What is COPIE
What is COPIE?
COPIE = Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship
This article needs revision - for up-to date information on COPIE please visit http://www.cop-ie.eu
- “A network of people actively involved in opening up entrepreneurship to all parts of society”
The community of practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship (COPIE) is a network of European Member States, Regions and other actors who share a common concern. They all believe that it is both possible and necessary to make it easier for people, from all parts of society, to engage in independent income generating activities of different kinds and forms. In short, they argue that “entrepreneurship” should not be seen as the prerogative of a privileged few. It is already a survival strategy for millions of Europeans – and, with the right conditions and policies, the members of the Community of Practice believe it has the potential for unleashing the creativity of millions more.
COPIE is funded by the European Commission as a learning network among ESF managing authorities and other stakeholders. It has five core partners: Germany (lead partner), Spain, Czech Republic, Flanders and Asturias. There is also active participation from Andalusia, Extremadura, Galicia, Lithuania and Wallonia, and Baden-Württemberg currently has observer status.
Why inclusive entrepreneurship?
Many people across Europe are falling through a gap between entrepreneurship and employment policies:
- On the one hand, many of those responsible for economic and business development feel that entrepreneurship is primarily the reserve of the more educated and technologically advanced members of society. Enterprise policy focuses heavily on building on Europe’s strengths for competing on world markets dominated more and more by the knowledge economy. Policy measures to support technology centres, clusters, incubators and spin-outs have tended to be the result of this focus.
- On the other hand, those concerned with social inclusion and employment policy often feel that the way to combat exclusion is through employment. Policy focuses on employability, training, counselling and so on. So, for example, European Employment policy is increasingly concentrating on supply-side solutions (like “flexicurity”) to help the labour force adapt to a rapidly changing environment created by globalisation and an aging population.
Our view is that, on the contrary, many people from disadvantaged groups can help to create their own future rather than hope that decent jobs “trickle down” from the high-technology, high-growth sectors. Widening participation in enterprise can enable more people to benefit from Europe’s enterprise culture.
However the support structures for these new entrants to enterprise are usually weak and need to be adapted:
- Although cities are often described as the “motors of economic change” - the “banlieues” and inner areas of some of our most successful cities often house major concentrations of people, particularly migrants and ethnic minorities, with between two and four times the average levels of unemployment.
- Millions of people in Europe (up to 30 million according to some estimates) survive in the informal economy. They have the same motivation and capacity for risk as conventional entrepreneurs but many are trapped in poverty.
- The job losses due to restructuring outweigh the gains in many regions and areas of Europe. Getting people to leave their homes and communities in their search for work elsewhere cannot be the only solution.
- Our rural areas have lost millions of jobs and people in the last 15 years. They are predicted to lose tens of million more in the future – especially in the New Member States. Rural migrants will continue to flood to the cities unless new jobs and activities can be created in rural areas.
- Despite marked improvements in unemployment in some countries, the proportion of people actually in the labour market is often very low for certain groups (the 50+, women, the young, people with disabilities and so on). There little chance of increasing activity and employment rates if there are not enough decent jobs that these people can do.
- Many people are hyper-excluded and have little possibility of moving directly into regular paid employment. They have a chance to develop vital life skills through the social economy and certain flexible forms of self employment.
The members of the Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship all agree that new solutions are required to create both the economic activities and the jobs which allow these areas and groups to fulfil their potential in society and the economy. Without them it will not be possible to meet the European targets for growth and jobs. There is a real danger of further social division and unrest.
Where did the community of practice come from?
The Community of Practice on Inclusive Entrepreneurship has emerged from EQUAL. It builds on the final stages of the work carried out by nearly 300 development partnerships that focused on opening up the process of business creation to all members of society. Many of the 12 countries involved in this work created EQUAL National Thematic Networks to exchange and mainstream their findings.
One of the most remarkable results was that, although the definitions vary slightly in each Member State, the main themes dealt with in business creation are very similar across the countries. They have been described as the four parts of “an entrepreneurial ladder out of social exclusion”. The four parts are:
- creating the culture and conditions for entrepreneurship
- integrated start-up support and training
- support for consolidation growth
- access to appropriate finance
The Community of Practice has also drawn heavily on the work carried on within EQUAL in the social economy and from other national and international programmes on entrepreneurship. One particularly influential piece of work was work on policy measures to promote the use of microfinance for social inclusion which developed a tool for analysing practice in eight Member States and is now being used by the European Microfinance Network. A second was the KIZ tool which assessed how business-friendly cities were.
