Entrepreneurial West Hisingen aims at developing entrepreneurial capacity in a multicultural district with high unemployment and low aspirations.
The three-strand project has developed and executed business support for SMEs and worked with entrepreneurship in schools, however not focusing on the art of starting businesses but on the art of developing important competencies for life as well as employability. The ‘entrepreneurship in education’ strand teaches entrepreneurial skills to young people aged six to 16. ‘Start your business’ provides budding entrepreneurs with courses, support and networks. The city offers this support in various languages and targets specific groups. And for young businesses, the ‘develop your business’ strand maps growth opportunities and paths for development.
The aim of the project was to increase the attractiveness of the district and to improve confidence and self-belief among residents, by encouraging sustainability start ups and better school results. Improving children’s self belief and entrepreneurs’ business skills is helping to build confidence in the future.
Originally published by EUROCITIES, the network of 130 European cities - PDF: http://nws.eurocities.eu/MediaShell/media/CitiesInAction_GothenburgsEntrepreneurialHub_Nov15.pdf
This project was awarded the 'EUROCITIES Awards' in 2015 in the following category: Cooperation. Learn more about the award.
Background and objectives
A road divides the district of West Hisingen into two distinct areas. On one side there’s a mainly native Swedish population with a strong business tradition. On the other is a rapidly growing community of immigrants. Here, low education levels and chaotic lives were stifling self esteem and employability and allowing gang culture to take hold. There was an urgent need to break the cycle of disengagement and poverty and help citizens develop the competence and confidence they need for life and employability.
The city designed an innovative initiative to achieve three things: stimulate start-ups, increase the survival rate and growth of existing businesses, and embed entrepreneurship education into schools. With the cooperation of Gothenburg’s two universities, NGOs such as the Red Cross, housing company Poseidon, and local business organisations and public services, Entrepreneurial West Hisingen was born. The partners’ shared goal was the creation of a new entrepreneurial identity for the district, new quality job opportunities and long term interest in entrepreneurship among young people.
Entrepreneurial West Hisingen was born established a range of services available in different languages, such as workshops, courses and personal guidance. It also created The Greenhouse, a ‘business hotel’ offering new entrepreneurs office and networking spaces. This was also where established entrepreneurs could attend a special business development programme and get advice from masters students on issues like patents, agreements and public procurement.
The most unusual - and controversial - aspect of the project was its work with schools. Recognising that providing a good education in traditional subjects was not working in terms of encouraging attendance or enabling employability, the project focused on developing the entrepreneurial competencies most likely to help young people thrive beyond school.
Financing and resources
With a total budget €1.9m, the project was primarily funded by the city of Gothenburg and the European Regional Development Fund.
Results and impacts
The project held 600 start-up talks and 100 new businesses were set up as a direct result. Over 4,500 people visited The Greenhouse. In total, 800 new businesses were established during the project.
Many elements of the original two-year project have now become permanent, such as The Greenhouse and the development programme for innovative businesses. Others, such as the incubator, have been further developed. There is now, for example, a fast-track incubator for newly arrived immigrants from Syria who ran successful businesses in their home country. And yet more ideas to emerge from the project are now being tested, including masters students passing on their good business ideas to prospective entrepreneurs.
It is the project’s influence in schools, however, that the team believes will have the greatest impact on the district’s long term economic and social health. All local schools now understand how they can support the development of entrepreneurial competencies and many children have started developing vital life skills. Ten schools created plans for systematically working with entrepreneurship and got involved in ‘The Young Storytellers’ project. This saw 2,000 pupils write, publish and sell their own books. Summer entrepreneur programmes run by schools have proved very popular, with students being able to launch businesses that have a positive social impact.
Barriers and challenges
Persuading local politicians of the wisdom of prioritising subjects like chaos management over maths was one of the many challenges the project faced. Another was finding ways to reach women within the Muslim community. This was solved, in part, by inviting Muslim men to come along and bring female members of their family. There was also initial hostility to the predominantly white project team among some community groups, although this was eased with time and familiarity.
Lessons learned and transferability
A mobile app project with Chalmers University of Technology is now underway. This will enable schools to systematically assess the level of entrepreneurial competencies of their students. The Loop Me app is being tested by children across three countries and could help change the way education is structured in Europe to build students’ confidence and motivation. This aspect of the project in particular has already aroused interest in Finland, Norway, Turkey, Portugal and Spain.
The project won the EUROCITIES award for cooperation in November 2015.
Cities in action - Gothenburg’s entrepreneurial hub, Entrepreneurial West Hisingen - EUROCITIES, November 2015.