New Educational Environment and Entrepreneurship
On September 16, a large conference titled ‘YES SHE CAN!’ took place in both online and offline formats. That initiative is aimed at developing women’s leadership in the IT and STEM fields. A set of sessions of the event was devoted to women’s businesses and startups. The Innopolis provided a platform for the meeting of experts dedicated to education and the formation of the conditions for developing entrepreneurial qualities in the younger generation.
Vasily Sikorsky, co-founder of the Vlagere.ru service for selecting children’s camps and the Supra online academy for children, was the moderator of the meeting. As he emphasized, the topic of education of the future stimulating the development of entrepreneurial qualities is being actively discussed in the professional community today. Financial and legal literacy, the ability to establish communication and to articulate and implement ideas are the competencies that are useful not only in business or any other profession but also in life. That is why today it is so important to create a high-quality educational space able to bring up all the necessary skills in the younger generation.
The meeting brought together the experts having serious experience in education and fulfilment of social and entrepreneurial projects. The speakers shared examples of successful practices of developing an educational entrepreneurial environment. They also expressed their opinions on what kind of skills modern professionals need.
Maria Obraztsova, PhD in Philology, Director of the Institute of Supplementary Education of the Innopolis University, told about the projects implemented by her personally and her team. Since 2020, the organisation has become a ‘pillar-like’ training centre for digital economy specialists in Russia. It united a number of universities under its aegis. Today, the consortium includes about 400 educational institutions from 78 regions of Russia.
Today, according to Maria Obraztsova, one of the main tasks of the centre is to form entrepreneurial thinking in specialists from different fields.
Almost all supplementary education programmes of the Innopolis University include courses related to entrepreneurial competencies. Ms. Obraztsova believes that any person irrespective of his or her field of activity should be able not only to ‘package’ the result of his or her work and demonstrate its value for society but also calculate all risks and opportunities when fulfilling ideas. That is important when preparing scientific articles describing the results of research relevant to society, applying for grants, and creating any social or commercial product.
Maria Obraztsova also shared her experience in carrying out the ‘Startup as a Diploma’ initiative. Within the project under the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, universities willing to introduce changes in their curricula were selected. The project strives to let students create real entrepreneurial and technological projects not in their free time but as part of their educational process. The startups could serve as the students’ graduation works. This practice has already been implemented in several universities in Russia.
By creating and developing real industrial projects in course of their studies, students gain valuable experience and a clear understanding of what competencies and skills they possess and in what field they can be useful after graduation.
Marina Volynkina, PhD in Law, Rector of the Institute for the Humanities and Information Technologies (IGUMO) and the International College for Arts and Communications (MKIK), spoke about the features and principles of the educational process at her institutions. As a person of science, a mother of many children, and an innovator within, she has always found it important to foster an atmosphere of creativity, student activity, and opportunities in IGUMO and MKIK. She believes that such an environment contributes to the formation of those very entrepreneurial qualities described by Adam Smith: diligence, activity and entrepreneurial spirit.
In addition to theoretical and practical disciplines, a number of social projects are being created within MKIK and IGUMO. Seven years ago, students and lecturers jointly created the Global Talents web-portal of supplementary education. Today, it unites 30 thousand schoolchildren from all regions of Russia. IGUMO students hold webinars, workshops, contests, and events for them. For students, that gives a great experience of interaction with the audience, fulfilment of ideas, and improvement of different professional skills. Together with its senior students and graduates, IGUMO created another large-scale project: the Global Women Media news agency. The website interviews women leaders from around the world regularly.
Thanks to the projects, students can demonstrate such qualities as enthusiasm, initiative, purposefulness, and diligence resulted in professionalism. Already by the time of graduation, the students become active participants of the entrepreneurial sector irrespective of the chosen speciality.
The main feature of the projects is that they are social. Such initiatives give the younger generation important values and life guidelines. All that is no less important for an entrepreneur.
Any business should be based primarily on human values. That is the only way how it can benefit society.
Elena Myakotnikova, Russia’s representative in Women 20 and Board Member of the Synergy Corporation, expressed her opinion on today’s necessity to change the general attitude of Russian society towards entrepreneurial activity. She gave an example of how business is perceived differently in different countries. For example, in the USA, a child’s desire to earn money is considered commendable. Movies often show children selling lemonade or cookies to their neighbours. Moreover, sometimes children perform similar tasks in schools or in scout circles. In Russia, as shown by surveys just a few years ago, many parents perceive entrepreneurship only as a way to make money or to cheat people. Some parents admitted that they would consider it ‘indecent’ if their children started selling candies or crafts to their acquaintances.
Fortunately, the situation is already beginning to change. People are gradually starting to understand business as an area that helps to address the needs and demands of society.
A person able to offer a useful or interesting product to the world has a talent that must be developed.
The attitude to ‘children’s’ entrepreneurship is also changing rapidly. Russia has a large number of tools aimed at supporting that field. As emphasized by Elena Myakotnikova, almost 50 thousand adolescents aged 14-18 years old are registered as self-employed in Russia today. This is the format of employment making it possible to conduct business legally with a fairly large turnover. At the same time, it requires no document work and the percentage of taxation is kept to a minimum.
Andrey Andrusov, Deputy Director of the SOL Centre for Promotion of Innovation in Society, shared his observations related to the gender aspect in entrepreneurship. When taking part in carrying out educational programmes for entrepreneurs, his team noticed an interesting fact: today, there are more and more women among business newcomers. In addition, SOL is the organiser of the contest for social entrepreneurs. As commented by Andrey Andrusov, women also make up the majority of participants in it. Many of them reach the final phases of the contest and win. All that demonstrates that the business environment in Russia is developing and becoming more diverse and accessible.
When speaking about education and bringing up entrepreneurial qualities, Andrey Andrusov emphasized the importance of learning from concrete examples. The expert himself often leans on real-life stories and cases when teaching schoolchildren.
The method of sharing experience among the trainees has also demonstrated its effectiveness within educational programmes for adult entrepreneurs. As a rule, teachers are people having a huge amount of knowledge but focusing on pedagogical and mentoring activities. Entrepreneurs are constantly in the business environment. They know more than anyone else about the trends, innovations, and features of working in it.
All experts of the session unanimously agreed: a high-quality educational environment for the development of entrepreneurs is already being formed in Russia today. Open communication can make it even better and more effective. It is important that the existing entrepreneurs comment on the existing problems and difficulties and also offer their solutions for improving the situation.
As mentioned by Vasily Sikorsky, ambassador of the SKOLKOVO School of Management, the organisation makes a powerful contribution to bringing up entrepreneurial thinking in society. The SKOLKOVO school’s programmes are aimed at not only developing important professional skills but also showing the core values of the profession and teaching entrepreneurs to be responsible for their actions and to promote their businesses proudly.
Promoting a positive entrepreneurial agenda in the media is an important part of developing an entrepreneurial culture in society.
The moderator concluded the meeting with the phrase by Nawal Ravikant, a well-known investor and entrepreneur, who dreamed that one day there would be as many businesses as there are people on the planet. Society will only benefit if everyone develops entrepreneurial skills. A good business is a story about not profit and gain but changing people’s lives for the better.
Viktoria Gusakova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov