COPIE 1 final report

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To download the full report click here COPIE 1 final report

What is presented below is the executive summary only (the main report is about 60 pages and too long for a wikipage)




COPIE is the Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship - a network of European Member States, Regions and other actors who all believe that it is both possible and necessary to make it easier for people, from all parts of society, to engage in independent, income-generating activities of different kinds and who wish to exchange information, experiences and best practice in making that happen.

The Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship emerged from the work of the EQUAL programme in addressing the realities of disadvantaged groups, often in disadvantaged areas, facing increased challenges from job losses through restructuring. CoPIE built on the final stages of the work carried out by nearly 300 development partnerships - 132 in the first round of EQUAL and 151 in the second - that focused on making entrepreneurship a viable option for people who face discrimination in the labour market. It is built on a recognition of both the limitation of employment-based solutions to economic disadvantage and unemployment and the possibilities emerging from the entrepreneurial potential of all people. The members of the CoPIE network agree that entrepreneurship is already a survival strategy for millions of Europeans (often in informal settings) and, with the right conditions and policies, has the potential to become a greater formal solution.

A first conference on “Making Entrepreneurship Accessible to All” was held in London in June 2003. The work of development partnerships and other players identified that the main themes dealt with in business creation for disadvantaged groups are similar in all areas: 1) creating the culture and conditions for entrepreneurship 2) integrated support itineraries for all 3) access to appropriate finance 4) the consolidation and sustainability of start-ups

The partnerships also developed a series of practical outputs, policy lessons and experiences aimed at improving the chances of people successfully starting their own business. A meeting in Berlin on 19 September 2005 brought together groups and individuals interested in continuing to explore these areas of work around inclusive entrepreneurship.

This was followed up by an EQUAL exchange event, held in Amsterdam 30-31 March 2006, which looked to “take stock of the main products and lessons coming out of EQUAL (and other programmes) as the basis for producing a European tool which [could] be used to assess whether entrepreneurship strategies are really ‘open to all’.”

Under the leadership of Flanders, a successful application was sent to the European Commission and CoPIE was launched in December 2006 with four founding partners: Flanders; Germany; Spain; and Portugal. These were joined through active participation by: Wales; Wallonia; Ireland; the Czech Republic and France. The Netherlands and Greece took observer status within CoPIE.

Developing a tool for assessing inclusive entrepreneurship

The first major task of the CoPIE was to develop a tool for assessing the inclusive entrepreneurship policies of the different regions. A first methodology was developed by Peter Ramsden and Paul Soto based on previous work in other areas. It used a single radar diagram to present the results of surveying based on a scorecard of statements within six domains.

This first attempt received much constructive criticism and led to numerous improvements in 2006:

  • questions were redrafted as statements and made more general so that no particular solution to inclusive entrepreneurship was advocated in the design.
  • the tool was aimed at regions and cities rather than Member States - this reflects the reality of where decisions on business support and many other aspects of entrepreneurship policy are generated.
  • the voice of the entrepreneur and business advisers was brought in alongside policy makers to give a complete picture of the situation
  • the new version made explicit reference to key EQUAL target populations including women, migrants and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, young and old people and social entrepreneurs.

The new draft Version 1 of the tool was unveiled in February 2007 after an intense period of development and presented at the first meeting of the CoPIE steering group. Trials were agreed for the five founding partners (Spain, Flanders, Wales, Germany and Portugal).

The testing revealed further areas of potential improvement. Problem areas included: a lack of consistency across statements for policy makers, advisers and entrepreneurs; the scoring system used; and the suitability and clarity of some statements.

Further regions then became involved with testing the tool, in different forms. Ireland and Rheinhessen made significant modifications to better suit their own conditions and reflect their views on how to improve the tool, a Czech region implemented an officially updated version of the tool and three regions of Spain tested the first version again. The lessons learnt led to the proposal of an updated and final version 3 of the tool. The new tool was completed in early June and includes new sub-domains, new statements, a full manual to guide new users and is totally online.

Developing a web presence

In support of the tool, CoPIE also worked to develop an effective web presence. It tested web 2.0 technologies as a way of facilitating information exchange and communication between members and participants in the CoPIE.

The first attempt was found to be too technical and difficult to be used practically by people whose primary expertise is not IT. A second attempt therefore emerged through the development of a NING, which acts like Facebook to facilitate dynamic communication between participants. This was easier to use but still largely failed to stimulate widespread participation. Finally, CoPIE arrived at wiki technology and developed its own wiki, which it called Wikipreneurship. This has proved a very practical way to collect nad present information on successful policies and practices around inclusive entrepreneurship in a way that is relatively easy to navigate and manage. The main challenge here remains to get users ‘up to speed’ with how to use the technology and to thus recruit a wider participation. Finally, use of a hosted project management solution called Basecamp has enabled an online consultation over the version 3 of the tool and also to share files easily and send out targeted emails to people working together on preparing and planning COPIE 2.

