When we started planning the ISBE conference the phrase “COVID-19” had not been invented. We took the view that we wanted to showcase engaged scholarship in small business and entrepreneurship as an endeavour which seeks to connect research with the practice of establishing and growing entrepreneurial businesses and the policy challenges of supporting that practice. We also wanted to highlight in a critical manner that the purpose of this should not solely focus on economic value, but also on wider social and public value. These are ideas that have been at the heart of ISBE for over 40 years. The global pandemic has highlighted in stark relief just how important entrepreneurship for social and public value has become in our contemporary world. So, I was delighted in the way in which ISBE conference delegates almost organically and experientially were able to shed new light on these questions. For many the pandemic has been a lonely experience. It was lovely to see people back together and to hear the conference “buzz”. It was also great to see so many early career and PhD researchers at the conference, and to be able to provide much needed opportunities to gain presentation experience, to meet and network, and to get important feedback on work. These are the things that early career researchers especially have missed during the past 20 months of life on Zoom. But I also want to highlight a point that one of our plenary speakers made – the problem faced by small businesses is not that they are small, but that they are lonely. Within ISBE and at the conference we have seen important work that focuses not just on the economic performance of entrepreneurs and their organizations but on the social and institutional “ecosystems” in which they exist. As we seek to understand how business can build back better and build back in a net zero world it was great to hear how conference delegates were able to highlight just how important these wider ecosystems will be in the future.
Professor Andrew Henley