The Local Enterprise Growth Initiative has provided a welcome injection of cash to stimulate enterprise in some of the most deprived areas of England.
However I am worried that ‘enterprise’ is being too narrowly interpreted as ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘starting businesses’.
The origins of the word ‘enterprise’ come from the 15th century when it was used to describe someone with a ‘readiness to undertake challenges’ or with a ‘spirit of daring’.
Only relatively recently has it become synonymous with business.
I think this matters because the ‘enterprise’ journey needs to start at a place that is right for them. The challenges that they undertake must be ones that they are equipped to tackle. For some, the challenge of starting their own business and earning a livelihood through their own skill and passion is appropriate.
For many more it is probably a long way down the road.
I am worried that some current enterprise interventions will encourage people to start their own businesses – regardless of whether this is the right challenge for them at this stage. The problem is exacerbated because service providers feel under pressure to get people to ‘start-up’ business as this is what their success is measured by.
This might mean that we have a number of businesses started by people who do not have the skills, passion, life expereince and emotional resilience to really make them work. They will find the whole experience unrewarding and may end up with extremely negative feelings towards ‘enterprise’ as a result. We may actually end with less enterprising communities as word of their experience spreads.
Surely there are a wider range of challenges that can be offered and facilitated in the name of developing more enterprising communities than just starting businesses?