Learning By Doing: 4 Models Driving Impact in Business Skills Development

Samyuktha Warrier

When it comes to developing entrepreneurship skills, practice makes perfect. Models that emphasize actually setting a goal, making a plan and seeing the idea through from start to finish are producing eye-catching results. But too many children still do not receive these opportunities for experiential skills development.

In the United States, a lemonade stand has long been a symbol of youthful enterprise. I was proud to recently play a role with a program called Lemonade Day, which operates in over 30 cities across the USA and introduces children, aged 8-13, to financial literacy. Students are taught from Lemonade Day’s interactive workbook about creating smart budgets, securing investors and managing their profits by following the program’s popular slogan: “spend some, save some and share some.” Through Lemonade Day, young entrepreneurs engage with their community and are able to broaden their horizons by taking on a project that they have not been exposed to before.

These kinds of early entrepreneurial experiences are just as vital, if not more so, to youth in emerging markets around the world. Luckily, innovators around the world are working in many creative ways to give youth direct experiences in business development, social enterprises, and more.

Engaging high school students from over 20 countries in international cooperation and entrepreneurship, the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) program facilitates student groups of 3 or more to form socially responsible businesses or social enterprise businesses. These startup groups present their work at the annual SAGE World Cup, where business models are evaluated based on sustainability, succession plans, and social media outreach. The program offers students a new course, “Turning Risk into Success,” which covers topics like social entrepreneurship, writing business plans and interacting with the local community; mentorship is also offered to the teams creating business models. SAGE enables students to think about creating businesses in a way that will in turn help their communities flourish sustainably.

The Be! Fund is a not-for-profit risk capital fund for young people who live in poverty based in India. Be! Fund asks young people to submit business ideas that solve the biggest problems where they live. Students are encouraged to interact with their community using radio, movies on national television, and community outreach in slums and villages. Students submit their proposals and undergo 2 rounds of interviews to pitch their business model. The program provides up to Rs. 500,000 for young adults to start new enterprises that tackle these problems. The winners are provided mentorship and monthly check-ups on progress and growth.

The Mackay Business Development Project offers training and business planning workshops delivered to teachers and pupils at Mackay Memorial College. The program enables students to set up two school businesses. Businesses are based on local needs and are encouraged to be educational in nature. Specific training is provided in areas like book keeping, leadership, and marketing. Through the process of creating their own businesses, students have plenty of opportunities to put their new hard skills into practice. The Mackay Project has made a demonstrable impact, and is being replicated in schools around Uganda in addition to Mackay Memorial College.

Founded in Colombia, the Jóvenes + Emprendedores program partners with public high schools to provide job skills training and foster an interest in entrepreneurship among students, especially among disadvantaged youth. After a year of training, the students showcase and present their business plans and the program funds micro-grants for a select number of participants to develop their own business plans. The Jóvenes + Emprendedores program helps students become more financially independent and in turn help their families and community. The program was named one of 20 top innovative solutions to the economic development of the most vulnerable populations in Colombia.

From running a lemonade stand to creating a business that tackles the toughest problems communities face, programs like these have incredible scope for the future. Instilling the disciplines of business and entrepreneurship at a young age prepares the younger generation with essential skills for the 21st century’s increasingly dynamic economies. Introducing students to the idea that they can create a business that will not only profit them but also their whole community is a very empowering lesson that will shape the world’s economic climate for years to come, and that’s a very refreshing idea indeed.

Samyuktha Warrier is a Research and Communications Intern at Results for Development. She is currently pursuing a BA in International Affairs and Economics at the George Washington University and is president of the entrepreneurial youth organization, Lemonade Day at her university.

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy photo by Un Yarat

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