Empowering the next generation of Welsh social entrepreneurs 

In this blog, Sarah Evans outlines the current state of play for social enterprise education in Wales, and what more can be done to empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs to transform the Welsh economy.   

By Rhodri McDonagh · March 3, 2021

See this page in: Cymraeg

Transforming Wales through Social Enterprise’ is a tenyear vision and action plan for the social enterprise sector in Wales that was launched in July 2020It was coproduced by social enterprises and social enterprise support agencies in Wales and has the support of Welsh Government. The strategy details nine outcomes which will enable the sector to rebuild, pivot and diversify its activities, and in the longer term achieve its full potential. 

Outcome Two of the document is that More people will choose a social enterprise model to start a new business”. We of course recognise that this an ambitious aim and in order to achieve this outcome, we need to have social enterprise education embedded in our curricula, from primary to postgraduate education.  

 The challenging aim of Outcome Two is supported by a number of actions that we feel need to be undertaken to turn this ambition into reality. Despite the pandemic, work has already started to ‘join up’ some of the amazing work that was already taking place in the area of social entrepreneurship education. The paragraphs below give an overview about some of the work that is already happening. 

 Enterprise education starts at a young age in Wales through the Enterprise Troopers; the National Primary Schools competition supported by Big Ideas Wales. Many of the business ideas that have been generated through the programme have had a social and community focus, and this year there will be a specific category for social enterprise. Our Social Enterprise Stakeholder Group is sponsoring the awardand we will also be taking part in training events and developing resources for primary teachers to aid them in the teaching of social enterprise. 

 A number of activities have taken place to promote social enterprise education within secondary schools. Obviously, we are dealing with unprecedented circumstances at present, but groundwork has been undertaken which will hopefully result in renewed momentum in the next academic year. Work has been done by Social Business Wales and Big Ideas Wales to develop a Social Enterprise Challenge for the Welsh Baccalaureate, and this will be launched in the coming weeks. Through the British Irish Council and Welsh Government, a symposium focusing on youth social entrepreneurship will take place in Apriland this will allow us to showcase some of the work that we have been doing in Wales and learn from good practice in the other home nations and Ireland. Awarenessraising sessions have also been provided for Careers Wales advisors and business engagement teams to look at the potential of social enterprise ideas and work placement opportunities. Big Ideas Wales also have social enterprise role models that visit schools to talk about the work that they have been doing and the potential of social enterprise. It is hoped that by raising awareness and through continued promotion, young people can engage and be inspired by social businesses in their local communities through their studies, such as the Welsh Baccalaureate or through work placements or volunteering opportunities. 

 Training events have also taken place with the Enterprise Champions within Further and Higher Education Institutions in Wales. The next phase of this work involves working with students and my colleague Martin Downes, Social Enterprise Officer, has undertaken a number a Hackathon events with students across Wales focussing on social business ideas. He will be outlining the work he has been doing in our next blog. Further lectures with students are also planned. We are also working with academics to look at how we can promote the role and the resilience of the social enterprise sector in Wales, and this will include research relating to the role of social enterprise education. We need to ensure that this research has practical as well as academic relevance and consider how it can be used to inform policy and future developments within the sector. 

In addition, a youth social entrepreneurship stakeholder group has been formed involving a number of key stakeholder organisations such as Big Ideas Wales, Careers Wales and Wales Co-operative Centre together with Welsh Government. This group will make sure that we work together strategically and practically to embed youth social entrepreneurship, but will also be looking for future opportunities to develop on the ground educational delivery.  

 We know that there is a long way to go, but the pandemic has presented us with an opportunity. The ‘Build Back Better’ agenda, with an emphasis on our communities and local supply chains, has provided an impetus for lasting change. Embedding social entrepreneurship within our educational settings will be key to sustaining this opportunity in the long term. 

Sarah Evans, Independent Policy and Research advisor, Wales Co-operative Centre

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