The Loran Scholars Foundation has recently launched a thought-leadership series on the theme of meaningful risk-taking. As a Loran alumna, I decided to take on the challenge and reflect about my own understanding of risk and about some of the life experiences that contributed to shaping that understanding.
Looking back, I realize that risk-taking has played an important role in both my personal and professional life. Why? Because those times when I decided to put myself in a position where I didn’t know precisely what the outcome would be (thus placing myself at risk) are those where I learned most about myself, my values, and my dreams.
I view the notion of risk as being deeply connected with the notion of change. People who are determined to become changemakers will, at one time or another, have to make risky decisions. Finding an innovative solution to a problem and challenging the status quo always involve risk-taking. Risk is a powerful way to learn and to grow. It enables us to know ourselves better, our limits, and our potential. Through risk, we become more resilient, creative, and resourceful.
However, risk-taking has to come with a purpose.
Meaningful risk is about undertaking something that seems scary at first, but whose potential to drive positive change outweighs the fear.
Meaningful risk comes with a plan, a vision.
Am I taking this risk because I have a support network? Is there someone out there who believes in me? Am I convinced, deep down, that this is the right thing to do?
Meaningful risk is not a solo journey.
It can be at times both exciting and frightening. But it is worthy.
My years as a Loran scholar have been momentous in shaping my own definition of risk. The Loran Scholars Foundation has been investing in the potential of young changemakers for the past 30 years, guided by its three pillars of character, service, and leadership. It has provided me with countless opportunities to step out of my comfort zone and to build connections with a diverse set of equally motivated people who want to make a positive impact in the world.
Loran is much more than a merit-based university scholarship; it is a unique combination of opportunities, identity-building, inspiration, and support network. For me, becoming a Loran scholar meant having the possibility to invest time and energy in things that I cared about, but also to seek experiences that are completely new and unfamiliar. The Loran Scholars Foundation enables each scholar to broaden their horizons, to go beyond their expected paths, to challenge themselves.
Completing my undergraduate studies in a second language in a city 5,000 km away from my hometown was definitely a risk worth taking. The feeling of remoteness did not last long because I was part of a strong community. Majoring in International Relations, I might have looked exclusively for work experiences in that field. Instead, thanks to the Loran summer program, I was encouraged to pursue an intentionally interdisciplinary path. It is through one of my summer internships that I discovered how much I cared about education and youth development.
In its own way, the Loran Scholars Foundation taught me how to find meaning in the decisions that I make, and to choose projects where I feel I can have a positive impact and not only projects where I know that I will succeed.
It helped me redefine what success is. It made me understand the value of a supportive network and collaboration. But, more importantly, it taught me to believe in my ability to create change and to share this belief with the next generation of young people.
The support and opportunities provided by the Loran Scholars Foundation were stepping stones in shaping my philosophy on taking risks and making positive change. And this led me to understand that the philosophy of meaningful risk-taking is something that can be learned and developed. Learning to take risks is a process that should begin from a very young age; Education is a safe space to build self-confidence, curiosity and creativity, which are necessary qualities to take meaningful risks.
How far could we go in a world where every person feels supported enough to undertake challenges that are meaningful, and confident enough to find their unique path?
Traditional school curricula do not often integrate opportunities for children to take risks and live authentic experiences based on real-life situations. Yet, when they learn in a context that is authentic, children are more engaged and motivated. When they are given the opportunity to share their ideas and play an active role in their learning processes, children build their self-confidence, which is the foundation of success in the face of uncertainty.
Children should not be afraid of making mistakes. Instead, mistakes should become opportunities for growth and children should be driven by the desire to create positive change. Entrepreneurial education, an integrated approach that ensures both the learning of basic school subjects and the development of anexit profile, can be a motor to teach children how to take meaningful risks in order to find innovative solutions to real-life problems. By using entrepreneurship as a learning tool, schools can team up with partners in the community to make children aware that they are changemakers.
Never underestimate the potential of a child!
Today, as the Communication and Program Development Coordinator for Idea entrepreneurial education, I work together with educators to provide them with tools so that they can, in turn, implement the pedagogical and educational approach in conscious entrepreneurship.
With this approach, students learn to become more innovative in order to build their lives responsibly and autonomously, while being conscious of their impact on themselves, their human environment and nature. Teachers become coaches of a process initiated by students, who carry out entrepreneurial projects (real-life event, service or product) that respond to a need in the school or the community.
