Social Cohesion Opinion

Supporting Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation

Boosting Founder Confidence and Encouraging Investments

Thinking Lab on Social Cohesion - Picture: Alex&Jacob

The first European Thinking Lab took place from 25-27 November in Lisbon. During the Summit, the contributors cooperated within their Thinking Lab and worked out brief policy proposals. Andrea Montanari is engaged with the topics of Investment Incentives and Social Innovation.

Since 2008 the financial crisis has been hitting and changing the European society on many aspects: the most evident consequence is unemployment, with peaks of unemployment rates of 45% in Southern Member States, resulting in a negative impact on people’s mental state: the percentage of workers willing to work on their own fell from 45% to 37% in the last three years. These numbers are showing a radical change in the people’s cultural mindset, resulting in reduced interest in entrepreneurial careers.

The European Commission studied these negative trends and has proposed an “Action Plan” to be implemented until 2020: this interesting document refers to multiple factors, such as unprepared educational programs, administrative barriers for new businesses’ growth or the absence of combined action by local administration and entrepreneurs, highlighting the deterioration of the public image of self-employment. The only feasible way to recover from these serious and precarious conditions is to invest in education in order to boost a cultural change for young generations.

How may this be achieved? The power of practice is fundamental for young people to regain confidence and trust: supporting workshops, courses and hands-on laboratories in both secondary school and university are efficient means to teach entrepreneurial fundamentals. Regarding public and private educational institutions, it is important to promote university-driven businesses (spin-offs, start-ups) by giving them financial and administrative support and by using an informative approach to advertise Erasmus+ programs including e.g. internships or long-term projects abroad. There has been a lack of clarity on who should lead the emotive charge: the main actors are local entrepreneurs. They should be recognized and promoted by the local media and public administration in order to send out a very clear and loud message; by showing their experiences and stories, providing a source of inspiration for many others.

To encourage new ideas and the proliferation of businesses trying to solve social issues, it’s fundamental to build an advantageous environment within which people can feel comfortable and protected. On the European level, member states could start identifying and collecting best practices within the fields of taxation, legislation and social policies, while on the national level governments could think about special policies for young businesses, to help them growing in a sustainable yet swift way, without pressures and a slender bureaucracy. As the failure rate of young enterprises is significantly high (50%), the member states should provide mentoring programs to new entrepreneurs, taking advantage of the expertise of local, established entrepreneurs and giving them the opportunity to share ideas and working methods.

Within empirical studies the positive impact of participation in group projects has been demonstrated: one participant out of four will be likely to start his/her own company in the aftermath. Every Member state should bear in mind to foster public and private initiatives involving young talents from different sectors and should aim to give them the possibility to compete in teams on digital and social challenges.

Do you work/study in a university? Go and tell everyone about Erasmus opportunities!
Do you have an entrepreneurial idea? Follow your instinct and team up to come one step closer to your goal!
Do you have role models in your city? Give them a voice, promote an event and spread their experience on the Internet!
Be the spark you would like to see in your society, start now!