What is inclusive entrepreneurship

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Inclusive entrepreneurship is about widening entrepreneurship opportunity to people from all walks of life. It should be equally possible for a young mother to set up a new enterprise as it is for a venture capitalist. It should be easy for a new migrant to register their business in the new country. It should be possible for anyone with a good business idea to get a loan and to get started.

Evidence shows that people from any background can be successful in business. Education is no guide to business success (although a bit can help). We have seen examples of remarkable transformations where people who had been inactive in the labour market and who had been sidelined by society have reinvented themselves and gone on to create jobs for others (example here). But as we know there are also problems.

I've been trying to do what you are doing for years but not always with as much success. In 1994 we worked with the Merseyside Objective 1 partnership to put a measure into programmes called Pathways to Integration. We wanted people to take an active role in transforming their own run down communities. We believed that every person had the potential to contribute to economic development. One of the lessons we learnt in Merseyside was that entrepreneurship was as important as employment in helping to turn these communities around.

Later in the 1990s I helped the authorities in South Yorkshire to set up the South Yorkshire Key Fund , South Yorkshire has suffered terrible economic restructuring in coal and steel. Our original idea was that anyone from the poorest communities could come forward get support to work up a business idea or a social enterprise and within two weeks they would either receive the go ahead for their investment or they would get extra help to prepare their idea further. This has now become the Key Fund Yorkshire and supports social and micro entrepreneurs in their communities. I'm convinced that finance plays a major role in helping indivduals to set up initiaves.

Back in 2006 Maria Nowak from European Microfinance Network came to see me to ask what Europe could do to promote Microcredit or Microfinance. Her organisation ADIE which she set up nearly 20 years ago last year lent small sums of money to 18,000 mostly start-up micro enterprises across France. To achieve this she has had to sign nearly 1000 agreements with municipalities, funding bodies like ERDF and ESF and banks. It shouldn't be so difficult to do the great work that they do.

As a result of her initiatve at European level, last autumn the Commission published an initiative on Micro Finance that will provide loan capital and technical assistance to help micro finance institutions with potential to reach more clients and grow rapidly.

When we started in this arena in the 1990s there was no way of linking up the actors across Europe. There was no knowledge bank of good practice. No tools that you could use to demonstrate to policy makers that there were parts of their communities that were not being reached. Indeed many policy makers at the time did not believe that there was any entrepreneurial spirit in their poorest communities. Some may still believe this.

You have proved them wrong. Initiatives like the UK's Inner City 100 published annually in the Financial Times were able to show that disadvantaged communities were full of enterprise. Meanwhile projects funded under EQUAL have pushed the envelope to demonstrate that there are techniques for reaching some of the most excluded groups in society and that when you do reach them they can surprise you with their entrepreneurial zeal. I know that there are people from the Association of Community Based Business Advisers ACBBA in the audience. They have developed a technique of training business advisers from within refugee and migrant community associations. It means that their adviser already speaks somali or Farsi or Chinese. They have doubled the number of minority ethnic business advisers in London and created the concept of the 'embedded business adviser. Their project reached 1300 clients and is scalable.

We have seen amazing innovation around supporting young people to become entrepreneurs. Who would have thought that Valnalon, a former Objective 2 area in Asturias with a closed steelworks would be the place where 'minicompanies' - one of the most successful school based enterprise programmes would be developed?

Inclusive Entrepreneurship sits at the intersection between social policy and economic policy. It is pure [[Lisbon agenda]. We know that economies that have more dynamic entrepreneurial cultures have higher levels of growth. We also know that for many people on the margins of society entrepreneurship offers more hope of escaping the revolving door of unemployment than through national schemes. We know that becoming an entrepreneur can be a transformative experience. The danger is that to both the employment and industry or enterprise ministries micro enterprises are too small to register on the radar. They are happier meeting the captains of industry. But micro enterprise makes up over 90% of European enterprise and accounts for nearly a third of employment. [check]

This is why the COPIE approach of engaging with all of the stakeholders is so important for future success. this is why the Declaration on Inclusive Entrepreneurship that is being made today by the Managing Authorities founder members of COPIE is so important.

What COPIE demonstrates is that to make Europe more entrepreneurial and more inclusive requires a range of interventions

COPIE has broken these into four elements of an entrepreneurial ladder the culture and conditions is about people thinking that this could be for them. We also need to ensure that the regulatory barriers erected in some member states are as low as possible. Where they are high we find many people going into the informal economy. Good policy prevents this. Start up support can take many forms, some of the most effective seem to be around coaching and mentoring, but the EQUAL experience also shows the value of pre start support. Quality is key at this stage [[access to finance] is crucial for all business, at the start up phase many entrepreneurs go to family and friends, this is an area where the banks can do much more especially working with grass roots microfinance organisations Finally we must do more to ensure consolidations and growth for example by looking at how small businesses can get into procurement and commissioning supply chains, how marketing can be improved,

Policy and practice

Your community of practice is showing that policy and practice on inclusive entrepreneurship are indivisible. Whereas policy is essentially a top down exercise, practice is from the bottom up. To some degree policy is easy but implementation is hard. You have created a space in which these two groups: policy makers and practitioners can have a dialogue. You have even brought the voice of the user, the entrepreneur into the room. By working in this way and especially by creating your own knowledge base on Wikipreneurship.eu you will enable to ensure that developments in one part of Europe are known about and understood in another. You aren't the first people to be trying to do this, good work was done on Regional Innovation strategies, around cities through urbact. but you are the first people to focus on Inclusive entrepreneurship

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead, the anthropologist

this was also popularised by President Bartlett in the TV series West Wing