Freitag, Juni 15, 2007


enterprise -lessons to be learnt from NGOs

Why would a youth organisation be interested in Entrepreneurship?

As a representative body for youth, the YFJ is concerned with youth employment and has duly been working on the Lisbon agenda. As the EU has set the aim to foster an entrepreneurial mindset through education and training, we as youth organisations are relevant stakeholders in achieving this aim.

As we all agree that an entrepreneurial mindset is best fostered through real experience, I will outline some examples where such experiences take place on a daily basis within youth organisations.

When organising a concert night in a local youth club, one has to budget, plan the event, advertise and market it, find sponsors, pay the artists, and manage the event itself to ensure the evening runs smoothly.

When organising a tournament within a sports organisation, one has to arrange transport for the participants, ensure adequate facilities for spectators, secure media coverage and make sure the event is visible.

When organising an international youth exchange one has to take care of travel arrangements, board, lodging, the activities programme, and social programme, and coordinate a team of volunteers responsible for the running of the exchange, while maintaining contact with other partners of the project.

Through such daily work within youth organisations, young people learn how to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate projects. We are supported in using our creativity – to solve problems but also to devise and develop new ideas for projects and campaigns. We gain self-confidence, social skills and motivation. Planning time lines, budgets and media strategies - and ensuring they are in accordance with the rules and regulations set by the program or donors that fund us - and making sure that the project has visibility to safeguard future support for similar projects as well as keeping the volunteers motivated, are just part of our every day work.

Dividing tasks, lobbying public authorities for our demands and keeping constant advocacy contact with public authorities as well as networking with other stakeholders are key to the success of campaigns of youth organisations.

Nonetheless, it is clear that most NGOs are non-profit and people unite in these organisations for an idealistic aim and not to earn money, thus, the raison d’être and the incentives to work are significantly different. Yet, the work in a youth organisation can and does still foster an entrepreneurial mindset.

Whilst our education systems largely follow the sad tradition that young people who have just learned to walk and talk should now be forced to shut up, sit and listen, youth organisations - where young people gather voluntarily - are an important compliment to formal education.

Innovation is the key word in the policies surrounding this knowledge economy, and according to the American researcher Paul David and his French colleague Dominique Foray, there are two ways innovation comes about: firstly, research as a formal activity generates new knowledge. Secondly, individuals learn by doing and thus make discoveries, which can progress knowledge. Both approaches are central to the Lisbon strategy: producing marketable knowledge and educating human resources for the labour market. Youth organisations, in particular, can contribute to the ‘learning by doing’ approach.

But what is needed to make the contribution of youth organisations matter in the labour market?

-First of all, recognition by the labour market and the formal education sector of the skills and real competences that young people gain; non-recognition is de-motivating and definitely does not support initiative and innovation;
-One-stop shops for support to set up businesses and get start-up advice;
-Curricular reforms in formal education – which should also be supported financially by the EU, and which should move from an educator-centred approach to a learner-centred approach, best supporting students in their needs and abilities;
-Clear and accessible social security schemes that allow registration of businesses without risking one’s whole existence;
-Learning and profiting from non-formal education pedagogy in formal settings also;
-More and better mobility programmes that per se foster an entrepreneurial mindset;
-Credits and other forms of recognition for extra-curricular activities;
-Improved teacher-training allowing better guidance and help for learners;
-And finally, investments in youth organisations which truly stimulate entrepreneurial spirit in all projects, by enabling young people to take responsibilities and to grow with their tasks.

Support – Protection – Recognition – Reward

These words are key for education for enterprise, and are all basic principles for youth organisations. This is why so many young people who have been active in youth organisations establish companies in the fields of management, training, education, consulting, advocacy and lobbying; and this is why it is worth investing in youth organisations - not only from a democratic perspective but also from a business perspective.

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