Enabling Enterprise is Three

Posted in Blog by alice with No Comments

Jul2012 11

Tom Ravenscroft, Founder and Managing Director

As I write this, Enabling Enterprise has just celebrated its third birthday.

But the idea that became Enabling Enterprise began on the day I found myself staring down my Year 10 group. There was one of me and 30 of them.

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Business is not writing invoices…

I was a business studies teacher, and my fourth lesson with them. They couldn’t see the importance of learning how to write an invoice, the topic of the day. The problem was neither could I. I saw a long career ahead of me that looked longer by the moment.

And so, on that day when I was trying to teach the students the importance of the invoice, the purchase order, the sales copy and the delivery note I decided that the only way any of this was going to be relevant was if they set up their own small businesses. And that was never going to happen whilst their full understanding of what a business does was dictated by the contestants on the Apprentice.

So we visited some businesses in the City – UBS and Freshfields. The students met adults who were genuinely in business in a whole range of roles, and started to understand what it was a business really did and why it really existed.

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Successful lives are no accident

And then there was the question of what they would do next. Because I honestly couldn’t believe that a meagre clutch of certificates would do much to set up the students for the rest of their lives. But setting up these businesses solved another problem – students now had a full set of experiences they could draw upon.

Of that first group of students, we had the beginnings of a fashion label, a video-game trading scheme and a tuition scheme. We had a donut company who were banned from school after nearly putting the canteen out of business and we had a group who hijacked the Design Technology labs to create a whole collection of key rings. And there were priceless moments there: When the students had to present their businesses at UBS, and the Donut Kings won by plying the judges with huge quantities of their wares. Or when the students made their first sales, or when they were treated to a celebratory lunch at Freshfields.

And when 95% of those students exceeded their targets by at least a grade it felt like we were onto something.

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Fast-forward three years

Three years on and a lot has happened. Enabling Enterprise now works with ninety schools across the country, with almost 12,000 students enrolled on the programmes we’ve developed. We’re fortunate to work with fifteen top businesses including PwC, UBS, IBM and many others.

Our programmes are no longer just about business: When sharing what was working with my colleagues more widely, other teachers realised that what we really had was an approach: That by creating a really compelling project, linking it with the real world, and then designing the learning process really carefully we could have students who were more engaged and who also learnt everything they needed to on the path to completing their project.

So each of those students works in a team to set up and run their own project, which in turn will bring the curriculum to life. It might be the team of primary school students who explored environmentalism through creating their own environmentally-friendly toy which they had to design, create and then present to Hamleys. Or the French class that we took to Societe Generale to see why it isn’t really the case that ‘everyone speaks English’. Or the maths class who decided to apply their learning to setting up a highly profitable laundry service for their teachers.

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And where we’re going…

We have seen the impact of our work, both on students’ achievements but also their broader skills, experiences of the world, and aspirations for the future. We’re on track to work with 50,000 students a year by 2015. But crucially since that moment of absolute loneliness in front of year 10, it has never been about ‘I’ – it’s always been about ‘we’ and ‘us’.

There’s a real danger with teaching, with social entrepreneurship, with life more generally that we look for individuals: That’s a futile way of thinking, because I don’t believe that anything great can be the product of one person – it’s the collaboration.

Behind a mountaineer is the support team, and often the Sherpa carrying all the bags. Behind the entrepreneur is the people who actually do most of the work. Behind the hero head teacher are a lot of managers, teachers, and parents – and students.

I always think the worst part of teaching, or social entrepreneurship is that sense of being alone.

And so Enabling Enterprise has always been a ‘we’ – our team, our students, our teachers, our business supporters who host the trips. Without the teachers and subject experts who saw that the principles of what we were doing could help their students too, EE would always have been a business studies course. Without business supporters no child would ever have seen inside a business. Without teachers who were willing to take a risk we would never have got off the ground. And without students who were willing to work together, not a single one of the projects and therefore the programmes would have worked.

So, to mark Enabling Enterprise’s third birthday, I’d just like to raise a toast to everyone who has been part of the journey so far, and to everyone who we need to take us to the next stage. Thank you.

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About Enabling Enterprise: … Our Mission Enabling Enterprise is an award-winning not-for-profit social enterprise, set up...

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