Today we published a new report by Adam Lent that argues a new generation of entrepreneurial young people will help us navigate a period of economic transition we are entering – one that places a heavy onus on individual creation. One finding particularly stands out: today's 18-29 year-olds are much keener to start a business than has been the case in the past. In this sense at least, the rhetoric of an entrepreneurial generation is more than just talk.
Yesterday's millennials workshop (photo by Michael Ambjorn)
The harder question is the prospect of this generation realising their ambitions – and what support they need. This is the focus of a growing theme of work for the RSA, and through workshops today and a major debate we’ve explored the prospects of the millennial generation.
We began this morning with a workshop organised by my colleagues Ben Dellot and Julian Thompson, inviting organisations that help people into work to come and talk about the challenge of employability – rarely a more acute problem than it is today. One of the observations the group made was that good models for helping people into work aren’t in short supply: in fact, there have been plenty over the years that have been adopted but then ran out of steam – often when the government that championed them lost power.
It was pointed out that the RSA can play a very important role here. As a politically independent charity with good partners and a diverse Fellowship, we are well-placed to help share successful practice in the sector, and also to provide a non-partisan voice advocating it.
This reflects a theme of our developing work around enterprise, which is co-operation. The enterprise sector is tremendously crowded, and this is particularly true of young enterprise, which was the theme of yesterday's second workshop. There’s no shortage of organisations working with young people to help to pursue their ambitions: in fact, we’re lucky to work with some of them –UpRising and UnLtd, for instance – as partners.
We think one of the best contributions the RSA can make here is to map out what’s available, and start to identify what’s missing – and the workshop today that brought together RSA Fellows, young entrepreneurs and support organisations was the first step in that. We’re working with the Royal Bank of Scotland to develop a series of workshops around the country (of which today’s was the first), working with these groups to identify the gaps in provision that prevent twenty-somethings from realising their ambition to set up a business.
One place we might very well start is with the projects our Fellows are already leading. RSA Fellows Kate Welch and Rebecca Howard drew on funding from our Catalyst fund to set up Reap and Sow, a social enterprise that works with people in prison to produce well-designed furniture. It’s a sustainable business model, but also one that provides offenders with help in seeking employment upon release, and takes a wider interest in their resettlement in the community – indeed they are seeking to do further work with ex-offenders as their work develops.
If you’re an RSA Fellow and have an ingenious thought about how to address a social problem, there’s lots of advice on applying for Catalyst on our website. And if you’d like to be kept informed about the follow-up from today’s workshops, get in touch with me (sam dot thomas at rsa.org.uk) and we'll keep you posted.