Enterprise is about purposeful action. The dictionaries define it as boldness or a readiness in any undertaking; an adventurous spirit; ingenuity. Enterprise, and therefore enterprise education, has a wider application than limiting it within a popular perception of developing a company to be focused on earning money.
This ‘business only’ view of enterprise education has skewed the common understanding of an enterprise or the entrepreneur to a business person building an organisation focused on making money. However, enterprise is undertaken by any individual or any team to achieve a described goal. Not to be confused with innovation, which is an act of bringing together spheres of knowledge or understanding in new or novel ways to achieve something that has not been achieved before. Many enterprises involve innovations, although not exclusively.
In considering enterprise education, I believe that it should include a number of dimensions that reflect the full range of purposeful human activity to focus on a whole range of enterprising endeavour rather than just creating items or services for monetary return. The purpose of many actions may not involve the exchange of money at all but are undertaken for a wider purpose or intention. Let us also be clear that any such wider view of enterprise, or defined purpose, does not assume they are done for free and will not involve the exchange of money. It simply accepts that profit is not the primary purpose and understands that as they are completed there will be a cost wherever that resource comes from. I emphasise that inevitably there may be costs involved in any activities completion: a personal development, community benefit, an environmental protection concern or enhancement, a project about social cohesion and enrichment are all prime and important purposes, that will cost but are not driven by a profit motive and are equally important.
In developing a framework for enterprise education I suggest that a way to communicate this breadth of purposes is within 6 dimensions, you may suggest more but these are where you may begin. Within this framework enterprise can be considered with tangible effect in a broader mindset than simply as ‘business education.’
The six dimensions that I have described can be articulated as;
- Social Enterprise
- Commercial Enterprise
- Financial Enterprise
- Personal Enterprise
- Creative Enterprise
- Environmental Enterprise
Each has a specific role and specific purpose.
Six dimensions of enterprise
Commercial enterprises are those activities that are driven by the goal of creating profit or monetary growth. The creation of items or services that can be sold with the specific purpose of making money for those who own the company. The commonly understood business enterprise project, the purpose is to create wealth.
Social or cultural enterprises are actions where the goal is focused on a community or social benefit. For anyone who has operated in the charity world we understand that every charity has to declare its community benefit, to determine why people should make donations to support the purpose. The purpose given gives reasons and accountability for any given money to achieve its aims. In the commercial world a social enterprise bridges a gap between shareholder owned business and charity, they still need to make money but they have a specific social benefit within their reason for existing rather than the purpose of profit for the owners of a company. In terms of the legal entity these can be described as Community Interest Companies (CICs.) In education terms we are teaching that some enterprise is defined by its social purpose rather than monetary purpose. For example, an organisation that has as its labour force made up of those coming out of the criminal justice system, or refugees, their focus on rehabilitation through work rather than simple profit, they need to make money but profit is not the primary driver. The work must still be purposeful, meaningful and also make money to continue to exist.
Financial enterprise focuses on a actions and goals that create financial security and well-being. There is a fine line between Commercial and Financial but the latter has a realm of thoughts that go beyond sale of goods or services. For example, creating a saving or spending plans, creating a budget, managing resources including money in personal or group finances. Buying insurance to protect against loss, borrowing money to purchase a large items and getting security from financial processes. These activities are about money but they are activities that involve a different set purposes, actions, attributes and abilities.
Personal enterprise enables is about purposes that enable an individual to set personal intentions and goals to be the person they desire to be. Setting goals, developing habits, achieving increasing personal performance, personal objectives, determining aspirations and ambitions and working toward them. Actions that enable a person to achieve outcomes that each aspires to. For example, a personal physical training programme to loose or control body weight, a revision plan to achieve a particular grade or level in a test, a training programme to achieve a personal best in a sporting event or be fit enough to be selected for the team. Each is a purpose driven activity that is facilitated by skills, attributes and knowledge that enable the purposes to be achieved.
Creative or aesthetic enterprises are the actions and disciplines that are undertaken to achieve purely creative or aesthetic outcomes. These may be focused on the development of our well-being and senses whether it be sound, sight, smell, touch or taste. For example, the creation of a piece of art or music for the benefit of others to appreciate, experience, or gain emotionally from it. These enterprising acts are often undertaken for their intrinsic value rather than for quantifiable gain.
Environmental enterprises are actions undertaken for the purpose of the benefit and betterment of the environment. Clearly some might have commercial, social or financial benefit, and so overlap with those above, but this is included to define actions that are focused on the environmental or ecological benefit. For example, a project to save the coral reefs, reduce the plastic in the oceans, enable the reforestation of land across a continent, saving endangered species or reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by increasing renewable energy sources. These are all purposeful actions that have clear goals and intentions, not defined by commercial directives but equally, some will say much more, important.
These six dimensions describe actions and intentions that are all purposeful and define enterprise in a wider context than simply activity to make money. If we understand and define the purpose of an activity there are enterprises that go far beyond the simple commercial mindset that will educate our young people that to be enterprising can have many dimensions and many valuable purposes. You will have seen in presenting it this way that the educational purpose in defining enterprise with a broader remit we are preparing future generations to value the definition of the purpose of actions beyond how much money they make.
Having worked with charity CEOs for the past 20 years I know that there are many, highly skilled and purpose driven people across the world for whom profit is not the prime directive of their vision but are equally enterprising and innovative as those in the commercial sectors. However, enabling us to see, perceive the value their goals and purposes alongside and often above the simplistic commercial view is a responsibility we need to educate future generations for and not leave to chance.
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