Inclusive entrepreneurship

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Many more people can reap the benefits of an entrepreneurial attitude than currently do. Being an entrepreneur means taking control over one’s life, rather than waiting to see what others might provide. It is thus a counterweight to the dependency that welfare states can have a tendency to enable, or even to encourage. Becoming an entrepreneur is also a sign of successful inclusion in society at large. Furthermore, diversity can be an economic strength. Many market opportunities derive from the specialist knowledge or experience brought by migrants, and groups that face discrimination and disadvantage in the labour market – for example women, disabled people and ethnic minorities – provide many significant niche markets.

It is important to remember that there are many models of entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial spirit may be harnessed to achieve collective and social goals, as well as for the enhancement of individual riches or power. Such social entrepreneurship results in social enterprises.

Inclusive entrepreneurship is about a set of attitudes, competences and skills which allow people to turn their dreams into concrete projects or “enterprises” and then see these through to fruition. It is about more than starting an individual business. Inclusive entrepreneurship can be applied to self-employment, starting or growing micro or small enterprises and to social enterprise using business-based approaches driven by a social mission. Indeed the personal qualities required for entrepreneurship are essential for success in the knowledge economy – whether this be in the private or public sectors.

We refer to 'inclusive' entrepreneurship because we believe in entrepreneurship for all and that the personal qualities and conditions required for entrepreneurship are not the prerogative of a privileged, highly educated few. Indeed millions of people across the globe take complex decisions, manage risk, find new innovative solutions, and collaborate with others just to survive in their daily lives. However the obstacles and risk they face when trying to make the leap from survival to long-term sustainability are proportionally far greater than those involved in launching a new company on the stock exchange.

Inclusive entrepreneurship is about supporting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds by creating a genuinely level playing field. This involves understanding and then overcoming the barriers faced by different people in different places. It is about unleashing the creative potential that people have within them and using this to create a more sustainable future for all of us.

Major progress on inclusive entrepreneurship has been made through the EU-funded EQUAL programme which, in its entrepreneurship pillar, had a theme on business creation that was taken up in many of the EU Member States. A second theme focused on social economy and also contributed many innovations. This action-research has led to the development of a community of practice on inclusive entrepreneurship now called simply COPIE. COPIE is led by Flanders and Germany and already has partners in Spain, Portugal, and UK. There are observers in France, the Netherlands, Ireland and a number of the new members of the EU including the Czech Republic and Romania have joined. COPIE is developing a series of tools to facilitate the assessment of enterprise support systems from the point of view of a wide range of specific groups (e.g. women, minority ethnic groups, migrants, people with disabilities, young people and older people). The COPIE website can be viewed in pilot format at [1]