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Entrepreneurship is a Learning Process Not an App Contest

By Guest Writer on August 14, 2015

youth-app-challenge

Every couple of months, a new mobile app contest pops up, promising young people the resources, mentorship, and network to create a software product that will transform their communities and the world.

Of course this is possible, but not everyone is an entrepreneur, founder, creator…and that’s OKAY. I know I’m not the first to point this out, but the number of well-funded competitions has only magnified.

The overemphasis on software product development, mobile application impact and the need to “scale” is disconcerting, because as we all know, technology will not fix the world’s most pressing issues, but youth with the right skills, opportunities and commitment to civic action can.

Youth may not produce a viable product in a week long competition or hackathon, but they do acquire and enhance invaluable life and employment skills like critical and creative thinking, collaboration, negotiation, storytelling, leadership and relevant technical literacy when they are engaged in the entrepreneurship process over time.

Rather than produce a cornucopia of one-off events, which rarely produce sustainable impact, why not extract and amplify the good “stuff” from these initiatives…the hands-on learning processes?

We Should Focus on Entrepreneurship Education

What if the international development, corporate and business communities pumping out these events advocated for the benefits of entrepreneurship education, instead of pushing all youth to be entrepreneurs or inventors with game-changing profitable products?

In 2012 Time magazine highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship education, and that is not synonymous with scaling countless products or starting your own business. Some youth may become entrepreneurs, but many may continue their education or find gainful employment with a new set of skills, which in the long-term can create meaningful change.

This could translate into better governance, more efficient management practices across various industries or heightened self-efficacy and civic engagement. It’d be a worthwhile endeavor to develop more robust programs at the secondary or even primary education level, which encourage youth to think critically, be creative and work with their peers through project-based learning and entrepreneurial exercises.

Why does anyone have to wait until they’re in their mid or late 20’s and go to an expensive business school to learn these essential life and employment skills? (Which isn’t even guaranteed). They should be accessible to everyone from early childhood.

I’m not discouraging youth to apply to the various competitions and contests out there, but it’s important to recognize that there is no killer app for community transformation. Positive change only comes from committed and engaged community members.

Ariam Mogos is a youth advocate, rights shaker, and proud maker.

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4 Comments to “Entrepreneurship is a Learning Process Not an App Contest”

  1. Benita Rowe says:

    Great article, you make a good case! That said, I think a lot of education institutions and schools do recognize that most roads lead to Piaget, Vygotsky and Brunner. For example, we have a compulsory subject for all first semester students based on PBL
    http://vfl-gummersbach.de/die-eigene-zukunft-als-projektarbeit/ Entrepreneurship is also integrated in the curriculum. In Aus primary and secondary teachers are provided with tools to help them implement PBL, actively track their progress and improve their teaching practices: http://www.toolkit.aitsl.edu.au/

    I suspect one reason that the international development, corporate and business communities pumping out these events aren’t all focusing on entrepreneurship education initiatives is that they have financial incentives to run these events…and consequently entire departments of people employed to promote and organize them :-). Corporate and business communities in particular they need to make sure they are getting $, advertising or both out of it. We (staff members here) participate in these events when it makes sense and encourage students to do the same as they do give you an opportunity to network and sharpen your game. I’m not sure the promoters of these events really believe the tag lines themselves – it helps if you think of it as “funding bucket fun”: https://xkcd.com/1007/

    If you tune the “we’re going to promote youth entrepreneurship, save the world and provide entire continents of people with X while standing on a table, drinking a cup of tea and balancing on one leg” taglines out (a cymbal-playing monkey can help you here) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtObrnaovrI
    …and look at these events as a supplementary exercise to what is taught in schools and higher education institutions, they can provide a valuable educational experience for students.

    Cheers!

  2. Wade Channell says:

    Thank you! As one who works on international development, this is a refreshing call to remember that technology does not replace the basics. In this case, it’s the long-term process of building the kind of people who can bring long-term change, not simply building products as a magic solution. There are no magic solutions.

    If these challenge events produce some nice products, that’s great. But we’ll still have the hard work of long-term investment in what really matters: people.

  3. Benita Rowe says:

    *Postscript:
    (J) Bruner: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Bruner
    – definitely not to be confused with (A) Brunner…a slip of the keyboard!

  4. Herman Fung says:

    Well said: “There is no killer app for community transformation”