Chapter 2: Youth Enterprise Development

Introduction

The Youth Enterprise Development (YED) sector encompasses a range of programs and policies designed to encourage, prepare, and support young people as they engage in all types of entrepreneurship—from small-scale income-generating activities to “growth-oriented” enterprises with the potential for expansion and employment. Discussions at Making Cents International’s 2013 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference looked at trends in the field’s evolving understanding of the role that enterprise ownership plays in youth’s economic lives while sharing practical experiences and tools that can be used to support youth entrepreneurs.

Among both practitioners and donors, there is increasing recognition that sustained business creation by youth is not necessarily the goal of youth enterprise programming.  By participating in the launch of a new venture, which may then fold, or by participating in the management of an ongoing concern, youth gain an entrepreneurial skill set and mindset. This then sets them on a pathway to a successful career as either a business owner or as an employee.  This is in line with trends showing that the future workforce will have more job transitions than prior generations, including times when they may own or operate an enterprise —so enterprise training equips youth with valuable entrepreneurial skills they can use to navigate a prosperous career and employment transitions.

The 2013 Conference confirmed that entrepreneurship support packages combining business and/or technical training with life skills, savings-led financial services and start up assistance are now considered best practice and widely implemented in most YED efforts.  Practitioners in the youth economic opportunities field are delivering this support in widely varying contexts, with diverse youth cohorts. There is increasing recognition that initiatives should be tailored in every way possible to the specific needs and interests of the youth, and that partnerships and direct engagement with youth in program design and implementation are the best means to do so. With young people more at the forefront of program planning, implementation, and evaluation, assumptions are checked and many have found that greater effectiveness can be achieved. 

Practitioners also shared experiences and lessons on models to provide experiential learning to make entrepreneurial training stick, as well as new pilots on timing training and support across the business cycle.  Other highlights of the included the introduction of crowdfunding as a new models to finance and mentor youth enterprises and an opportunity for accomplished youth entrepreneurs to reflect in their own words what support they had leveraged to found and to grow their businesses.