Today marks the opening day of #GEW2017 – and with it, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Since it launched in 77 countries in 2008, GEW has been the impetus behind more than 120,000 events, activities and competitions – with nearly 60 million participants – to help people unleash their ideas and take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey. It has also fostered connections among entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, researchers, policymakers and others involved in helping new firms start and scale.

As it grew and evolved, the communities that make up GEW also gave rise to GEN which now provides a platform of programs aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a business. That platform touches every element of the ecosystem.

Entrepreneurs benefit from competitions hosted on Startup Compete, such as GEN’s own Startup Open, and programs like Startup Huddle and GEN Starters Club. They are also supported by efforts like the Global Enterprise Registration site at ger.co – which streamlines their business registration processes – and our Global Business Angels Network of early stage investor networks from 53 countries. This year we also launched our first Startup Campus – 22 On Sloane in South Africa – offering residency for startups and the ecosystem leaders that support them.  Next year we will see a new program to match mid-tier cities across the world to develop collaborative projects that mutually support local entrepreneurs.

While governments have always endorsed GEW campaigns over the past 10 years, we would never have predicted their level of engagement with GEN now in developing smarter policies and public programs to stimulate new firm formation. GEN has built a Startup Nations policymaker network of 73 member countries and has launched a Startup Nations Atlas of Policies (SNAP) to collect and analyze both policy proposals and public programs being introduced around the world.  Further, guided by a Steering Committee of ministers from all continents, the Startup Nations Ministerial organized with support from the World Bank is accelerating the speed at which governments can develop and introduce new regulatory policies in response to new industries and the disruption of old ones.  For example, GEN has developed policy hacks where governments across the globe test their policy proposals with peers, professionals and experts who bring relevant experience from other countries.

Alongside all this, whether to inform better support programs or smarter policies, thanks to the Kauffman Foundation, we have built the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network which, informed by entrepreneurs, aligns those that fund entrepreneurship research that helps better the understanding of which interventions are most effective in removing barriers for entrepreneurs.

Naturally as a network, we have sought to connect all these pieces through live events and our GEN Connect virtual platform at www.genglobal.org. For example, next April we will hold the 10th Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul which has gathered the GEW communities over the past 10 years in Kansas City, Dubai, Shanghai, Liverpool, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Milan, Medellin and earlier this year in Johannesburg.  The popularity of the GEC has given rise to our regional GEC+ deep dive events throughout the year. These complement our annual gathering of policymakers – the Startup Nations Summit – which has now been held in Canada, Malaysia, South Korea, Mexico, Ireland and next week in Estonia.

Inspiring tens of millions of people over the past 10 GEW campaigns to consider entrepreneurship at some point in their life journey has generated an army of nascent startups keen to validate and scale their visions – often aiming at complex industries like health care, transportation, energy and education.

While GEN connects investors, incumbent companies, educators, researchers, governments, policymakers, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial support programs, the opportunity ahead now lies in our pursuing a vision bigger than the sum of its parts.  In this task we welcome the input from any and all in designing our future.

We hope you enjoy the 10th Anniversary Global Entrepreneurship Week and use it as a compass to guide you through what is clearly an uncertain and unpredictable future ahead wherever you live in the world. Innovation knows no borders. As we see the democratization of entrepreneurship spread across cultures and nations, we hope you will join our global entrepreneurial ecosystem. While entrepreneurs may relish disruption, they focus not on what divides us but rather what unites us in our common mission to create value and improve the lives of our fellow citizens anywhere in the world.