Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Why Entrepreneurship Education Is Important for Social Inclusion

The most fundamental reason for thinking about entrepreneurship at the grass roots is to find
sustainable solutions to overcoming the injustices of poverty, which is evidenced by malnutrition, low life expectancy, indifferent educational attainment, poor access to water, inadequate healthcare and exclusion from the benefits of economic and technological progress. Witnessing progress all around while remaining poor can also create a feeling of hopelessness, dependency and low levels of self-esteem and aspiration. These are human conditions that can tear at the soul of a people. The arguments are well rehearsed and supported in many academic and policy documents, and they
are highlighted by the UN Millennium Development Goals. How can entrepreneurship education address these issues and create a wider participation in economic, social and health benefits?

We can draw a boundary around entrepreneurship education as comprising the following three components:

Personal development
Entrepreneurship education should build confidence, motivate progress, strengthen the
entrepreneurial mindset, foster a desire to achieve and inspire action.
Business development
Technical, financial literacy and skills to engage in self-employment, employment and in
entrepreneurship that can lead to self-improvement. This would include the expected
business and functional curricula.
Entrepreneurial skill development
Entrepreneurship education should provide training in social skills, networking, creative
problem solving, opportunity seeking, selling, interviewing, presentations, group leadership,
community co-operation, dealing with bureaucracy, local cultural norms and how they affect
business, etc.

There is a growing body of literature that entrepreneurial learning needs to focus as much on personal development and social skills as on business development. This would argue for a blended learning
experience where business knowledge and skills are combined with the best of tools and approaches taken from training events.

However, we need to draw on sound platforms of knowledge and understanding about
personal development. Otherwise we risk a fair accusation that we are merely running feel
good events without measurable, tangible outcomes and unrelated to any particular
understanding of human aspirations, behaviours and motivation.

Beyond the development of the individual we also need to work towards getting society and the “supply side” fit for enterprise. In seeking to create awareness and social acceptance of entrepreneurship, careful thought needs to be given to the role of media. Television and radio can present cases, news, information and engaging programmes to deliver a more positive message about enterprise and entrepreneurship. This is quite important to help overcome negativity that might exist in society and where low trust in free markets persist. In addition to mass media, NGOs and other grass roots agencies might be brought together to help engage people more directly through schools, community centres, village halls, church and other religious organizations.

On the supply side e.g. educational institutions, civic organizations, business
development agencies and NGOs education needs to cover the role of entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial finance, fair play, regulations, managing civic administration, banking rules and so forth. They need to understand and feel the emotional content of entrepreneurship. They also need role models of entrepreneurs as change agents in society, demystifying entrepreneurship for policy, civic administration and education.

If we understand the “what” we need to think about “who” delivers. The most credible educators posses the following characteristics:

•A grasp of arguments “about” entrepreneurship and “for” entrepreneurship.
•Understand that there is more than one way in which people learn and
that educators need to tap into individual motivations, circumstances and make sense of
the wider ecosystem in which individuals continue their enterprises.
•A grasp of the practice of enterprise, through the experience of more than
one type of venture. Especially, when being from the same cultural/economic background
they are able to relate to the nuances of context when imparting the education.
•They have social capital that permits them to link their students with people who can provide practical help.

Entrepreneurship education for the supply side

The supply side needs to discuss the role of entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial
finance, fair play, regulations, managing civic administration, banking rules and so forth. They
need to understand and feel the emotional content of entrepreneurs. They also need role models of entrepreneurs as change agents in society, demystifying entrepreneurship. They need to work towards creating higher levels of aspiration.

So what should we do to take the next steps in implementing entrepreneurship education for enhanced social inclusion?

Governments need to commit to long-term, sustained (5-10 years) funding. This is as important as the provision of health services, broader education. It can lead to people who are better equipped to participate in the economy.

Governments need to review legislation that holds back entrepreneurship. In many countries the
legislation (red tape) is so cumbersome that entrepreneurs prefer to operate in the informal sector
and so they remain outside the scope of effective assistance, outside formal banking support and
suffer many other disadvantages.

Stakeholders, such as not-for-profit organisations, large local and multinational companies, well established entrepreneurs and others need to come together in networks to create an ecosystem
in which entrepreneurship can flourish.

Multilateral Organizations such as the UN ought to create Web-based resources, knowledge-sharing
platforms and networks of educators. The world is full of teaching materials, but finding them is a challenge.

Governments and stakeholders need to provide resources (sponsorship) for access to worldclass
journals and publications so that educators and trainers can be encouraged to read what is
cutting edge and current. Many of these journals and publications are simply not available to
educators and trainers in poor countries and so they risk being stuck with old materials, ideas and

Educators, trainers and institutions should adapt their curricula, to ensure that it is relevant, cutting edge, fresh and dynamic. It is time to go beyond the “teaching of business plans”. Educators and trainers also need to be embedded in the context and provide access to resources, markets and opportunities, not just “training.”

Policy-makers, educators, entrepreneurs and sponsors need to come together in conferences on
a sufficiently large scale to raise standards, increase the volumes of participation and find appropriate local, regional and national solutions so that entrepreneurship education can have a positive impact at the grass roots.

Television must not be ignored as it has a major reach across society and can be influential in transmitting ideas and raising aspirations.

Finally, the vast majority of the working people in the world are self-employed or work in small organizations, but as yet their income levels are not sufficient to lift people above grinding poverty and hit the targets set under Millennium Development Goals. While economic and political reforms play an important role in setting the scene, people need the knowledge, skills and mindset to take advantage of opportunities. It is hoped that this contribution can help make a difference in this arena.