About the Author: Maria Fridefors, Teacher
Maria Fridefors works as subject teacher in Entrepreneurship and Business Management at Malmö Borgarskola in Malmö, Sweden. She received the EWB Teacher of the Year Award 2014.
Enterprise without Borders (EWB)
Interested in upgrading the Entrepreneurship course to a new level and to create situations where your students get an opportunity to improve their language skills, expand their business talents and get a deeper understanding about international trading? Bring your passion for teaching, individual growth and the academic progress of each and every one of your students into the Entrepreneurship and Business courses and start a collaboration with a school and colleagues in another country! It could be a way to build bridges between people and encourage students to develop proficiencies valuable in a globalized world.
My 7Ps for the EWB project:
Partnership: Like in all great and lasting relations, it starts with finding a good partner. You can get help finding interested schools on the EWB website or when attending a JA Teacher Conference. It is strongly recommend to meet in person with the teachers and school management that you plan to have the project with, since you will be working very close to each other for at least a year. Furthermore, it is also important that your own school’s management is supporting the project by giving the resources necessary. Partnership is not only about teaming up with the right people; it is also about being reliable partners to each other. Secure the resources needed!
Plan: The next step is to make a plan for the project together with your partner. You need to make a timeline for the project and decide about the main joint activities, like if the students are going to visit each other, participate in trade fairs or if there should be a common theoretical framework. You also need to plan for different kinds of social interaction activities as, for instance, Skype conferences. Secure structure and involvement!
Product: If you want the students sell their products at a JA trade fair abroad, make sure that the products of the mini-companies works on the market in the other country. Since most JA trade fairs takes place during the spring, the students have plenty of time to do market research, modifying their offers and to find out about the right price levels. They can use Business expansion theories in a real situation and it is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the market and customers in the other country. The students must calculate the effects of changes in currencies. They must organize and plan properly. They must build a professional network with suppliers, retailers, banks and other organisations. They must present their company and their business model to different audiences; not only in their own language, but also in English. The list of situations when the learning curve is very steep, is long. Secure market knowledge and product adaption!
Progress: One of the most important tasks for the teacher is to organize situations when learning actually happens. International projects facilitates a constant flow of new challenges and new tasks that needs to be taken care of by the students. They must collaborate with new people and find a way to communicate in English or another foreign language. International collaboration means hard work, but on the other hand, also provides learning opportunities far beyond the courses in many subjects. Furthermore, the students will learn other important things, like how to manage unpredictability and work in professional teams. Many students also get much better self-confidence and self-awareness by the accomplishments during the project. Secure personal development!
Person-to-person contact: To make the project real to the students, it is important to assure frequent interaction. Skype meetings in smaller groups of 3-4 students from each school, gives an opportunity for all students to speak English in a less stressful context and to improve their language skills. The students can prepare topics to discuss in advance about their hobbies and interests, the product and business plan of their mini-company, the history and the commercial life of their hometown or any other relevant subject. If it is possible to visit each other, it is very important to include teambuilding activities. Different kinds of “ice breaking activities” where the students are supposed to do something together in smaller groups can often be the starting point for getting to know each other better and for developing cultural understanding and friendships. Start with the personal interaction and the business-orientated discussions will probably follow when the students becomes comfortable with each other. Secure bonding!
Participation: Entrepreneurship education has an obvious feature of networking. To increase the quality of the project, I suggest that you involve some local companies with different experiences of international business activities. They can provide a lot of knowledge about the importance of language skills, cultural understanding and real examples about opportunities and challenges in different markets in other countries. These companies can also help with contacts to reliable producers abroad, in case the mini-companies have products that need to be manufactured. Advisory firms and banks can provide expertise about legal issues, business plans and international trading. It is important that the students become aware of that being in business means collaborating with several stakeholders and that it is important to build a network of external professionals that can provide support in different ways. Secure local involvement!
Passion: Bring your drive and your passion for education that makes a difference into the project! Very much of the results depends on the teachers involved and their commitment and leadership. As a teacher, you shape the future through your work with the young talents of tomorrow. You can open the windows to the world for them. You can encourage and inspire them to grow and to build the bridges across the borders. They will never forget your efforts.