I was recently asked to contribute to a tender to supply a series of ‘enterprise awareness raising events’. These would be short events held in super output areas (poor communities) designed to create a continual flow of referrals for the mainstream business support providers (Enterprise Agencies and Business Link I guess).
When will we recognise that ‘the mainstream’ is just not resourced to provide the level of support and assistance that many potential entrepreneurs from these communities will require? They have plenty of great people, some of them able to work with this client group. But the performance management system discourages them from doing so. This client group often demands too much intensive support that they are just not resourced or managed to provide.
Many have forgotten how to dream, and have lost confidence in their ability to successfully shape their futures. They simply don’t believe that enterprise is a viable opportunity for them. They need a lot of time and support to really develop their ideas and their belief in their ability to achieve. They are often a long way from being ‘Enterprise Ready’. They need to explore the risks slowly and be confident that they can manage them. Pointing them at a ‘Universal Start Up Offer’ is in many cases unlikely to provide the key to success.
It would be unethical to raise their enterprise awareness – unless the support that is going to be made available to them will meet them ‘where they are at’ – rather than be an off the shelf range of business training and mentoring. Working with this client group is very different from working with well educated, well trained, articulate and confident aspiring entrepreneurs.
The potential for enterprise in poorer communities is immense – but it needs a more person centred and nurturing approach than ‘the mainstream’ can provide if it potential is to be realised.