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Friday, September 26, 2008

An Enterprising Initiative

By Andy Lopata

UK Bureau Chief

A campaign that started in the UK four years ago goes global in November. In 2007 over 5,000 networking events ran in seven days to celebrate ‘Enterprise Week’, part of the Make Your Mark Campaign to encourage young people to have ideas and make them happen. Over half a million people attended events, from Make Your Mark in Retail to The Enterprising Young Brits Awards and thousands of small meetings run by networks up and down the country.

The UK campaign has had such a big impact that 17-23 November 2008 is now Global Entrepreneurship Week. The event, co-founded by Make your Mark and the Kauffman Foundation, the World’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship, will see more than 60 countries around the World participate. Expanding the original remit from just young enterprise, the week will include other celebrations, such as Women’s Enterprise Day on 19th November and Social Enterprise Day 24 hours later.

Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project and a Social Enterprise Ambassador, says, “I believe social enterprise is going to be a hugely significant development that can be applicable to anything from the multinational to a corner shop. Social Enterprise Day is all about inspiring more driven, talented young people with values to use their instincts and go into social enterprise.”

Social Enterprise is a key way to capture young people’s business imaginations. Phil Tulba, of the Make Your Mark campaign sees it as a serious business model for the 21st century, one which is extremely popular with young people and will encourage them to become more proactive and enterprising. “Social Enterprise Day will empower more young people to think about innovative, ethical and sustainable solutions to social problems. It will give them the inspiration to have ideas that could have a positive impact on their local community or a global issue.”

David McQueen has spent the last twenty years speaking in schools in communities across the UK. Encouraging children from some of the most deprived inner-city areas to see entrepreneurship and business in a positive light and as a valid career option, Enterprise Week is a perfect match. This year will be David’s third Enterprise Week and he recognises its immense value in giving young people a share of the responsibility for their own futures.

“Enterprise Week allows young people to create their own ideas, gives them permission to take risks and offers them the satisfaction of seeing the results, giving them much more confidence in the long-run.

“As a businessman, it’s a great way of giving back and also learning a lot from the creative ideas the students come up with. It’s amazing how young people can think on the spot and a lot of the ideas can surprise you. You may think that you have seen all of the creative ideas possible but sometimes the innovation young people show is startling.

“Last year we had a group working on creating a low-cost airline that would still reduce carbon footprint. A lot of the ideas they came up with were incredibly sharp, matching the environmental concerns they were focusing on with the basics of running a business.”

One thing that hits you when you get involved with an organisation such as Make Your Mark and events like Enterprise Week is the sheer scale of achievement of young entrepreneurs in the UK.

I first met Patrick Philpott three years ago, when he was a 15 year old schoolboy running networking events for local businesses between school and homework. Patrick has been very involved with the Make Your Mark Campaign for the last three years and, having just turned 19 and completed his schooling, now gives talks to university students about how they can be more enterprising and, through his new business Skill Education runs workshops on enterprise and communication skills for schoolchildren.

“I first came across Make Your Mark in 2005 when I was running the networking events and I was invited to a Downing Street function to launch Enterprise Week and made an Ambassador for the campaign”, said Patrick. “Since then I’ve been involved with raising the profile of the campaign through the media and last year spoke for the Institute of Directors during Enterprise Week.

“As a young entrepreneur it’s given me a chance to raise my profile in the media and make genuinely useful connections with senior figures in business and politics.”

The British Government has been a big supporter of Enterprise Week. The Prime Minister handed out awards at last year’s Enterprising Young Brits Awards, while Government ministers spoke at various events through the week.

The UK’s Business Secretary John Hutton sees building an enterprise culture as an important part of the Government’s enterprise strategy. “We should feel proud that the UK will be leading the world in this major celebration of enterprise this November. It is enormously exciting to see the Enterprise Week model that has worked so well in this country, begin to take hold globally.

“We want this ambitious initiative to connect thousands of successful young business leaders here with their counterparts internationally to spark off new ideas, share information and develop opportunities.”

The development of Enterprise Week globally has come about as the result of other countries picking up on what was happening in the UK. “The initiative was copied last year by, amongst others, the Americans, Chinese and French”, explains Anjoum Noorani, Head of International Campaigns for Make Your Mark. “As a result, we decided, together with the Kauffman Foundation, to create Global Entrepreneurship Week.

“The aim was to create new campaigns in new countries, link up campaigns between countries, appeal to new audiences in the UK, and to instill a global mindset in UK young entrepreneurs.”

Going global can only help Enterprise Week achieve even more results and encouraging a worldwide approach to enterprise and innovation is becoming increasingly important in worrying times. Harry Rich, Chief Executive of Make Your Mark, puts it succinctly, “Enterprise is not a zero-sum game. One country’s success does not deprive other countries in the long-term. The sharing of ideas between entrepreneurs and innovators across the globe is our best hope in tackling the major global challenges common to all nations.”
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