Every couple of months, a new mobile app contest pops up, promising young people the resources, mentorship, and network to create a software product that will transform their communities and the world.
Of course this is possible, but not everyone is an entrepreneur, founder, creator…and that’s OKAY. I know I’m not the first to point this out, but the number of well-funded competitions has only magnified.
The overemphasis on software product development, mobile application impact and the need to “scale” is disconcerting, because as we all know, technology will not fix the world’s most pressing issues, but youth with the right skills, opportunities and commitment to civic action can.
Youth may not produce a viable product in a week long competition or hackathon, but they do acquire and enhance invaluable life and employment skills like critical and creative thinking, collaboration, negotiation, storytelling, leadership and relevant technical literacy when they are engaged in the entrepreneurship process over time.
Rather than produce a cornucopia of one-off events, which rarely produce sustainable impact, why not extract and amplify the good “stuff” from these initiatives…the hands-on learning processes?
We Should Focus on Entrepreneurship Education
What if the international development, corporate and business communities pumping out these events advocated for the benefits of entrepreneurship education, instead of pushing all youth to be entrepreneurs or inventors with game-changing profitable products?
In 2012 Time magazine highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship education, and that is not synonymous with scaling countless products or starting your own business. Some youth may become entrepreneurs, but many may continue their education or find gainful employment with a new set of skills, which in the long-term can create meaningful change.
This could translate into better governance, more efficient management practices across various industries or heightened self-efficacy and civic engagement. It’d be a worthwhile endeavor to develop more robust programs at the secondary or even primary education level, which encourage youth to think critically, be creative and work with their peers through project-based learning and entrepreneurial exercises.
Why does anyone have to wait until they’re in their mid or late 20’s and go to an expensive business school to learn these essential life and employment skills? (Which isn’t even guaranteed). They should be accessible to everyone from early childhood.
I’m not discouraging youth to apply to the various competitions and contests out there, but it’s important to recognize that there is no killer app for community transformation. Positive change only comes from committed and engaged community members.