises to poverty alleviation and economic development. Our studies explore at least one of three main areas that may constrain or enable SME growth: financial access, human capital and skills, and access to markets and information.
  • Share findings and influence stakeholders so that the knowledge we develop about the real enablers of and constraints to SME growth can be put in the hands of those in the best position to apply them and bring effective programs to scale.

Research Agenda:

Most of our research focuses on three key topics of interest:

  • Access to Finance
  • Human Capital and Skills
  • Access to Markets

Though several of these topics (access to finance in particular) have been examined extensively at the microfinance level within developing economies, SME-focused research is lacking.  In addition, three cross-cutting themes garner particular attention: economic growth; poverty alleviation and job creation; and social empowerment and gender.


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