Project meetings

The development of these aspects was overseen by meetings of the project steering group and experts. These took place as follows: Steering Group and Experts Meeting - Brussels, 18-19 January 2007

  • for supervision of all aspects of the project development to this stage

Steering Group and Experts Meeting - Brussels, 26-27 February 2007

  • for supervision of all aspects of the project development to this stage

Experts meeting - Lisbon, 18-19 April 2007

  • for supervision of all aspects of the project development to this stage

Experts meeting - Cardiff, 10-11 May 2007

  • for supervision of all aspects of the project development to this stage

Policy forum - Hannover, 4-6 June 2007

  • which offered a major opportunity to showcase the work of CoPIE

Steering group meeting - Brussels, 7 September 2007

  • looking at the future direction of CoPIE

Training meeting - Oviedo, 30-31 October 2007

  • The meeting in Oviedo provided training and advice to those Member States and Regions wishing to apply the tool for inclusive entrepreneurship in their area. It enabled participants to start implementing the tool immediately with the support of people who had already used it.

Final project meeting - Brussels, 17-18 April 2008

  • The meeting saw keynote speeches from high-level political representatives and a round table comparing experiences of the CoPIE process, the findings of the work and the future direction of the work. Significantly, the event saw the signing of a Declaration of Commitment to future cooperation by the Managing Authorities. This is set out in more detail below.

The strengths and weaknesses of inclusive entrepreneurship

The CoPIE tool was tested by the five pilot regions in phase one of the CoPIE project between March and May 2007. Phase two of the CoPIE project tested updated versions of the CoPIE tool between November 2007 and February 2008 in six countries or regions. The tool is now also being applied in two regions of Portugal, two regions of England and Brandenbourg. The City of Venice working within the framework of an URBACT 2 Fast Track project have translated Version 2 into Italian and have used the tool to look at the experience of migrant entrepreneurs in their city.

Specific strengths and weaknesses were identified for each of the participating regions. These tended to show that, in terms of domains, the biggest areas of weakness were in supporting the culture and conditions for business development and promoting the consolidation and growth of existing enterprises. There was also weakness in targeting specific disadvantaged groups. However, each region had its own specific results and areas of strength and weakness. Assessment of the CoPIE tool assessment process

The process was well received by participants and it was shown to be excellent at identifying weaknesses and good practice in policies for inclusive entrepreneurship. The visual format of the output from the matrix analysis was seen to be particularly useful for identifying strengths, weaknesses and differences of perception.

Different regions used different approaches to information gathering to good effect and the possibility for awareness raising was generally appreciated.

However, limitations were observed. These included the limited number of interviewees and the associated risks of imbalance and the difficulty in responding to certain questions without guidance, or in giving a specific answer to each question. Finally, it was recognised that in many cases, time or space needed to be provided to allow suggestions for what people would like to see.

Exchanging best practice

As well as the various meetings that took place during the implementation of the project, the project developed the longer-term tool of an internet-based database of good practice to enable exchange of good practice.

The regional experts identified examples of good practice and the tools, methodologies and guides supporting these practices, which were collectively known as ‘products’. About 150 of these products were presented in English for their potential value as an example to be copied or learned from in other areas.

Initial attempts at using a matrix based on the four domains of the tool and the eight target groups was found to be too limited. The Wiki - known as Wikipreneurship - was developed as a means to work with large numbers of case studies and products in a flexible way, recognising the complexity and multi-dimensionality of many inclusive entrepreneurship projects.

By June 2008, the content on the Wiki had grown to over 500 separate articles and over a hundred active categories. The challenge remains to encourage people to engage effectively and confidently with the software.

Ways forward for CoPIE

The CoPIE methodology demonstrated its clear potential as a means of enabling the identification of both gaps and good practice in current support for inclusive entrepreneurship. Its ability to provide indications of these strengths and weaknesses according to target group and over time adds to its potential as a tool for informing real policy and delivery improvements.

Development of the methodology will need to think about how it can access a wider range of entrepreneurs and how it can address any regional or cultural differences. It will also need to engage as many policy makers as possible in using the methodology to seek out policy improvement ideas.

Showing the perceived success of the methodology amongst the participants so far, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed at the final project event in Brussels in April 2008. This set out the commitment to participate in a broader “Community of Practice” on Inclusive Entrepreneurship (CoPIE) to facilitate increased sharing of strategies, initiatives and approaches, learning based on experience and best practices, the promotion of transnational cooperation and the dissemination and standardisation of that knowledge. It is expected that a future Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship will include:

  • regional CoPs in each of the tool implementation areas who work towards an action plan.
  • sub-domain mini-CoPs each focused on a sub domain of the tool
  • target-group-based mini-CoPs
  • national CoPs helping to coordinate CoP activity in their Member State