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The business sector's responsibility in public policies

Article - February 27, 2014
The Foro de Presidentes (Presidents Forum) is an organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurial leadership and the creation of a community of leaders to help promote public policies for a more positive social development
According to BBVA Research, the Colombian economy is going to maintain its steady growth rate, even improving it to 5 percent by the end of 2014. Logically, the news has made entrepreneurs, political leaders and Colombians in general quite happy. But Mr. Omar González, president of the Foro de Presidentes (Presidents’ Forum), has another point of view: “That growth sounds very positive today because Spain, for example, finally grew 0.1 percent.

So our numbers seem great when compared to 0.1 but, in my opinion, that’s the consolation of fools. I believe we will grow in very interesting ways, as long as we are able to converge certain economic adjustments that need to be made”. 
As Mr. González sees it, Colombia is going through a peace process that will define the country’s future in many ways. It is also important for its people to learn how to benefit as much as possible from the new business opportunities derived from the FTAs Colombia has signed lately. “The participation of businessmen in public policies is a subject that will become more and more relevant in time.

Entrepreneurs and businessmen have to accompany the governments in the building of a better society”, explains Mr. González. That is why he is the head of the Foro de Presidentes, an organization that promotes entrepreneurial leadership and the creation of a community of leaders, with no political or economic interests, that can help promote public policies for a more positive social development.  
According to Mr. González, the base for that development is job opportunities, generated either by employment or successful entrepreneurship. “Improving the conditions for businessmen and helping foreign investment reach our people could help generate those opportunities, as long as we don’t forget that a job has to be respectable: paid on time, with the adequate social benefits and with projections for the future”. Mr. González also points out that one of the challenges the country faces is the closing of the gap between the privileged sectors and those less fortunate.  
The conditions in which the country is living its post-conflict era is another of the greatest challenges Colombia faces today.

The Foro de Presidentes also believes itself to be a tool in that adaptation process the country has to go through: “It has to be done with intelligence because we are talking about a bunch of people that come from holding a rifle and want to be part of society again”. In order to avoid a cultural shock for either side, the process will be slow and complicated. Mr. González believes the government has to lay out the basis of the plan so that companies and organizations can follow: “We believe it is possible to locate them in places in their societies where they will feel more comfortable, like guarding the borders, protecting water and forests”. 
The organization Mr. González presides has been working independently since 2004 to propel the growth of Colombia’s leaders. “Our philosophy is one that researchers from MIT have published a book about, called Leading from the Emerging Future.

We talk about going from an ego-system –a system centered in me, in us, our surroundings– to an eco-system, systems focused on society, on how we can be better in relation to society and how to propel it. We want to go from looking into our own bellybuttons to being better at serving our society”, explains Mr. González. 
Part of the promotion and support given to leaders has to come from before they become entrepreneurs. Education, of course, is key in the development of any country’s young generations, but for Mr. González the quality of that education has a lot to do with how applicable it is in the real business world. “There is a serious communications problem between universities and businesses –he explains– that is why we see young men coming in to work and realizing that everything they learned in school is useless.

I believe we have to build those bridges between the two for a better education of our future leaders and entrepreneurs”. In that spirit, last year the Forum organized the first Leaders’ Meeting for Leaders (Encuentro de Líderes para Líderes) in which many school heads, like Hans Peter Knudsen, head of the Universidad del Rosario, discussed the business sector and the academy’s responsibilities in forming the future’s leaders.