Developing Effective Youth Entrepreneurship Programmes

By Meagan Rees, Youth Business International.

Developing Effective Youth Entrepreneurship Programmes

There are approximately 1.3 billion young people between the ages of 15 – 24: they make up a quarter of the world’s working population but represent half the world’s unemployed. One solution to combat spiralling unemployment has been the launch of youth entrepreneurship programmes providing services such as training, mentoring and access to finance. But how effective are these initiatives?

There is little information available about what works and what doesn’t, particularly when it comes to context. Young entrepreneurs in different parts of the world face different challenges: the needs of a young entrepreneur in rural Uganda, for example, differ to those of a young person in the country’s capital, Kampala. There are differences again when assessing the needs of young entrepreneurs in Paraguay versus the Ukraine or Australia.

Therefore, there can’t be a “one size fits all” approach to youth entrepreneurship programmes. While the fundamental components of initiatives – such as mentoring, training and access to finance – may largely stay the same, getting to grips with contextual factors will better define the challenges facing young entrepreneurs as well as the solutions.

It is vital to understand context from various angles – not just the external environment in which programmes are operating, but also the particular type of young entrepreneurs they’re working with, as well as the scale and capacity of the delivery organisation(s). An effective programme model to support young women in a conflict-affected setting with low levels of economic development delivered by a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) operating at small scale will look very different from a programme aimed at young men in a conflict-free emerging economy with a cultural tradition hostile to entrepreneurship, being delivered by a consortium including national government and corporate partners.

Understanding context is thus key to identifying success factors behind youth start-ups, and to defining target groups, identifying their needs, and designing and delivering effective programmes to support them. As such, it should play a central part in any initiative promoting and supporting youth entrepreneurship. In light of this, Youth Business International (YBI), with its focus on youth entrepreneurship, is playing a leading role in a research project aimed at ‘Maximising the Impact of Youth Entrepreneurship Support in Different Contexts’ in consortium with War Child UK and Restless Development.

This three-phase research project aims to develop a Framework which will increase our understanding of what youth entrepreneurship programmes work in which contexts. The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) was tasked with conducting the research, reviewing sector evidence and producing a user-friendly youth entrepreneurship Contexts Framework.

Phase 3 is being launched this month and aims to take the Framework, which was developed in Phase 1 and revised through sector consultation in Phase 2, into a practical testing stage involving all consortium partners. Over the course of the next year, Phase 3 will test, validate, and enhance the design and content of the revised Framework and develop and refine its recommendations. Findings from Phase 3 will be incorporated into an updated Framework, which will remain a live tool.

YBI’s Director for Strategy and Performance, Helen Gale, said: “The feedback has been invaluable. We are delighted by the level of sector engagement in our consultation and are looking forward to the next all important testing phase. As a global network, it is critical for YBI to be able to compare systematically what works in one context to another, and by working collaboratively with other practitioners and policymakers, we are helping build a much needed global evidence base in youth entrepreneurship”.

YBI will lead the field research in Uganda and India (where consortium partners have existing operations), with further practical testing regions yet to be confirmed. Testing will include a series of practitioner-focused workshops; wider sector involvement; and a cross-consortium workshop in Uganda.

Programme Director Beth Dea of YBI’s Canadian network member, the Canadian Youth Business Federation (CYBF), said, “CYBF looks forward to the consortium’s continuing research and its recommendations on the specific interventions best-suited to the contexts that are relevant to us and other YBI members. Specifically, we look forward to examining how training and support initiatives can best be adapted for maximum impact and how this research may ultimately influence government policies here and abroad.”

Mattias Lundberg, Senior Economist in the World Bank’s Human Development Network, said: “One organisation can’t know all of this [important problems faced by young entrepreneurs] itself, but through working with local agencies and partners we can better understand what we need to do to help young people achieve their goals.”

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