What is the action plan for inclusive entrepreneurship?
The action plan is built around a tool that takes the stakeholders systematically through an analysis of enterprise support in their region, sub-region or city. The tool itself consists of four scorecards on Excel spreadsheets which are already available online.
The tool allows policy-makers and practitioners to identify the main gaps or challenges to the support system for entrepreneurship in the four main themes identified by EQUAL, from the point of view of specific groups. Policy challenges are identified from the scoring process.
Armed with this knowledge they can locate the good practices developed elsewhere to meet similar challenges in the area of culture and conditions, start-up support and training, consolidation and growth and access to appropriate finance.
Finally, they can bring both elements together to design an action plan or strategy for inclusive entrepreneurship for the next period. In the future the aim is to expand the Community of Practice to include all those Member States and Regions that are interested in working on such action plans in the future round of the structural funds.
So far the first four steps of the tool have been designed. These involve:
- The Enterprise Ecology. A spreadsheet for producing a snapshot of the entrepreneurial dynamics of an area. It identifies the main employment and entrepreneurial challenges for disadvantaged groups
- The policy framework. This describes existing policies for supporting entrepreneurship and is based partly upon secondary sources and partly upon interviews with policy makers. It covers areas like the strategy, the administrative and fiscal framework, existing support provision and so on. It provides a preliminary analysis of policy gaps.
- A stakeholder assessment of policies for inclusive entrepreneurship. The novelty here is that the tool allows two types of comparison:
- Firstly, a 360-degree review comparing the opinions of policy-makers, business advisors and users (entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs).
- Secondly, the views of different target groups – women, ethnic minorities, young people, people with disabilities, social enterprises and so on. The checklists are based upon the experience of EQUAL and other programmes. The answers are scored to produce a series of graphs and “traffic lights” which pick out the main challenges to entrepreneurship from the point of view of disadvantaged groups. The tool is powerful in the way it communicates areas of good practice and policy challenges to stakeholders.
- A direct link with over 100 good practices from seven different members (Germany, Spain, UK, Portugal, France, Flanders and Wallonia). This is organised to respond to the main challenges identified by stakeholders in the previous section. New Members of the Community of Practice will be able to add their own good practices.
- Action Planning for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. The next stage is to hold participative meetings with stakeholders to ‘play back’ the results of the tool and discuss what actions are needed to embed inclusive entrepreneurship in mainstream programmes and strategies.
Why use the tool for inclusive entrepreneurship to develop action plans?
The tool provides useful data for improving the dialogue on the policy challenges in each region. It has now been tested in regions of five countries. Three of the tests covered an entire region: - Wales in the UK, Asturias in Spain and Flanders in Belgium. One test involved an inner-city area – Berlin-Mitte in Germany - and one a “critical” (outlying) neighbourhood – in Lisbon, Portugal.
The country reports identified three advantages of using the tool:
- Firstly, rather than being seen as a burden, most participants enjoyed using the tool – it raised issues that many had not thought about and created a space for dialogue between stakeholders that often had not heard each other’s point of view.
- Secondly, it highlighted a series of challenges which may have been overlooked.
- Finally, it was solution-oriented and helped take the first step towards good practice that has been tested in other countries. Because the template is so detailed, all the stages from commissioning to producing the report can be completed in an eight-week period by a senior expert and assistant.
2008 COPIE action plan
In 2008 COPIE set its goals as follows:
- To support and extend the network of relations between people concerned with inclusive entrepreneurship and build a community which is sustainable in the long term
- To plan to build membership and experience by involving a further five to ten regions in other Member States in the next 12 months. These must be motivated and able to work on Inclusive Entrepreneurship for the new Structural Fund programmes
- To enhance the functionality and user interface of the online version of the tool on inclusive entrepreneurship
- To build up and share the pool of good practices in inclusive entrepreneurship by adding links to products in other Member States
- To work together on the design of action plans for inclusive entrepreneurship for the next round of the Structural Funds.
How do I contact COPIE?
See also our main website at http://www.cop-ie.eu