«J'entreprends@Bruxelles»: an innovative concept

A non-profit organisation in a run-down urban area of the Belgian capital has received the support of URBAN II, to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in the underprivileged sections of the population. The method used by this "economic literacy" campaign makes it truly original: an interactive game adapted to individual needs.

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Developing capacities and creativity: the J'entreprends@Bruxelles training concept based on a game Developing capacities and creativity: the J'entreprends@Bruxelles training concept based on a game

Background

Creating a business is most certainly not a game – even less so keeping it alive. There is, however, a fun way to learn about entrepreneurship. This method was implemented by Groupe One(1), a non-profit organisation in Saint Gilles near the South Station, in one of the run-down urban areas of Brussels where various economic and social handicaps are accompanied by high unemployment rates, warranting the support of the European programme URBAN II.

A flexible method for everyone with lasting benefits

This method originated in South Africa(2), and is based on an interactive business simulation game which places participants in an entrepreneurial context. This "learning by doing" method allows them to assess their responsibilities, learn from their mistakes and stimulate their creativity. "J'entreprends@Bruxelles" is organised in different game modules which end with "debriefings" aimed at firmly establishing the acquired knowledge. Each module is based on the information acquired during the previous module, with the complexity increasing in stages. This training formula is flexible in terms of its length and content, and benefits young people and adults alike, regardless of their level: no prior knowledge is required. The module often ends with a visit from a young entrepreneur – according to the group's profile – who comes to share his or her experiences and enthusiasm.

While "J'entreprends@Bruxelles" has the mission to raise entrepreneurship awareness among the underprivileged sections of the population, a parallel programme entitled "HomoResponsabilis" uses the same method to introduce these people to sustainable development issues related to business. Groupe One oversees the activities of the "Local Economy Counter of Saint Gilles", a support service for aspiring entrepreneurs (which the training session participants are often directed towards) under the remit of the "Business Centre of Saint Gilles" which accommodates approximately forty young SMEs, as well as managing a local development fund. These activities receive the support of an extensive partnership.

Results

"J'entreprends@Bruxelles" has been operational since January 2005 following a development and test phase, and at the end of 2006 had provided a total of 465 hours of training(3) to 828 people from secondary schools, higher education institutions, NGOs and vocational and social integration bodies, or to people with a business project. The vast majority of these people were very satisfied with the training. The programme's impact is beyond measure, because in many cases it provides participants with a form of "economic literacy" which may bear fruit in unexpected ways and situations. "J'entreprends@Bruxelles", "HomoResponsabilis" and all of Groupe One's activities constitute a versatile and dynamic approach to boosting local development in underprivileged areas.

Finally, the method has proved to be widely transferable. In addition to launching "J'entreprends@Wallonie" in partnership with FOREM Conseil (a service offered by the employment agency), Groupe One is getting involved at international level via independent associations in Poland and – back in Africa – in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

(1) Group involved in research and action in the area of sustainable development and local economic development.

(2) Designed by the South African Institute of Entrepreneurship before being developed on a wide scale in the United States by the company Making Cents International (website: http://www.makingcents.com/).

(3) Free of charge until the end of 2006 for schools and associations in the URBAN zone.

Draft date

01/01/2007