Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Can we actually find way to build a more entrepreneurial culture in education? A tall order, indeed. But people are certainly trying. And... suddenly, there is serious hope.

My prior post bragged on the new Entrepreneurship/Economics course that the Idaho Digital Learning Academy is launching this fall. That's a great start; let me tell you about some initiatives that seek broader, systemic change!

The key to a more entrepreneurial culture is nurturing a more entrepreneurial mindset- here it's growing that mindset in educational leaders. In turn, we also need to provide strong mechanisms to enable leaders to implement more entrepreneurial solutions. Across the nation, one typical mechanism is to fund a public, inclusive charter school. (In some places the public charter school will supplant a failed existing school.)

In Louisiana they are beginning to train future principals and other administrators to think and act more entrepreneurially. (A solidly bipartisan effort hosted by LSU and pushed by new Governor Jindal.) Meanwhile, they've raised a ton of money to launch several of those inclusive public charter schools. By the time the schools are ready to go, a cadre of entrepreneurial principals will be ready to take charge. Eventually, this will become an official alternative certification for principals and these "entrepreneurial principals" will the ones assigned for all school turnarounds. (That is, if you want the job of doing a turnaround, you must have this training!) Fascinating model, but there are comparable programs nationally, from NYC to rural Indiana.

While much more expensive, building the schools isn't the hard part. The hard part (duh) is "converting" educators who've been immersed in the bureaucratic mindset -- Definitely not a job for amateurs! This is really a process of surfacing their "inner entrepreneur" - but at least the initial volunteers are visibly not your typical school administrator. And the "hook" of social entrepreneurship reduces resistance from the usual suspects while drawing increasing support from the entrepreneurial and social entrepreneurial community. If there was a core group of future Idaho principals going through first-rate entrepreneurship training, can you imagine the buzz if they attended a Kickstand meeting?

The highly constructivistic nature of entrepreneurship education turned them on too - great entrepreneurship training is far from the norm of most college classroom, so the entrepreneurial exercises they are going through are also building the credibility of this training. Like any competent entrepreneurship training, this isn't about transferring knowledge; the truly important part is changing how they structure their knowledge at a very deep level. That meant this was a pretty intense experience for me - you can't train entrepreneurial minds without understanding entrepreneurial minds and you can't train them without deep knowledge of constructivistic learning. In particular, we have to keep the students immersed in that deep change in how they think. Whew! (But we are getting there... so, yes, there's much hope!

[On a humorous note, I had the fun of showing them "entrepreneurial resource acquisition". My syllabus mentioned the OPM model... but instead of "Other People's Money", the teachers thought OPM stood for "Office of Personnel Management", which understandably baffled them, LOL! But... humor can be a powerful ally in this effort, eh?]

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Youth (High School) Entrepreneurship Course:

The Idaho Rural Partnership's Entrepreneurship Task Force commissioned the Idaho Digital
Learning Academy ( to create a new version of the required
'Economics' course that has a major, major entrepreneurship spin to it. It must meet the
state's standards which aren't too high, but do push students toward financial literacy (which we've talked about before). They develop and deliver true distance-delivery courses in an amazing array of subjects. Definitely worth checking out, even if this course doesn't interest you.

IDLA's deal is that schools do not have to pay extra for students to take their courses.
Obviously, the home-schooled, et al. are a key market, but it's open to any Idaho HS student. And it really pays off for rural students.

IDLA is REALLY good at distance-delivery and are very cost-effective. Only $10K to develop
and TechConnect has put up the $10K, so added kudos to Reverend Rick!

Course content obviously must follow the Econ standards BUT we also have adapted cutting-edge entrepreneurship material provided to us by the entrepreneurship training group of the International Labour Organisation. [Note: ILO has done entrepreneurship training in developing countries since the late 1970s! Not your typical UN-type outfit...] ILO's youth entrepreneurship program in (or will be in) ~30 countries. Their flagship is "Know About Business" first course & IDLA is adapting much of that KAB material. Students also have a series of genuine experiential exercises provided by yours truly that will make this unique. All this will be followed by at least one more course that will be a 'pure' entrepreneurship elective.

* Nobody has a true distance-delivery HS entrepreneurship course of this type
* Nobody else has access to the ILO's battle-tested content material & their guru, Bob Nelson
* Nobody else has the bleeding-edge experiential approach... (well, almost...)

Now, two or three national conferences want this presented - a real coup for Idaho.

Note: This is particularly good for the entrepreneurial community (and the economic development community) - the students will want to build bridges to both, so there should be opportunities for all of us to help.

PLEASE feel free to pass this along to parents... and students who might have some interest - thanks!