Today, GEC+ convenes in Daegu, Korea to shine light on the significant role that entrepreneurship education plays in future success. Hosted by the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation (KEF), the program is designed to illuminate the best evidence-based entrepreneurship education policies, programs and practices by bringing together Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) members and other leading experts from around the world for two days of presentations and discussions on the subject.
One goal is to identify the best international methods for instilling essential entrepreneurial characteristics, such as self-confidence, autonomy, a strong work ethic, ambition, and an internal sense of control – all of which are needed for entrepreneurs to have the drive and ability to see new ideas through to reality. In addition to highlighting the significant role entrepreneurship education plays in motivating people to become entrepreneurs – and its lasting impact on the success of start-ups and business owners – KEF also seeks to promote the fact that cultivating entrepreneurial qualities helps students across every profession. Innovativeness, self-confidence, and planning abilities are critical drivers of professional success. As one study found, developing entrepreneurial skills as a student is a greater determinate of future progress than having a PhD.
Another goal of GEC+ is to frame a South African pilot study of the subject. This effort is being led by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation with assistance from GERN. During GEC+, GERN is holding an executive session to inform the study’s approach with the experience of GERN members, such as the Ciputra Foundation, and global experts. In framing the data collection parameters, a key consideration is replicability so that other GERN members are able to conduct similar, comparable studies of their own – something KEF in particular is keen to do.
Last week, in the lead up to GEC+, GERN organized a Field Report that featured Dr. Kelly Shaver, a professor of entrepreneurial studies in the School of Business at the College of Charleston. He is a preeminent scholar on the behavioral and social determinants of entrepreneurship and was instrumental in developing the Panel Studies of Entrepreneurial Dynamics (PSED), the only nationally representative sample reflecting the firm creation process. These longitudinal surveys of U.S.-based individuals who are in the process of starting a business capture data about nascent entrepreneurs during a specific time frame.
Dr. Shaver offered three points on the design of the AGO/GERN study: comparison, action, and classification. To ensure comparability, he said, it is important to not only develop a standard set of survey questions, but also to establish who will be asked to take the survey. For example, if entrepreneurs, are they owners, founders, managers, or a combination of these? Also, determine comparison groups, i.e. will the study compare nascent entrepreneurs to experienced entrepreneurs, or entrepreneurs to business managers or to all people?
Often omitted, or taken for granted, in entrepreneurial endeavor is the critical importance of action, Dr. Shaver said. These are the activities that entrepreneurs take in the process of organizing, running, and maintaining a business. The AGO/GERN study should measure what entrepreneurs do as well as what they think, which requires routinely touching base and comparing data over time.
Dr. Shaver’s third point, related to classification – defining terms and correctly classifying concepts – underscored the importance of breaking key concepts down to their elements. For example, many studies emphasize achievement motivation in testing entrepreneurial ideas without dissecting it into its component parts: 1) anticipated probability of success of an action; 2) internal motive to approach success; and 3) internal motive to avoid failure. Past studies that failed to take each of the three into account ended up with skewed and inconclusive results.
In addition to carefully defining terms and being clear about who and what it is being measuring, Dr. Shaver stressed the importance of capturing the distinction between necessity-driven and opportunity-driven entrepreneurship. This, he said, will help to ensure international comparability due to different rates of necessity between countries.
Dr. Kare Moberg of the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship followed Dr. Shaver. He led the development of entrepreneurship education at 14 universities in Denmark and Sweden and assists policymakers on assessing entrepreneurship education at different levels of the education system. The Foundation and seven partners developed a system to track how entrepreneurship education in different European countries impacts the cognitive skills of students at different grade levels over a six-year time frame. The scale combines variables on entrepreneurship, self-efficacy, intentions, attitudes, and mindset with school engagement, relationships in the classroom, and relationship with the teacher. The assessment tool is now available as an app – developed by the Foundation – that can be used by teachers to gauge the effectiveness of different approaches, and compare their results with those of others.
In assessing the AGO/GERN methodology, Dr. Moberg cautioned against having too wide a scope, saying to focus only on collecting necessary data. The longer the questionnaire, he said, the lower the response rate. He suggested creating a standard set of survey questions for everyone, and then different sub-sets of questions for different groups, which would result in a shorter survey for everyone.
In response to a question from Amisha Miller of the Kauffman Foundation, Immanuel Commarmond of AGO said that a goal of the study is to begin tracking a set measurement indicators of entrepreneurial mindset to set useful benchmarks so that policies and programs that seek to foster entrepreneurial characteristics can be better assessed for their efficacy.
During GEC+, GERN members and those involved in the AGO/GERN study hope to establish a finalized question set, and continue to share ideas and best practices for continuing the study of entrepreneurship education and the entrepreneurial mindset in school systems.