Enterprise Development Needs a Very Different Response

If we are serious about developing more enterprising individuals and communities, rather than managing the outputs that most enterprise funders are looking for (start ups and VAT registrations), we need to concern ourselves with the development of self-interest and the accrual of power through organisation, association, collaboration and the acquisition of ‘knowhow’.   We are in the realms of person centred facilitation, community development and education.  Not business planning.  This requires an enormous shift both in what we do, and how we do it.

Helping people to clarify their self-interest and find the power to pursue it requires very different structures and processes to those that we currently use to develop enterprise. It is not about setting up a business.  It is not about experiencing ‘Industry Days’ at school or attending ‘Enterprise’ Conferences with (not so) secret millionaires, dragons and ministers.  It is not about Catalyst Centres and managed workspaces (although these might be useful for the small percentage of people who choose entrepreneurship as the most appropriate way to express their enterprising souls).

It is about engaging in a dynamic and continuous reflection on who we are and what we want to become, and managing processes that will help us move in that direction in a complex and rapidly changing world.

The Davies Review defined enterprise as  the capacity to:

  1. handle uncertainty and respond positively to change – Resilience
  2. create and implement new ideas and ways of doing things – Creativity and change
  3. make reasonable risk/reward assessments and act upon them in one’s personal and working life – The Pursuit of Progress

No mention of employment, entrepreneurship or business. Instead it is about resilience, change making and progress.  Enterprise development needs to find a new home where this broader conception can flourish without the distorting, primarily economic calculus of entrepreneurs and The Treasury.  They will have much to offer to the development of entrepreneurship – but that is only ever likely to be relevant to a minority.  Enterprise needs to escape, what for many is, the deadening hand of business.

The art and science of enterprise is relevant to all and we need to build communities and relationships that understand how to nurture it.

One of my big regrets is that so little LEGI funding has been used to drive this sort of innovation.  Instead it has been used, often wastefully, in the short term pursuit of business startups and in placing cuckoos in the heart of some of our poorest communities.

Anyone up for some innovation in Local Enterprise?


  1. Refreshing article on the subject.
    It seems that during the glitter years, most have completely lost the plot. It’s nice to see someone go back to basics, without all the unnecessary fluff!

  2. In addition to the Davies-defined enterprise capacity, I would always want to make room for the totally unglamorous, sheer bloody-minded capacity to keep going when all sense and reason (and everyone else) says why bother!

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