Written by Tracy Rennie Joining the Academy in 2014, Tracy works to establish and co-ordinate the Social Enterprise in Schools programme across the Highlands and Islands Enterprise region. Prior to joining the Academy, Tracy worked as a secondary school teacher for 10 years, and during that time was lucky enough to take a sabbatical training teachers of English in Peru.
"As this is just a schools enterprise you don't need to bother filling out business plans or anything..."
Did I hear that right? What do they mean just a schools enterprise? I know quite a few successful social enterprises in schools who'd have a bone to pick about being labelled 'just a schools enterprise'. And yet, I heard these very words shared with a group of teachers, who were all eager to get involved in the social enterprise movement.
The thing is, it's not as unusual an outlook as you might think. Traditional learning often rewards memorising the right things and coming up with the right answers. So much so, that the minute we offer an opportunity to 'think outside the box' and be creative, we think we're asking way too much...
Let's not underestimate the strengths of young people to interpret and think as innovative social entrepreneurs...
Social Enterprise for Young People
We've seen pupils across Scotland finding their own solutions to diverse problems within their communities, and setting up pupil-led social enterprises to trade, so that those solutions will always be available.
By doing so, they learn to think on their feet, take risks, and rebound from any setbacks. By learning outside the classroom, they become problem solvers, opportunity finders and build confidence through meeting new people and securing new business, all of which are fundamental skills for learning, life and work.
Of course, the pupils don't 'do' social enterprise just to improve skills; they do it to build friendships and help a good cause. All the same, once their enterprise is established, they realise that they've developed in all sorts of positive ways.
Cultivating an ecosystem of support
If we want to see more social entrepreneurship down the road, we need to invest in and stimulate a culture of entrepreneurial learning for young people and an ecosystem of support. It's a big challenge, but here are a few suggestions to help start the discussion...
1. Bring social enterprise into education
Let's support social enterprise to become embedded in the curricula and ethos of our educational institutions. Not only can establishing a social enterprise engage young people in practical and creative skills (that's key in running a viable business), it enriches their sense of social justice as they become responsible global citizens.
2. Invest in teachers
Sure... bringing social enterprise into education can definitely tick off the 'e's and o's' teachers need to deliver Curriculum for Excellence, but there's much more to it than that. To create safe, inspiring and empowering opportunities for young people to take on a social enterprise, we need to help our educators to understand, deliver and engage with the social enterprise world outside of school.
We live in an increasingly connected world. Let's make use of our links and develop more opportunities to support young social entrepreneurs through cross-collaboration; through mentoring and placement opportunities, social entrepreneurs supporting young people and sharing best practice, and strengthening trade links with the business community.
Let's explore more ways to support the next generation of social entrepreneurs and share your ideas with us below!
Tracy Rennie joined the Academy in 2014 to establish and co-ordinate the Social Enterprise in Schools programme across the Highlands and Islands Enterprise region.Prior to joining the Academy, Tracy worked as a secondary school teacher for 10 years, and during that time was lucky enough to take a sabbatical training teachers of English in Peru.