How our education system can create the next generation of Welsh social entrepreneurs

As we strive to build a new economy in Wales that puts well-being at the heart of its policymaking, we are calling for social enterprise and co-operative models to be embedded within the entrepreneurship education that students receive at Welsh schools, colleges and universities.

By Rhodri McDonagh · February 17, 2021

See this page in: Cymraeg

The 10 policy priorities we have developed ahead of the Senedd elections in May have the ultimate goal of building an economy based on well-being, with values of co-operativism, resilience and inclusivity at its core. In our blog, we have outlined the recommendations that we want the next Welsh Government to implement. Wales already has so many examples of people and social enterprises making a real difference, working together to improve their communities. We want this entrepreneurial spirit in the pursuit of the common good to be the business model of choice for individuals and enterprises in Wales.

But for social enterprise to become the go-to business model in Wales, we need to ensure the next generation knows about it, and the benefits it can provide for them and their communities.

The Welsh Government has sought to embed entrepreneurship within education for many years, through schemes such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy and Big Ideas Wales. As well as this, our FE and HE institutions play a big role in promoting the benefits of entrepreneurship. There is a wide range of research that shows the positive benefits of these schemes in promoting a “culture of enterprise” and developing an entrepreneurial mindset among our young people. This has been the ambition of the Welsh Government since the start of devolution.

We believe that for social enterprise to be the business model of choice for the next generation of Welsh entrepreneurs, embedding it within the education system is crucial. For many students, this will be their first experience of the concept of entrepreneurialism, and the first glimpse of how they see themselves as potential entrepreneurs.

One of the most important aspects of this is giving them real, relatable role models. Wales already has so many inspirational social entrepreneurs making a difference in their communities. They are the perfect examples for students to see that social enterprise is a genuine career option, with all the benefits that come with it for themselves and the issues close to their hearts – as well as demonstrating the skills needed and the challenges they will face.

There are already several examples of high-quality education and training on social entrepreneurship being delivered in Wales, which two of my colleagues will discuss in further detail in their own blogs in the next few weeks. One of the most exciting projects that the Wales Co-operative Centre is involved in through its Social Business Wales programme is the delivery of the “FE Hack of Kindness”. Just this month, over 100 students from across Wales were taught about the meaning and potential of social enterprise and challenged to tackle issues in their communities. The value of these experiences cannot be underestimated, and we strongly believe they need to be embedded in the entrepreneurship education that are students receive.

This is just one way that we want to see social enterprise and co-operativism as the default business model in Wales. This year, all political parties in Wales have the opportunity to set out how they would develop our economy, for the benefit of our citizens’ well-being and the resilience of our communities. We want to see them commit to embedding social enterprise in our education system, from primary school to Further and Higher Education. As well as this, we want the benefits of learning entrepreneurial skills and developing an entrepreneurial, socially-conscious mindset to be accessible to all Welsh workers, citizens and communities throughout their lives.

In our next blog, Independent Policy Officer Sarah Evans will give an overview of what is already happening to promote social entrepreneurship amongst young people in Wales, and the practical steps for rolling this out even further. We have sent our 10 policy priorities for this year’s elections all political parties and welcome any further opportunity to discuss with them and other stakeholders how this policy can be brought to life up and down the country.

Dan Roberts, Policy and Research Officer