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Wednesday 12 February 2014

EU grant paves way for new European entrepreneurship programme

Students from across Europe recently took part in a ground-breaking social entrepreneurship programme, led and hosted by Southampton Solent University.

Funded by a €35,000 European Union grant, the programme, thought to be the first of its kind, seeks to combine EU initiatives on developing cultural competences with new ideas about social entrepreneurship.

Twenty-four students from Austria, Finland, Lithuania and Spain attended the ten- day programme. They heard from eight social entrepreneurs who trade in a diverse range of businesses, including the rehabilitation of sex workers through jewellery making, integrating home workers using vacant office spaces and supporting Tsunami widows through textile manufacturing.

Guest speakers included the CEO of Marwell Zoo, who discussed the difficulties of managing the social and entrepreneurial aspects of a large business; and Senior Lecturer in Sports Sociology, Oscar Mwaanga, who has pioneered a number of  sports-led initiatives which have been implemented in 30 countries.

The multicultural aspects were covered by project partners, Acadia University (Finland); Salzburg University of Applied Sciences (Austria); Kauko University (Lithuania); and Murcia University (Spain). Students were asked to dissect English culture, before going on to explore the dynamics of their own cultural predispositions by working in multicultural teams.

During the second week, the students were put into teams and asked to come up with country-specific social enterprises. They had to pitch their ideas to a Dragons’ Den -type panel, including Peter Barker, an international consultant for KPMG and Senior Accountancy Lecturer, Richard Cartwright.

Solent University’s Steven Henderson with students from across Europe who took part in the ground-breaking programme at Southampton Solent University

Students presented a range of projects, including the integration of lone older women in Finland through textile working aimed at the Christmas market; the engagement of unemployed Spanish graduates in tourism through ‘free’ tours; and a YouTube funded mentorship programme and fair trade ice-cream project that would work in many countries.

“The panel was impressed at how well the students had put together and presented their projects”, said project co-ordinator, Steven Henderson.

“The programme has been a great success. Students have left with a sense of purpose and a strong network to help fuel their future entrepreneurial ambitions,” he added.

This social entrepreneurship project is the legacy of the Austrian-led Skill2e programme, of which Solent University was one of the six partners.