In the schools that we work with, we’ve seen elementary students in a disadvantaged neighbourhood create and manage their own toy library so that every kid could borrow tows and bring them home to play with. We’ve also seen students in a vocational school conceive a playground seesaw that pumps water, and travel all the way to Bangladesh to install it in a village that did not have direct access to water.
The number of educators who believe in the importance of empowering children through conscious entrepreneurial education is growing. Today, we have a network of 150 entrepreneurial schools across Canada, Belgium, Morocco, Benin and Ivory Coast. We also organize several events that aim at mobilizing, inspiring and fostering collaboration. In October 2019, we will be gathering more than 300 educators for the second edition of our Congrès automnal en éducation entrepreneuriale consciente.
We believe each school has the potential to change the world and we help educators transform their dreams into reality. Together, we hope to nurture curious, resilient, and purpose-driven young people who are unafraid to take risks in the interest of making positive change.
The ability to take risks is the prerogative of many entrepreneurs. Many of them move forward with determination to achieve the objective, goal or vision they have in mind. Several entrepreneurs have this ability to perceive a need, often before others. Above all, what makes them different is that they are born dreamers who love to create something new, think differently and sometimes be bold and show courage by suggesting new solutions. Thus, often enough, entrepreneurs from around the world succeed with originality, to meet needs previously not fully satisfied.
The world in which we live is undergoing an important transition on all levels: social, economical and ecological. We know very well that those transitions absolutely need to come with the emergence of new operational systems. Therefore, people, – fully aware citizens – are seeking new solutions to build a more resilient and blossoming society. Innovative ideas appear, as the result of local initiatives and collaboration efforts from community that progressively implement changes. A worldwide trend, the “transition cities”, supports the collective reconstruction of new viable systems.
The world of education is looking for innovative ways for young people to find meaning while coming to learn in school and get better grades. Their interest towards these pedagogies put forward, their courses and learning concepts prescribed is essential to the expected success. However, in education, too many things have remained almost unchanged for many years.
In parallel, the development of entrepreneurial skills in students is increasingly recognized around the world (elementary, high school and vocational training), as a promising avenue for student retention and success in school in addition to better preparation of students for their future roles in society.
Today, everyone knows, school does not meet expectations of society, students or parents anymore. School is not well.
Whereas we are clearly undergoing an identity crisis, whereas the major part of students feels constrained in the classroom and uncomfortable with themselves, we do not find the means, of any kind, to give them back confidence in their abilities. And yet, our teenagers are the citizens of tomorrow: if they are not well, society won’t be well. They need to be aware of what they are worth: they are worth it!
We know that an entrepreneur, just like entrepreneurial and innovative people, learn through action and, namely, through linking their reflection and their action in a way that improve their success. The ECEC innovates by seeking, to the extent possible, to take into account this way of doing and learning. To achieve this, an organized process involving the entrepreneurial community in the educational project of “conscious entrepreneurship” is not only desirable, but necessary. Essentially because these people and human organizations possess, almost intrinsically, knowledge, skills and attitudes that are specific to their working and operational culture.
At the moment, on this Sunday in France, on TV, we are watching Heads of State and representatives as well as an immense crowd of people gathered for a walk in the name of freedom of expression, this right, which for each of them is at the basis of democracy and universal values. The liberty and values associated to it are fundamental; there can be any doubt. What is observed is some sort of recollection in solidarity to France, but also of everyone towards others, as if we were all feeling suddenly threatened. Is this a temporary awareness? Is this a political opportunity for some? Or is this rather the start of the desired elevation of a collective consciousness for a better world?
The idea of learning to empower oneself corresponds to a large extent to what others define as self-entrepreneurship. This means learning to know and take charge of oneself, and acquire self-confidence. We thus find there a very important notion of autonomy. The child, youth or adult must be able to remain stimulated, be proactive and become responsible in front of his/her own needs. Learning to know oneself (self awareness) is fundamental here in order for the student, regardless of his/her age, to progressively come to assume with confidence self-accountability in front of his/her needs, but also in front of his/her future in society. Learning to empower oneself includes the idea of learning to learn by oneself.
Complexity of challenges is intensifying both in countries of the Northern hemisphere and of the Southern hemisphere. Such complexity is even more visible in large cities that nowadays host more than 50% of the world’s population.
School and society are compelled to seek solutions here to a variety of challenges that students are experiencing, in order for them to better succeed. For instance, we try to innovate pedagogically and on the organisational level to motivate them to come learn at school. These challenges emerge from unfulfilled needs, which in turn, are at the root of various types of dropout: pedagogical, educational, academic, cultural, health etc. All these needs and dropouts have several causes.
