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Social Enterprise Challenge Assessment

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I was one of several students who volunteered to grade a number of business plans that had made it to the third and final stage in the 'Teach a Man to Fish' Social Enterprise Challenge (SEC). Stage three involved each school running of an enterprise for at least one term based on their original business idea, backed up by business and financial plan. Final reports were graded on the narrative final reports submitted and marked on 'Business Implementation', 'Challenges and Solutions', 'Outcomes', 'People, Planet, Profit', 'Development and Sustainability', 'Financial Reporting'. In addition, we had discretion to award a maximum of 10 'Bonus Points' where schools had demonstrated a high level of student involvement or a high level on innovation. In total, there were 100 points to award to each school.

Of the nine school's I was given, all were from India except for one New Zealand school. Enterprises included; tree hangers, plants and crafts, jewellery and food products. It was clear students and teachers had invested considerable time and effort in taking part in the challenge. The SEC allowed students develop practical business skills and helped schools generate extra income for their school, or a social cause of their choice.

I chose this POD because I hope to lecture in business or accounting in the future and enterprise development is relevant in both disciplines. I was also intrigued to see what school children in different and often underdeveloped countries would chose to do when given the support and opportunity to develop an enterprise. Enterprise development particularly in the curriculum provides students with a great way to develop hard and soft skills like critical-thinking, communication and teamwork skills and could potentially help them invent their own career in the future.

Support for entrepreneurship such as that given by the SEC is important, it has the potential to have a positive impact on the entrepreneurial dynamism of our economies. Not only does it create business start-ups and social enterprises like the micro enterprises in each school reaching the final but it also makes students more employable by developing hard and soft skills.

Economic growth is at the heart of addressing societal issues like; unemployment, gender equality, poverty and other health related issues worldwide, and enterprise development (ED) is a key tool to enable growth. "Enterprise development is defined as the act of investing time and capital in helping people establish, expand or improve businesses. Enterprise development helps people to earn a living; it helps them out of poverty; and it leads to long-term economic growth for themselves, their families and their communities" (Miemiec, 2013). Entrepreneurship and innovation are considered to be crucial to sustainable economic development and competitive advantage (EC, 2012).

The objective of ED is to help create a viable business that has the ability to grow, this leads to job creation and promotes economic growth. It is much easier to develop and grow a small business than it is to attract a large company to a community, therefore, small businesses often lead to economic growth within the communities they operate in. The significance of micro firms, defined as businesses with less than ten employees by European Union (EC, 2009) has been widely recognised. These firms from the backbone of many countries' economies, as they represent the large majority of existing businesses (Heshmati, 2001). Micro businesses employ locals and this in turn causes cash to move through the community's economy. Successful local businesses allow owners to remain in place and generate more opportunities for other entrepreneurs (Muske et al., 2007).

Small enterprises make substantial contributions to employment, income and output within the world economy. Within OECD member countries over 95% of organisations are SMEs and micro-enterprises, they account for 55% of GDP. In developing countries, with the exception of agriculture over 90% of organisations are SMEs or micro-enterprises, making significant contributions to GDP (Edinburgh Group, 2013).

Small enterprises tend to be labour intensive, this in turn leads to job creation, which can benefit developing economies and economies where unemployment levels are high. In addition, smaller enterprises tend to be in rural areas, thus providing much-needed local employment. SME's are considered an engine for economic growth as well as for economic development especially in the developing countries (Subhan, Mehmood, and Sattar, 2013). As growth strengthens, smaller enterprises assume a key role in development and restructuring. They can satisfy the increasing local demand for services, which allows increasing specialisation, and furthermore support larger enterprises with services and inputs (Fjose et al. 2010).

Smaller enterprises encourage healthy competition in competitive markets. "They shall encourage competition in terms of price, product design and efficiency" (Johnson and Soenen, 2003).Larger enterprises would have a monopoly in some areas but for their existence. Small and medium enterprises represent a factor of balance at the micro and macroeconomic level. Having as correspondent the middle class in the society, the small and medium enterprises counter-balance the monopoles and oligopolies, reducing the capacity of the big companies of controlling the market (Savlovsch and Robu, 2011).

" Every young person should have a practical entrepreneurial experience before leaving compulsory education" (EU Commission).

The modern global economic business environment requires flexible, adaptable and innovative graduates. Now more than ever there should be more emphasis placed on enterprise development and entrepreneurship in education at all levels. Enterprise education is defined as the process of equipping students (or graduates) with an enhanced capacity to generate ideas and the skills, in addition to enterprise capability supported by better financial capability and economic and business understanding (DCFS, 2010 and QAA, 2012). Entrepreneurship education equips students with the additional knowledge, attributes and capabilities required to apply these abilities in the context of setting up a new venture or business (QAA, 2012).

Enterprise education and the skills gained through it can offer students further skills to deal with life's challenges and uncertain future prospects. Skills like; problem solving, self-reliance, creativity and the ability to adapt to change. In addition, it open students minds to the idea of self-employment as a viable career option. Garavan et al. (1997) concluded that enterprise education in third level universities and colleges in Ireland encouraged graduates to look creatively at their future opportunities and resulted in higher levels of entrepreneurial activity.

A business plan is a risk management instrument, through which both internal and external benefits can be derived (Barringer, 2009). Externally, it provides potential investors with an overview of the business opportunity and potential ways to exploit it. From the internal perspective, it provides the entrepreneur with a road map to follow. To quote Confucius "A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door." By writing business plans entrepreneurs or potential entrepreneurs improve their chances of getting there. By participating in the SEC challenge I have improved my knowledge of business planning from a difference perspective, having previously compiled a business plan as a student during my undergraduate studies.

Participating in the SEC challenge has raised my awareness of the benefits of enterprise education for both the student and society as a whole. Students develop hard and soft skills in addition to a better understanding and knowledge of business and working life. Society gains due to improved competitiveness of the businesses developed by entrepreneurs.

Without exception, each final report I corrected showed that students had gained an understanding of the following;

  • Generating new ideas
  • Gathering and managing resources
  • Taking advantage of local opportunities
  • Identifying, assessing and managing risk
  • Interpersonal communication and influencing skills
  • Monitoring and evaluating personal performance
  • Using initiative

The benefits of enterprise education include;

  • Improved education outcomes for students through experiential learning
  • Increases co-operation between academic institutions, local business and the community
  • Improved career and business awareness among students
  • Highlights more careers pathways for students

In the future I hope to put the knowledge learned from taking part in this POD to use in teaching. I feel programmes like the 'Teach a Man to Fish' SEC and others like it provide students with a better understanding of business and entrepreneurship as they bring a taste of real life business into the classroom through experiential learning. Students get to experience the reality of entrepreneurship. It encompasses all aspects of starting a business from coming up with a viable business idea, developing a business plan, producing a product, carrying out the necessary market research, promoting the business and the financial aspects like bookkeeping and calculating ROI.

As previously stated the objectives of enterprise education are:

  • To give students practical real life experience of setting up and running their own business
  • To encourage students to think about entrepreneurship and self-employment as a viable career choice
  • To enhance the teaching of business and entrepreneurship in schools by combining classroom learning with real life experience.

References

Barringer, B.R. (2009), Preparing Effective Business Plans: An Entrepreneurial Approach, Pearson Education, London.

Fjose, S., Grünfeld, L. A. and Green, C. (2010), SMEs and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa - Identifying SME Roles and Obstacles to SME Growth, MENON Business Economics publication no. 14/2010.

Garavan, T., Fleming, P. and Ó Cinnéide, B. (1997), Entrepreneurship and Business Start‐ups in Ireland, Oak Tree Press, Dublin.


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