Whose entrepreneurial learning is it anyway?

Whose entrepreneurial learning is it anyway?

Though the context for the development of entrepreneurial learning varies between the different countries involved in the Entrepreneurship 360 project, talking with colleagues from across Europe at the recent week long camp at Potsdam, one thing became clear: the ambitions and challenges are the same. Entrepreneurial educators want to transform learning and culture, not just deliver discrete make and sell activities. They want to transform mindsets and behaviours, not just provide an engaging alternative to ‘traditional’ learning. They want to harness entrepreneurship as a positive vehicle for change across society, not just support the next generation to be better at making and finding work. But they are also pursuing these ambitions in a time of constrained resources, when the priority given to entrepreneurial learning in education is hampered by increased pressures on schools to perform academically, reduced funding because of austerity, and a perceived lack of time because of narrow and inflexible curricula.

Through our involvement with the UK’s innovation charity, Nesta, the response we developed in the face of such external pressures, was to review and rethink how we used the limited resources we had available and to consider what other resources might exist to contribute to the development of entrepreneurial learning and culture. Our work with Nesta connected us to a new concept – co-production – which transformed our thinking and approach to the design, delivery and co-ordination of entrepreneurial learning in education.

Modes of Production:

A crucial point to reflect upon is the extent to which the way that services are designed, delivered and coordinated influences their sustainability, ownership and impact. There are different ways of designing and delivering a service, and they can be distinguished by the degree of professional or community input. Traditionally, entrepreneurial learning and provision in England has been dependent on councils or the third sector securing funding and leading delivery. Responsibility for prioritising it rests with professional service deliverers and educators, making it dependent on engagement of school leadership and practitioners, resulting in it being vulnerable when key staff move on. The sociology underpinning this ‘traditional’ service production model is one where the service users are ‘recipients’, disempowered from the process of design and dependent on the professionals who ‘serve’ them. Harnessing co-production requires a re-think of this relationship. Rather than viewing service users as passive and needy recipients it recognises, values and harnesses the skills and resources they have. These principles should resonate well with entrepreneurial educators, for the valuing, harnessing and development of skills is a key element of entrepreneurial learning and culture.

Boyle and Harris (2009) explore co-production in a NESTA discussion paper[1] and use the following definition:

... Co-production means delivering public services in an equal and reciprocal relationship between professionals, people using services, their families and their neighbours. Where activities are co-produced in this way, both services and neighbourhoods become far more effective agents of change…

And they go on to outline the characteristics of the approach in a second paper[2]:

We used these characteristics as a lens through which to review our practice and approaches and it made us ask a number of searching questions. For example - and we have witnessed this many times in England - what would happen to the entrepreneurial learning and culture that was being developed in the schools and communities we worked if we didn’t have the resources to operate? Who would drive entrepreneurial learning and culture in the community if professional coordinators and deliverers were made redundant? Who had the sense of ownership and responsibility for this work? For us it became clear that we needed to develop beyond designing and delivering good entrepreneurial learning and training for teachers, to facilitating the deep involvement of teachers, young people, business and the community to work together to design, develop and co-produce their own entrepreneurial learning and culture. It’s a subtle, but crucial shift that transfers power and ownership of entrepreneurial learning towards the people and communities that benefit from it.

The model we evolved is called Ready Hubs, and a formative assessment of the model and its rationale can be found here.

Ready Hubs represent a new system for the design, delivery and coordination of embedded and extracurricular enterprise. While professionals would once have taken the lead in the design and delivery of such enterprise education, the premise of a Ready Hub is to assume an approach to working with educators, young people, families and wider community stakeholders as partners in the design and delivery of practice and provision. The defining ethos of the model is the commitment to a co-owned,

co-produced and co-delivered enterprise entitlement. The model involves a partnership of primary schools, working with the secondary school that children will graduate to, and young people, parents, business and the wider community to create their own entrepreneurial learning, culture and projects. A benefit of this approach is that schools can use entrepreneurial projects to help address their needs and development points, rather than it representing ‘yet another thing to do’. For example one Ready Hub had a particular priority of increasing literacy skills and decided to launch a community magazine, written by young people to share inspiring entrepreneurial stories, whilst linking fundraising, marketing and product design into the project. Another Ready Hub wanted to improve parental involvement in education and designed teaching methods to engage parents, carers and families through enterprise education, leading to forty new parent engagements, three committed volunteers and a new ‘parents developing enterprise’ group. These approaches show that when stakeholders design and deliver their own entrepreneurial learning and projects they can have more impact and, importantly, more sustainability, because they are directly connected with the needs and priorities that concern them. Developing co-produced services is complex, but research is demonstrating powerful evidence that it can deliver better outcomes, prevent problems, bring in more human resources and encourage self-help and behaviour change, which is tantalizing news for entrepreneurial educators anywhere.



[1] Boyle and Harris (2009), The challenge of co-production.

[2] Boyle et al (2010), RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW Taking co-production into the mainstream