History of the initiative
JUGEND GRÜNDET is organised by the Steinbeis Innovation Centre for Corporate Development at Pforzheim University (SIZ). The SIZ is a non-profit organisation with many years of wide-ranging experience in publicly funded business and vocational training educational projects. The centre sees itself as a partner of schools with the intention of anchoring the subjects of entrepreneurship education and economics in the classroom.
The idea of JUGEND GRÜNDET was based on the experiences with Jugend forscht, a well-known competition for students and young adults, where participants research and develop new inventions. It was found that there is a need to sensitise participants to the necessity to not only develop inventions but to also market them. Thus, the idea for JUGEND GRÜNDET was born. In 2003 this competition was set up nationwide by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research in co-operation with the SIZ, as an online offer to build knowledge around how to start a company and how to lead it to success.
The goal of the initiative is to promote entrepreneurial thinking, as defined by the European Union: “an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action”. As well, to bring up the topic of founding a company (often for the first time), and to sensitise teenagers and young adults to the opportunities that starting a company has to offer them.
Numerous stakeholders are involved in JUGEND GRÜNDET, including: The Federal Ministry for Education and Research, which provides funding and content-wise advancement in consultation with the SIZ; the ministries of the federal states who raise awareness amongst teachers and facilitate the reduction of work hours for a teacher to adopt the role of a programme state representative; teachers that use the programme in class, refer interested students to the programme and give input for programme content; and alumni who can get support from the programme to stay connected to the topic of entrepreneurship. Alumni also function as role models and mentors for the participants. They may also be (potential) sponsors and supporters in the long run. There are also programme sponsors who support in the form of hosting events, price sponsoring, additional funding, and public relations work.
The main target group of the JUGEND GRÜNDET are students and trainees, aged between 15 and 21-years-old. The programme tries to motivate students by building an interesting and appealing e-learning platform which focusses on questions around the topic at hand. Participants are recruited directly through social media, online advertisement, and search engine optimisation, as well as indirectly through their teachers. Information concerning the programme is in part sent directly to schools nationwide (mail and e-mail) and, more promisingly, indirectly via the state ministries of education, school boards and regional chambers of industry and commerce or business developers.
Aims and objectives
The main goal of JUGEND GRÜNDET is to show the participants that there are opportunities to shape the future and that their ideas are in demand. During the project, participants are provided with tools and structures so that ideas could be turned into reality. Ideally participants get a better sense of the mission and responsibility of a company. In addition, the project hopes to impart knowledge on how to start a company and what must be considered, as well as an understanding of the complex dependencies of the various stakeholders. Participants are hopefully inspired and equipped to take matters into their own hands and to create change, instead of waiting for someone else to fix it. The goal is that this filters through into their everyday lives.
Activities and learning outcomes
The initiative is offered online with a vast number of materials in different forms to support the teacher on the one hand, but on the other hand to support the participant taking part completely unsupported by a school or other educational institution. It is possible to take part as a team of up to five persons or as a single person.
The programme offers a free and extensive e-learning-platform, specifically designed to support the participants and the text and videos. Support is also available digitally by phone and e-mail year-round. Additionally, the programme offers web-seminars, tutorials, and video consulting hours, as well as connecting the participants with mentors (alumni).
The learning outcomes that are pursued with this initiative are the understanding of the complexities, dependencies and necessities when starting and leading a company. The main activities are idea development, business planning and playing the business simulation game.
The programme mirrors a typical start-up process: having an idea, planning its realisation, and then finally doing it. At the centre stands the conviction that every economic offer that shows long term success is adding value in some form or another. The programme tries to inspire the students to think about what could be better in their personal lives or globally, and plays to the will to improve the world, which is innate in most young people. The programme guides them every step of the way, using interesting examples and role models which talk about their own experiences and advise based on that.
The project starts every year on the first of September with the business plan phase. The participants then submit their business plans shortly after the Christmas holidays. All submitted ideas are evaluated by a jury and the best teams are selected, which then take part in national pitch events and receive the first awards. At the federal finale, the competition entry is a mix between a short pitch, a live and in-person jury talk and the equipping of an exhibition booth.
The second phase of the competition is activated with the simulation game. Here, the virtual companies of the teams are guided through the ups and downs of the simulated economy to economic success over eight periods and can thus collect points. Each team has five attempts, but only the last attempt counts. Help is provided, among other things, by a digital manual that answers all the students’ questions, as well as video tutorials and the Business Academy.
Following the simulation game, the best ten teams of the competition are invited to the national finals at the end of June and fight for the first places. The winning team, along with the supervising teacher, will set off on a guided trip through the start-up mecca of Silicon Valley, USA for personal exchange to connect with start-ups and founders. There are also other attractive prizes.
Breaking barriers for impact
A big challenge is that the topic of entrepreneurship education does not make up a big enough part of the school curriculum for the teachers to justify spending that much time on the programme. This challenge is being faced through keeping the initial entrance barrier as low as possible. The participants definitely have to spend quite some time on working on their ideas, the business plan and the simulation to win. But as a student you can equally learn by only doing a little. So, there is an attempt to motivate teachers and students alike, so they simply give the competition a try.
Furthermore, the programme is very adaptable to the different teachers and schools as well as curricula, especially timewise. By only setting a deadline for the final exercises the participants are free to choose when to work on their business plans. Also, through imparting that entrepreneurial education should not be confined to economics but is a valuable part of every component of education, interest in entrepreneurship education is sparked.
Support for JUGEND GRÜNDET, on a policy level, is provided through financial support from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research; co-operation with the Ministries for Education; exchange with other national competitions for young students. Furthermore, the individual commitment of teachers acting as motivators and coaches, as well as their willingness to enter into exchange and learn from other teachers and collaborate with experts support the programme.
Through this initiative young people can acquire knowledge on entrepreneurship and how to start a business, but also skills in areas such as self-management, time management, teamwork and creativity. The project inspires its participants and displays how they could shape their own future. Thus, after the participation in the initiative, young people can apply their gained knowledge in different circumstances and adapt their competences.
Alumni often report that participating in JUGEND GRÜNDET changed their view on the world in so far as they actively try to change what bothers them, instead of looking for others to improve the situation. Teachers report that many students show great growth over the course of the competition, developing greater independence in thinking and judgement and willingness to learn far beyond the initial goal of their project. Interesting student ideas so far have included:
1. A more sustainable way to feed fish in aquaculture by using lupins instead of other fish.
2. A robot that could substitute a seeing-eye-dog, which would lead to enormous cost reduction for health insurance companies and could be widely accessible.
3. A plug-in that allows for the visually impaired to play Mario-Kart without restrictions.
4. A charging system for e-mobility using streetlamps complete with a concept for billing and accounting.
A testament to the fact that the project always achieves its goal can be seen in the teams that continue to work on their ideas after participating or have even already founded them. The programme has also won numerous awards and has been recognised and recommended by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany.
In terms of future developments, young people can be inspired by their involvement in JUGEND GRÜNDET and shown that there are opportunities to help shape their development; and that one does not have to wait and see what happens.
Image credits: Jugend Grúndet