I’ve been asked by the editor to write for the Bdaily, so I thought to kick things off, I would write something about collaboration. After, many of the tools available to us in the digital world are based on just this topic, so for my first blog it seemed fitting.
I probably need to tell you who I am to put this in context. I’m Stu Anderson (you can follow me on twitter on @stujbanderson), Director of Shell LiveWIRE, the Shell Social Investment programme to support young entrepreneurs (www.shell-livewire.org), a programme delivered by The PNE Group based in Newcastle. Amongst many hats I wear, I’m a director of ISBE and on a number of advisory boards such as SFEDI and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Entrepreneurship chaired by Lord Ahmed. I’ve also worked with people like the United Nations as a panel expert on Entrepreneurship. To me, if you have experience and a voice- it should be heard, so many of these roles allow just that to happen. Due to my work, in daily life I come across hundreds of young entrepreneurs so have a unique perspective on the entrepreneurial landscape in the UK. These entrepreneurs need advice and a boost to get them going. Luckily there are some fantastic players in the field of helping young entrepreneurs start up. We have all heard the importance of an entrepreneurial economy to create wealth, and it starts with young people. However, my experience is just one facet of the entrepreneurial economy.
I realised some time ago, that in order to really get things moving in the UK, the players in this field needed to collaborate to become greater than the sum of the parts. An obvious thing to say you may think- but for too long so many diverse sectors have organisations working in isolation, which in this digital age is crazy. Spurred on by the Virgin Media Pioneers (VMP) ‘Control Shift’ Report, which came out in a timely fashion, advising that greater colloboration was needed in the sector, we decided to bring together a group of people who could share ideas, collaborate and make things happen. That was in December last year, and the National Youth Enterprise Working Group (NYEWG) was born.
Fast forward to now, and there is a tale to be told of how collaboration can get things moving. Not only that, it is also a tale of how engaging with your client group can produce ideas, and collaboration can put weight behind them. The VMP Control Shift report recommended that there needed to be a form of Investment Fund for young people. After all, you can get a big loan to go to university, but why can’t you get one to help you start a business? More young people are thinking that it might be better to skip an expensive university education and dive straight in to becoming an entrepreneur. VMP consulted with young entrepreneurs and this was driven by them. Now, something like this has been mused about for years, so this is not the first time it has been mentioned, and in my business adviser days I certainly had young people bemoaning just that- loans for education, but not to start a business. But VMP took this idea, and ran with it knowing that a scheme like this would benefit a huge number of young people wanting to ‘Start Up’.
Around the table at the NYEWG are experienced, national organisations involved in delivering programmes for young entrepreneurs- Shell LiveWIRE, The Princes Trust, NACUE, UnLtd, The Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, Youth Business International, Young Enterprise and the IoD. Collectively they have a huge amount of experience in the area, and it was the perfect vehicle to put weight behind an idea like this. So, troops were very much rallied, and using all of our collective experience the group embarked on making things happen. In a short space of time, the NYEWG was instrumental in the Chancellor, George Osbourne speaking in the House of Commons on budget day, saying “We are also exploring enterprise loans. Young people get a loan to go to University or College. Now we want to help them get a loan to start their own business.” A pilot for the scheme has been announced and the ball is very much rolling. From idea to initiation in a short space of time.
So, the moral of the story shows that in order to make things happen, collaboration is vital- sometimes you just can’t get the results you want by going it alone. I am a complete beliver in social media tools allowing much of this to happen. Contact with clients and customers can now become collaboration. You can ask the masses what they want by typing a few lines on a social media platform. Campaigns can be fought and won by using the power of collaboration.