At SSE we like to tackle the big questions in life: If a tree falls in a wood and no-one’s there, does it make a sound? What is the meaning of life? Where is Timbuktu? And, of course, are entrepreneurs born not made?
A similar poser is "Can entrepreneurship be taught?", to which one might add, "or can it be learned?" There’s no easy answers here, but SSE certainly recruits on the basis of character traits and life experience, rather than paper qualifications. What might be a more interesting version is "Can entrepreneurship be learned in an educational institution?" This is particularly relevant because a lot of the skills that employers are looking for are possessed by entrepreneurs: innovation, flexibility, cross-cutting skills, adaptability, self-reliance and so forth. As a result, there is a lot of interest in teaching entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship, in schools.
The most famous and long-lasting of these has been Young Enterprise, which encourages students at school to set up actual business/enterprises in a learning-by-doing kind of way, primarily outside of the normal school day. The Young Foundation are looking at something more radical still, in the form of Studio Schools; as they put it:
"The idea of a studio school hangs on the central feature of a series of
operating businesses run by the students themselves. As small schools
closely linked to particular industries, participant numbers would be
capped at 300 per school and the staff would comprise a mix of teachers
and non-teachers with business expertise."
Which reminds me of an even more radical US experiment that I read about, under which the whole school had its own money, courts and taxation. Now that is learning by doing….
Other initiatives with a particularly social entrepreneurial leaning have been put in place by Changemakers and Cantilever (offshoot of CAN), though they battle the limits of the curriculum. If entrepreneurship inevitably contains risk and failure, can it happen in the classroom?
Or, as this article suggests, do most entrepreneurs simply get on with it from a young age, be it via the paper round, selling to school friends, or, in some unusual cases, running a lemonade stand that gives money to charity…..youngest social entrepreneur of the week award….