Developing economies, higher education and entrepreneurship

In 2013, the MasterCard Foundation awarded a demonstrator grant to the Talloires Network, a global group of social minded universities, to support youth and higher education institutions in emerging economy countries. The Youth Economic Participation Initiative’s (YEPI) aim was to expand participants knowledge, skills and experience of entrepreneurship, social engagement and personal effectiveness. YEPI has sought to foster transformative leaders who are ready to thrive in their careers and contribute to the world around them.

The Initiative has been rolled out with partners in eight countries reaching almost 20,000 youth engaged in 13 universities. The Initiative was non-prescriptive in that it allowed partners to create their interventions to best support their learners, objective and environment. What joined these varying programs together was the sole focus was not just about the output of an entrepreneurial ventures, but also the focuses on developing the individual; personal effectiveness, leadership and social engagement in addition to supporting their entrepreneurial journey.

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We hear the same story coming out of many universities that students are not prepared for the ‘new world of work’ and that they lack basic competencies such as self-awareness, interpersonal, communication and analytical skills.

What has been important over the life of the program is the evidence of change in various aspects of the activities throughout the course of the Initiative. The disruption is not only in what is being tough, but in how it is being taught. Through reviewing curriculum, the mainstreaming of entrepreneurial skills training, adaptations and improvement of incubation models as well as innovative ways of working with community and businesses, the Initiative has created positive disruption.

Our upcoming report on the Initiative shows for many participants, YEPI was not solely about creating entrepreneurs, but creating adaptable, socially minded individuals. Where traditional teaching of entrepreneurship was the sacred ground of business schools, YEPI partners have changed the narrative; encouraging students, staff and faculty to gain skills that would add value to the theoretical knowledge gained through the formal education system.

YEPI’s approach to the demystification of entrepreneurship, encouragement of critical thought and problem solving as well as the importance of understanding self and leadership opportunities opens the door for those who never considered it an option, initiating newly awakened potential. It has encouraged innovative approaches allowing participants the ability to foster entrepreneurial capacity and mindsets unlocking effective leadership roles, to personal effectiveness and future successes. While many can argue that teaching skills like communication, leadership, planning and creative thinking outside the traditional sphere are far from disruptive, sometimes disruption of a stead-fast mindset is the greater transformation.