Shooting for the Moon: Good Practices in Local Youth Entrepreneurship Support

OECD LEED, Forum on Partnerships and Local Governance
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Very often becoming an entrepreneur is the result of a personal decision making process including assessments of opportunities and their costs (being employed, being unemployed, being one’s own boss), risk-reward relationships (what is at stake), and others. Values, beliefs and behaviours, embedded in the culture of a country and a place, influence this decision. Entrepreneurship education and start-up support, with its two-fold purpose of contributing to the creation and development of entrepreneurial attitudes and motivations and developing the skills needed to successfully run and grow a business, can play an important role in the decision making process. Promoting youth entrepreneurship has become an area of growing policy interest all over OECD countries and beyond. This OECD definition of entrepreneurship encompasses both the act of running one’s own businesses, and being the entrepreneurial manager or employee of a firm. This book draws on this definition, but sets the focus on the former. Over the last decade, the OECD Local Economic and Employment Development Programme (LEED) has produced policy documentation about the positive role of youth entrepreneurship in local development and gave advice on how youth entrepreneurship can be promoted and supported locally by partnerships of public and private agents, underlining the key functions carried out by schools, universities, incubators and business support agencies.

LEED works – Putting the Young in Business: Policy Challenges for Youth Entrepreneurship (2001); Entrepreneurship and Higher Education (2008) and Universities, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (2009) – show that many young job-seekers, aged between 16 and 35, have positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship, but only few will generate value through the creation or expansion of economic activity by identifying and exploiting new products, processes or markets. Only a small percentage of youth prefer starting their own business instead of dependent employment. Difficulties in accessing financing and appropriate premises are in survey studies often listed as the key barriers. Also, only few young people learn at an early age about entrepreneurship. Many inputs are required for successful entrepreneurship. Most important are entrepreneurship skills and competences. Motivated people need the right set of skills to identify entrepreneurial opportunities and to turn their entrepreneurial projects into successful ventures. Starting early in getting familiar with the idea that running one’s own firm can be a potential career option is important and education has a core function in this. LEED research confirms that it is the local context that triggers the start-up and growth of new businesses. Generating and strengthening an entrepreneurial culture that attracts and stimulates talents should therefore be a core objective of local youth entrepreneurship support frameworks with entrepreneurship education, start-up support and opportunity creation, that is, making places conducive to youth entrepreneurship as key components. Local partnerships, involving schools, higher education institutions, training providers, business development services, local authorities and local businesses, are crucial to the creation and sustainability of such entrepreneurial ecosystems.

This handbook takes the discussion of what constitutes successful local entrepreneurship support frameworks further and seeks to provide a gateway for further exchange of good practices on this topic. It presents a criteria list that has emerged from LEED work on youth entrepreneurship, the academic debate and the work of practitioners. Its three dimensions are: opportunity, creation, entrepreneurship education and start-up support. The criteria list can be read as a ‘tool’ to self-assess and re-orient current strategies, structures and practices in youth entrepreneurship support. The selected good practice initiatives – ranging from Øresund Entrepreneurship and its extensive use of Facebook for student recruitment, to Finnish business succession courses that involve young entrepreneurs in ‘real-life’ incubation – offer inspiration, but also pressure, to adapt and go beyond the prevailing paradigms that some policy makers and practitioners may have with regard to youth entrepreneurship.

Work is underway to develop this criteria list further. It will be employed as assessment framework in LEED policy development and capacity building activities, with Skills for Entrepreneurship and Local Strategies for Youth Employment as two main projects in the next biennium. Readers are also invited to contribute to this exercise by sending comments on the criteria list and/or information on good practice initiatives to [email protected].

Enterprise Development