3.2 What can help youth launch and grow social enterprises?
Young people are open and ready to learn, but opportunities to acquire knowledge and put their capacities to the test are often scarce or unavailable. This section focuses on the factors that enable individual young social entrepreneurs to become and stay successful. Research on entrepreneurship generally and social entrepreneurship specifically has identified a number of elements essential to effective youth social entrepreneurship, and these are explored below. One key finding related to successful initiatives is that social entrepreneurs are most effective when they work closely with communities to find local solutions to local problems (Bornstein and Davis, 2010). The local context is a crucial factor in the effectiveness of a new venture and in the replicability of innovation in different locations or communities (Purcell and Scheyvens, 2015). The success of social entrepreneurs is connected to their intimate knowledge of the local context, including social needs, norms and networks.
Scholars of social entrepreneurship point out that “collaborative arrangements and partnerships are increasingly perceived as the lifeblood of social entrepreneurship” (de Bruin, Shaw and Lewis, 2017). Collaboration with same-sector or cross-sector partners creates a special synergy and can be a powerful enabling factor for young social entrepreneurs. Young social entrepreneurs, like their older counterparts, are encouraged to build robust social networks that can provide conceptual and moral support at all stages of enterprise development, facilitate the broad dissemination of information within and between groups, and support the exchange of ideas and business opportunities (Karl, 2001). Social connections in any form provide a set of vital resources and affirm shared norms and values, both of which contribute to self-efficacy. For this purpose, a good chance of networking can come from the “Rethinking Economics Movement”, an international network of students, academics and professionals building better economics in society and the classroom.
Through a mixture of campaigning, events and engaging projects, “Rethinking Economics” connects people globally to discuss and enact the change needed for the future of economics, and to propel the vital debate on what economics is today. The mission of the R.E.M. is to bring together groups that practice and promote an economics that is:
– Open to new, neglected and critical economic perspectives and methodologies, and to academic disciplines outside of economics.
– Relevant to the real world and the deep challenges we face, ensuring economics students and academics recognise their roles and responsibilities as political actors, within their institutions and within wider public life. For more info, please look at https://www.rethinkeconomics.org/.
The value of mentorship is well documented across sectors. The core characteristics of good mentoring include a personal relationship, high expectations, and responsive support. Experienced entrepreneurs who serve as mentors can offer targeted skill development, access to social networks, and much more. A significant challenge for the mentorship model within youth social entrepreneurship is getting the balance right. It is particularly important that adult mentors “do with” rather than “do for” young social entrepreneurs. In any case, it is now recognized that mentorship is most effective when it is part of a broad support structure that creates a fertile ecosystem for the incubation and success of social enterprises.
- Family members
Family is another important source of guidance, encouragement and support for young social entrepreneurs. Young people with entrepreneurial parents are more likely to value entrepreneurship. Research indicates that families are often key stakeholders and may be major actors in youth-led social enterprises
- Institutions are the milestones around which the potential success of social business initiatives is built on. An enabling environment is crucial and it specifically refers to: the level of institutional protection, existing legal and administrative burdens, the costs of business registration, the regulatory framework, the complexity of administrative procedures, social norms, and cultural conditions (Martinez-Fierro, Biedma-Ferrer and Ruiz-Navarro, 2016). All of this impacts young people in a number of ways. The level of interest in youth social entrepreneurship is heavily influenced by the strength of the safety nets provided by the State. Factors such as a poor understanding of relevant administrative and regulatory requirements, legal restrictions, insufficient funding, and inadequate or ineffective institutional support can reduce the potential success of youth social initiatives.
- Academia mentorship. When support for social entrepreneurship falls under the umbrella of academia, young people are usually the first to participate. A formal education does confer certain benefits, particularly in terms of broadening horizons and developing analytical capabilities. It offers insights about the larger context in which a social innovation will reside, such that more effective and more humane solutions can be sought. As a means of personal empowerment for the young people involved in youth social enterprises, formal education can help foster a critical consciousness that will help them navigate their own privilege or lack thereof as they embark on and negotiate their social entrepreneurship journey.
- Out-of-school-time (OST) experiences can also be an important enabling factor for young social entrepreneurs. Most young social entrepreneurs discovered their passion through extracurricular activities, such as volunteering and cultural exchanges. Soft skills can be improved in these contexts, where the acquisition of transversal skills is eased by the non-formal feature of the experience, which makes the learning process funnier and loosened from assessment procedures and constraints.