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AIESEC and the entrepreneurial challenge

by Giorgia Artioli

06/01/2012

The world is experiencing one of the most extraordinary periods in history. The financial crisis combined with rising inflation and the consequent slowdown in global demand, has engendered significant insecurity about the outlook of world economy. Entrepreneurship and education are two extraordinary opportunities that need to be interconnected if we want to develop the human capital required for building the societies of the future. Entrepreneurship is the engine fuelling innovation, employment generation and economic growth (Schwab, 2009). This is the reason why entrepreneurship education is assuming extraordinary relevance within academic programs all over the world (Alberti, Sciascia, Poli, 2004).  The assumption is that it can be considered a discipline and, like any discipline, it can be learned (Druker, 1986).

A particular Entrepreneurship Action Plan was adopted by European Commission in February 2004, suggesting horizontal measures for the Member States to create a supportive framework for entreprenurship policy. The document focuses on a strategic aim: fuelling entrepreneurial mindsets among young people (Green Paper, 2003) in order to satisfy economic and personal development. In a society characterized by change and flexibility, in fact, entrepreneurship is the only key to reach innovation and competitiveness.

This hard challenge can be won through the creation of a link between education and work. Even if both schools and Universities are trying to fill this gap, a real important role is played by students’ organizations. Thanks to their method, based on learning by doing, organizations can make people protagonists of their success. AIESEC is an example of the extraordinary contribution given by the associations.

Present in over 110 countries and territories and with over 60.000 members, AIESEC is the world’s largest youth-run organization. Focused on providing a platform for youth leadership development, it offers young people the opportunity to participate in international internships, experience leadership and participate in a global learning environment through an approach based on the respect of sustainability and diversity. The main idea is that young people should be aware of their skills and the opportunities through which they can be improved in order to answer to the instability of our society, especially in the professional field. This positive attitude is visible in one of AIESEC’s mottos: “Be the change you wanna see in the world”.

To show the importance of the practical work done in this context there are some good results to take into account. After the administration of a questionnaire,  I demonstrated how some particular aspects  such as locus of control, employability and proactivity are present in people with concrete experiences and strong competences, as aiesecers are. Making statistic comparisons between all the data I understood not only that the values of the variables were significant, but also that there were a positive correlation between them. Other interesting considerations came from the opinions that the members have about themes related to entrepreneurship. These considerations gave me the opportunity to make some general reflections about  the changes that have characterized our society in the last decades. The students from my research, in fact, underline more the importance of personal skills than the presence of entrepreneurs in their family. This is a big turning point if we consider the past contribution given by the family in the choice of children’s work. The person is now the centre of his/her decision’s process.

Another important change deals with the reasons why a person want to be an entrepreneur. In these student’s opinion the key to success is the personal fulfillment and not, as happened in the past, the search for richness. It is not a case that the association believes in the social entrepreneurship, looking forward the simple  profit’s creation.

The last observation questions the relationship between work and academic education. When  students compare the importance of these two elements in order to create new businesses the result is not so surprising: almost all prefer improving practical skills rather than having a theoretical education. This data can be read taking into account the kind of experience lived in the organization. Members have to face difficult situations that have to be solved quickly implementing concrete strategies; this means that what is done inside the association is seen by its members as a professional experience and not as academic education.

As a demonstration of AIESEC’s good impact on the society I want to share the opinion of an important leader : The United Nations has long recognised that the imagination, ideals and energies of young men and women are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live. And since its inception in 1948, AIESEC has contributed to this development by serving as an agent of positive change trough education and cultural exchange.” (Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General of the United Nation).

 

References

  1. Alberti, F., Sciascia, S., Poli, A. “Entrepreneurship Education: Notes on an Ongoing Debate”, paper presented at the 14th IntEnt Conference, University of Napoli Federico II, 4-7 July, 2004.
  2. Blenker, P. (2003) “Learning and teaching entrepreneurship: How to reformulate the question?”, paper presented at the 13th Global IntEnt Conference, Grenoble, France.
  3. Commission of the European Communities (2003) Green Paper: “Entrepreneurship in Europe”, Bruxelles: Enterprise Publications.
  4. Drucker, P. (1986) Innovation and entrepreneurship,  Milano: Etas.
  5. Gartner, W.B. (1988) “Who is an entrepreneur? Is the wrong question”, in American Journal of small business, 12 (4), pp. 11-32.
  6. Jones, G., Wadhwani, R. D. (2007) “Entrepreneurial Theory and History of Globalization”, in Business and Economic History, Vol. 5.
  7. Kirby, D. (2006) “Entrepreneurship education: can business school meet the challenge?” in A. Fayolle, H. Klandt, International Entrepreneurship Education: Issues and Newness.
  8. Kreuger, N.F. (2003) “The Cognitive Psycology of Entrepreneurship” , Handbook of Entrepreneurship Research, 105-140.
  9. Solomon, G.T (2006) “Are we teaching small business management to entrepreneurs and entrpreneurship to small business?”  paper presented at the meeting of the United States Association for Small Business and entrpreneurship, Tucson, AZ.
  10. Vyakarnam, S. “Entrepreneurial intensity: Searching for the hero inside”, paper presented at ISBA Conference, University of Surrey, appendix 7.
  11. World Economic Forum (2009), “Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs” a report of the Global Education Initiative, Switzerland.

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