Do remember the movie “Pay It Forward”? A simple idea where you do an act of kindness for three people and explain to them that they cannot pay you back, but rather pay it forward by helping three other people.
A not for profit in Brisbane is actively enabling a similar idea.
This idea is entrepreneurial and exploits the lack of education in our schooling system around business.
You see, our society has a general view that children are passive contributors to our communities and that somehow, through osmosis; they will learn the necessary skills and abilities to become valuable members and contributors when they emerge at age 18 to 21. However our kids are far more accomplished than we give them credit for. They are very capable and willing to make an impact in their world, which by default affects our world too.
This innovative program is called the Academy for Young Entrepreneurs. It works like this…
The kids are taught the meaning of entrepreneur and then invited to become one. The mentors encourage them to come up with ideas as to what they could possibly do to add value to the lives of their immediate community.
Collectively they nominate a charity and commit to donating all the funds raised throughout the duration of the program to this charity. They then sort out how to create and manage their stock, market and promote, gather their income and go about executing their business plan.
At the completion of the program, they will have instilled the seeds of business through first hand experience.
Here’s how the pilot went…
The children involved were from grades 4 to 7. They were encouraged to dream, invent and innovate. Once they had formulated their idea, they had to pitch it to the program mentors. The mentors weighed up the ideas and coached them a bit, then gave them some seed funding to get their ideas underway. The kids came up with all sorts of ideas… from dog washing and dog walking, hair ribbons and ties, to cupcakes and drink stalls. Some even made pizza and sold it at recess times.
The program taught them how to
- Work as a team,
- Help others,
During their theory sessions they were shown video’s, which gave them inspiration and excited their creative juices. The whole program revolved around fun and encouragement.
The final week was a sort of debriefing/graduation, allowing them to recount and see what they had achieved. In the wash up they were all excited about the total they had raised and the good they could see it doing for their chosen charity.
The charity was a group of children in an overseas country who were much poorer by comparison to the participants. The initial idea was to provide the funding to help these overseas kids go through their own version of the program. The funding would provide seed funds for their ideas.
It’s kind of an expansion of the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”
I believe this is the very essence of the word entrepreneur. The success of the program was the activation of these young entrepreneurs and how they re-engaged their imaginations. As the program becomes more wide spread, the change to our society will be far more obvious.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
If we want our communities to prosper, we need to empower all members of our society, especially those who are most vulnerable and who also play the most active part in our future.
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