A new Europe-wide project aims to improve the chances of socially excluded groups and communities to establish and develop businesses.
Elie 2.0 will work with individuals across the continent to increase their skills, confidence and chances of entering into entrepreneurship.
The programme, for which Erasmus+ has provided €404,000 in funding, involves institutions in the UK, Poland, Bulgaria and Greece. It will build on the work carried out by Eliemental, which enjoyed success with helping the excluded, vulnerable and disadvantaged into employment, further training or into setting up their own enterprise.
“There are both social and cultural barriers that stand in the way of people from certain groups and communities becoming entrepreneurs and setting up their own businesses,” said principal investigator Dr Carolyn Downs, of Lancaster University Management School.
“The people we will be working with on Elie 2.0 – and those we have worked with on Eliemental – have the perceptions that entrepreneurs ‘are not people like us’, or that ‘you can’t be an entrepreneur in the areas where we live’.”
Elie 2.0 will involve Lancaster University; Creative Exchange, in Morecambe; The University of Lodz and Inkubator, in Poland; Znanie, in Bulgaria; and Ergani and the South East Europe Research Centre – which is part of Sheffield University – in Greece.
The project will work across the fields of entrepreneurship, psychology, sociology and educational studies, all of which allow participants to better identify opportunities to use their skills and knowledge for business purposes.
As part of Eliemental, researchers looked at the relationship between soft skills shortfalls and various groups’ vulnerability to social exclusion. Elie 2.0 will work on developing hard skills, such as providing better access to market research and basic bookkeeping.
The researchers will build on work done with groups such as Red Rose Recovery, which has bases across Lancashire; Black Training and Enterprise Group; Phoenix Futures; Oldham City Council; Oldham Enterprise Trust; Stanley’s Community Centre (Morecambe); West End Impact (Morecambe); Tameside College; and many other partners.
The project will involve training community-based entrepreneur coaches, as well as working with local businesses, with the course participants working together with these companies to solve real problems in the communities involved and helping to develop the local economy.
“There is often a problem with a lack of confidence in their own ability and skills, as well as these aspiring business people suffering from having only small networks to work within, which restricts their ability to develop enterprise,” added Dr Downs.
“Added to this, there is a poor perception of deprived areas and the people who live there, which can lead to people not wanting to set up businesses in these areas.”
The project will build on the work done in Eliemental, with community access hubs – places where the people involved in the programme feel comfortable and where they are happy to meet – continuing to form an important part of the work.
These locations have included restaurants and cafes, and provide an environment in which participants are more confident of being taken seriously.
“The communities we work with often don’t see venues such as colleges, council offices and libraries as being ‘places where people like us go’, and found it difficult to go to those places,” said Dr Downs.
Elie 2.0 aims to build on success stories from the Eliemental programme, such as Graham, from Morecambe, who has a health condition that prevents him from working full-time, but who used the help from the project to set up the Pavillion Café in Regent Park in the town; and Pavel, who emigrated from Poland to Tameside, and found success as a social media expert.