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What if all Schools Prepared Young People to be Entrepreneurs?

Craig Zelizer

September 29, 2016

As PCDN has been writing this week are a very pleased to be attending for the 10th Annual Youth Economic Opportunities Summit.  This morning I attended a great session focused on the question, What if all Schools Prepared Young People to be Entrepreneurs?

Throughout the first 1.5 days of the conference as well as PCDN's work in the social entrepreneur community it is clear that entrepreneurship is a very hot topic around the world. This session sought to provide concrete examples of how civil society and countries are striving to embed training and skills development entrepreneurship in their systems.

The panel featured four panelists working on youth entrepreneurship in three organizations including:

Revocatus Kashaga, Fudacion Paraguaya
Emily Morris, University of Minnesota
Sally Ann Walker, Teach a Man to Fish
Tricia Williams, MasterCard Foundation

Tricia moderated the session and started off discussing the increasing focus around the world of helping youth become skilled and engaged in entrepreneurial activity. The benefits of such activitiy help to increase soft skills, confidence, economic output and impact often for the larger community. image

Revocatus from Fundacio Paraguayan discussed the work of his organization in Tanzania where they have established business clubs in 20 schools.  As part of the clubs students receive training in core skills including leadership, business development, life skills, financial literacy all centered around how to run a micro-business. The types business students are engaged in include agriculture, stores, crafts, and snacks.image

In terms of key challenges the program faces including developing an entrepreneurship mindset in education. Many parents and communities don't see entrepreneurship as part of education and want their youth to focus on formal learning above all else. They view the path to success as one in which the children will be seeking jobs in the formal sector and not as potential job creators. This is a radical change to help people see youth and others as job creators. Many teachers also lack the training and experience to help their students be entrepreneurs, but his org is working on changing this. In the case of the business clubs, the model they have is that they are cooperatives owned by a group and it can be challenging for the decision making process.

Emily Morris from the University of Minnesota, talked about the research she has been doing in partnership with Fundacion Paraguaya. In Tanzania as in many other countries, not enough jobs are available in the formal sector and thus many youth may seek informal employment coming out of secondary school. Also many don't succeed at obtaining full employment upon graduating. image

A key question she asked is entrepreneurship a want or a need? In quite a few cases, students use their business revenue to help pay for schooling needs such as uniforms, school fees, etc. Also many get practice saving and with financial literacy. Building confidence is another result of participating in such programs, as well as to mentor innovation and incubation.

Three key challenges Emily outlined
1)Not every teacher makes a good business mentor.
2) How do you decide where the profits from the business club goes? Does it go to students, to school to fund gaps, etc.
3) Businesses will fail - The failure rate of microbusinesses is very high and how to prepare students for failure.

Sally from Teach a Man to Fish helped take the conversation from the specific case of Tanzania to the more global leveL The organizations provides students with support to launch business and workplace skills. imageThis helps them during school and also afterwards, while helping schools as well. She highlighted their global School Enterprise Challenge open to schools around the world, which is a business competition. There are prizes for the most entrepreneurial schools, ranging from the primary to secondary level. In 2015, 2900 schools participated, involving over 70,000 students. For 2016, there are over 5,000 schools involved to date and they hope to reach over 120,000 students.

The three components of the competition are 1) Business Idea - students work together to develop an idea, 2) Business Plan - They develop a plan, 3) Business Implementation. They start implementing. At each stage they submit their plans and get feedback.

Over the past 10 years, Teach a Man to Fish has helped to answer two key questions that many schools and youth encounter including Can I do it? And is it worth it? They have developed open source materials to help schools adapt to their specific needs. They have also setup a network of teachers to learn from each other, a system to incentivize and recognize participation.

Sally talked about how raising expectations of young people of what they can achieve has dramatic results. A number have gone onto entrepreneurship and build small enterprises, and others have used the skills and experience to explore more career options.

One of the businesses she highlighted is at the Birches Pre-Primary school in S. Africa.image The entire school has been involved in a small scale market producing eggs and vegetables for sale. They use business to learn about money, how to market, and receive assistance from four parents and older students to manage the business. They have even setup an environmental club and developed school based composting. This real life experience has helped students learn about real-life skills.

She discussed how other school based businesses have helped the community to learn about new forms of product and business, to teach students life-skills, increase confidence.

One of the central questions is it about students developing skills or launching a business. The consensus is the importance of developing the skills is key, particularly the soft skills regardless if someone decided stop be an entrepreneur post-school.  

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