Enterprise facilitation

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Description of the approach (aims, delivery, budget etc)

A bottom-up approach to stimulating rural people to pursue entrepreneurship is provided by Enterprise Facilitation®. This “people centered approach to community and economic development” is the brainchild of Ernesto Sirolli developed and tested in Western Australia and has attracted much attention across rural America in the past five years. Sirolli’s view is that a successful business requires competency in three areas: technical ability to produce a product or service, ability to market the product or service, and ability to manage the finances of the venture, and that few individual entrepreneurs have competency across all three areas. Consequently, teams of competence have to be built around the entrepreneur to achieve success. In practice, Enterprise Facilitation® comprises two elements. The first is an enterprise facilitator who serves as the initial point of contact for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, and who provides confidential, free services within his or her local community. The second element is a community board, composed of anywhere between 20 to 50 local residents, which supports the facilitator by providing introductions to community leaders and potential clients.

The enterprise facilitator is not an expert but someone who is a good listener, supportive, well-networked, and able to evaluate the skills and needs of entrepreneurs. The community board includes local business and civic leaders, economic development practitioners, and private sector professionals, and is responsible for hiring and supporting the facilitator. Board members are trained by the Sirolli Institute.


Evaluation of enterprise facilitation

Sirolli is famously critical of evaluators claiming that traditional methods of counting jobs and enterprise created are not capable of capturing the subtleties of his approach. Despite the almost total lack of independent evaluations. One notable exception is the evaluation is of the Kansas work) and is featured on the website. This appears to be a competent piece of work.

Good evaluators would attempt to measure aspects that are harder to capture in programme targets. Could include issues like network development, progression, changes in attitudes towards entrepreneurship, changes in civic leadership approach to the local economy etc.

At least we fed the hippos

Ernesto Sirolli gave an inspiring TED talk in Christchurch, New Zealand on 1 Sep 2012. His key ideas:

  • entrepreneurs never come to community meetings - work 1:1
  • you don't need infrastructure - sit in a café or bar and talk to people - word will get round
  • shut up and listen - don't offer advice, offer people with passion the information they need
  • offer confidentiality
  • Peter Drucker: planning is the kiss of death for entrepreneurship
  • nobody started a company alone. The person has not been born who could do all 3 critical jobs:
    • make it
    • sell it
    • look after the money