Here is the first of three blogs on 1) the school, 2) the community and 3) conscious entrepreneurship.
Part one: The school
The first element of the Conscious Entrepreneurial Community School (ECEC) is based on a new relationship between the school, the parents, various associations and foundations, as well as the socioeconomic environment. An organizational balance that fosters a more global education system has to be created. At the heart of the fundamental mission of the ECEC school-system, it is essential to contribute “to the education” and “the training” in order to offer children and adults of every age the tools that contribute to their success in society and personally.
The idea of an international community working for conscious entrepreneurial education makes its way East of the Atlantic
Last week from November 2nd to 7th, a seminar entitled Promoting Entrepreneurial education in Schools was held in Potsdam, very near from Berlin in Germany. It was a first seminar of this kind organized by the OECD as part of its new program Entrepreneurship 360. There, school principals, teachers and various representatives working at the primary, secondary, professional and even within national education ministries, from about 20 European countries were gathered. Guest speakers presented their most recent researches, of which one brings up the idea of creating a SCHOOL-COMMUNITY ECOSYSTEM in order to develop an entrepreneurial school (ES) in Europe. This research practically joins the vision and ideas promoted by the ECEC for several years. A European ES would thus have the mandate to contribute, progressively, to the emergence of an entrepreneurial culture in youth.
The leadership of the Conscious Entrepreneurial Community School (ECEC) is both shared and mobilizing. It is mobilizing in the sense that it incites an increasing number of people to invest their energy and plan to develop, consolidate and implement the vision and the mission of the school. The leadership is also shared, specifically with the school staff, a school support parent group or committee, other parents or other committed partners in the community, and even children (elementary), youth (high-school) and adults (postsecondary). This is communicated through pedagogical, educational, entrepreneurial, cultural and community plans. This leadership is ensured by the principal and strongly supported by ECEC’s governance team and a pedagogical officer as well as a community development officer.
The Conscious Entrepreneurial Community School (ECEC) aims at, among other things, efficiently organizing the activities undertaken in classrooms and outside the classroom, through networking with the community and the parents and that is what we call the community dimension. The community also includes the persons, groups, institutions and businesses from the socioeconomic environment that participate to ECEC’s educational project. The community is comprised of everyone who contributes.
ECEC has developed progressively since 1991, first through the development and the practice of conscious entrepreneurial pedagogy in the high school classes. In 1999, the name Entrepreneurial Community School(ECS) was adopted following the global organization of this pedagogy within a first Canadian public school, the École Cœur-Vaillant elementary school located in Québec. The name ECEC followed this and came from African educators in 2007. In 2011, we chose to use the name ECEC to describe our school-community system (community = socioeconomic environment).
Creator of independence, accountability and transformation…
In Quebec, in 2001, a school became the subject of conversation in the media and was also many times the topic of discussion between politicians, intellectuals and conscious citizens concerned by the emergence of a new school. This school would finally answer to the real needs of elementary children as early as kindergarten, the high school youth at every level and all students – young and adults of every age – who courageously attend our institutions.
This school would be a creator of independence, accountability and transformation (I.A.T).It would allow its students to develop their self-empowerment, entrepreneurial spirit at to create innovation consciously, responsibly and independently. It would allow children the possibility to become self-confident, the right to express themselves, to create and to think outside the box with a different pedagogy so that each of them may often be a go-getter, producer and manager of their own entrepreneurial projects. The entire school would develop according to the undelaying principles to I.A.T. The teachers, parents and partners would share this pedagogical vision and would contribute to the global learning of students. This I.A.T. school would also allow the students to empower themselves, develop their entrepreneurial spirit and to innovate to literally make them learn.
The 1st International conference in conscious entrepreneurial education, organized by OIECEC and the Réseau québécois des écoles entrepreneuriales et environnementales (RQÉEE) was a great success! The main objective of this international event held at the Lévis convention center (Québec, Canada) from April 23rd to the 25th, 2014, was to promote and explain conscious entrepreneurial pedagogy and education. Our goal is for this form of pedagogy to become a source of inspiration for many educators in Quebec, Canada and throughout the world.
With more than 500 people in attendance, including 130 youth from elementary schools and high schools, forums, conferences, school visits, workshops and other presentations made it so that this 1st conference was a great success very much appreciated by all who attended. Among the highlights, we have to mention the workshops offered by elementary and high school-aged students as well as many exhibits of entrepreneurial projects and micro-businesses supported by educators and presented during the Conscious Entrepreneurship Exhibition.