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Dr James Small visits Copenhagen to talk about entrepreneurship education

Dr James Small, Scientific Director of the Tilburg Center of Entrepreneurship (TCE) visited Copenhagen recently to learn more about how education in entrepreneurship is organised in Denmark.

The visit was coordinated by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO) who arranged an interesting program of visits to a number of parties including the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship (FFE), the Copenhagen Business School (CBS), 

Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE), and the Copenhagen School of Design & Technology (KEA). The intensive two days of meetings provided many insights into the advantages and opportunities that the lessons from Denmark could bring.

It is clear that there is a need to tackle many economic and societal challenges to empower individuals, and entrepreneurial activity is one way to innovate and find solutions. There are clearly many excellent programs and initiatives in the Netherlands in relation to entrepreneurship education. However, many challenges arise from the existence of a wide range of diverse, disconnected (or only loosely connected) often competing initiatives to organize, stimulate and support entrepreneurship education at all levels. From schools to universities, approaches vary and the goals, ways of measuring, language and content are generally inconsistent.

Faced with similar challenges, in 2010 the Danish government decided to tackle such problems by establishing the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship (FFE). The FFE is a nationally funded organization given the task of implementing a consistent approach to entrepreneurship education at all levels. It received strong backing from four ministries: the Ministry for Higher Education and Science, the Ministry of Business and Growth, the Ministry for Children, Education and Gender Equality, and the Ministry of Culture.

The FFE has developed a model for explaining and teaching entrepreneurship, tools and processes for implementing programs, and it carries out research into the effectives of such tools. Key to their success is the development of a framework. Their framework is based on a number of dimensions; Action, Attitude, Creativity and Outward orientation. Their framework covers not only the necessary knowledge but also the development of relevant competencies and attitudes.

  • Action: action taking, value creation, communication, cooperation, planning, networking
  • Attitude: belief in one’s own abilities (self efficacy), accept uncertainty, ambiguity and failure, ethical reflection
  • Creativity: ideas and opportunities, using existing knowledge in new areas, problem-solving
  • Outward orientation: ability to analyze and understand culture, social contexts, market, economy

The creation of a consistent approach has brought several advantages; in particular that the same framework and processes can be progressively used at all levels.  Another key success factor results from a strategy based on long term thinking and investment in teaching that allows educators themselves to develop in this field and thus get the most out of their students. To help to do so, the FFE spends around 25% of its budget to fund projects at educational institutes.

Whether or not a similar initiative is appropriate for the Netherlands is a moot point. However, a long term strategic view and a consistent framework that allows educators to teach, evaluate and share seems to be an effective way to empower them to be successful. Developing young adults who have an entrepreneurial mindset and develop self-efficacy will contribute to solving economic and societal challenges and provide a foundation for lifelong learning. With this in mind a similar initiative certainly has merit and so a trip to Denmark is recommended.