Seizing the entrepreneurial and innovative potential of superdiverse communities



Picture of Vanessa Cotterell
Vanessa Cotterell

Project Manager at UNITEE (New European Business Confederation)

In times when migration remains a highly politicised topic across EU member states, fuelling fear and eurosceptic rhetoric, we need more future-oriented debates exploring ways to amplify the positive impact of migration and diversity. Focusing on how entrepreneurial skills can foster social innovation and local development while leaving nobody behind, UNITEE, a network representing migrant entrepreneurs, partnered with Friends of Europe and Eurochambres to organise a participatory lab during the European Week of Regions this month to unpack this question.

The impact of diversity, collaboration and co-creation stood at the forefront of the discussions as public sector, private sector, business and civil society representatives exchanged solutions to overcome societal challenges and face future transitions together.

Skills and mobility programmes […] promote not only digital skills and entrepreneurship but can cultivate the development of transversal skills

Embracing the needs and potentials of superdiverse communities and making skills programmes accessible and visible

Not everyone in Europe benefits from the same opportunities. Exclusion and discrimination exist at the individual and structural levels. Those under- or misrepresented in decision-making and media, such as newcomers, migrants, women, youth, low-income groups or people living in rural areas, can find themselves left out of local development programmes. The fast-changing labour market, which demands new skills, flexibility and innovative thinking, leaves certain groups behind. Yet, if we define successful integration as equal opportunities for all, it is vital to ensure that employment, education and skills programmes are spaces that can be accessed by all.

The digital revolution is a key example to illustrate the importance of accessibility, as the increased digitalisation and automation of our economy transforms skills needs across sectors, jobs and qualification levels, affecting cities and regions at large. Laurent Hublet, Co-Founder and Director of BeCentral, a leading tech campus in Europe based in Brussels’ main train station, highlighted during the event how the local ecosystems of public authorities and the private sector are in an ideal position to respond with agility to the skills demands and needs of diverse communities and provide upskilling opportunities and innovation hubs.

Another Brussels-based example is the tech hub and business incubator MolenGeek, making digital and entrepreneurial skills more accessible to all. Along with initiatives such as RIDE, which provides tailored, needs-based digital skills training and job coaching to migrant and refugee women in different European countries, these programmes can address the distinct economic challenges faced by those with marginalised gender and migration backgrounds. Enabling organisations and individuals to partner with unlikely allies that share similar goals, it is even more important that these initiatives do not work in silos and can be replicated in other regions or countries.

A European-level programme that received attention during the event is the Erasmus Young Entrepreneurs Scheme. The programme acts as a mutual, cross-border learning platform by giving aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs. The scheme’s essence lies in embracing diversity: bringing together different cultures, sectors, age groups and countries.

It is worth mentioning that skills and mobility programmes like the ones mentioned above promote not only digital skills and entrepreneurship but can cultivate the development of transversal skills, such as cross-cultural and intergenerational understanding and empathy, problem-solving, and community leadership. The development of these skills helps at an individual level and also ultimately benefits regions’ needs for economic development, social cohesion and innovation.

By reframing migration narratives, we must collectively push for a stronger political entrepreneurial agenda

Amplifying collaboration policy efforts at the European level

Regions and citizens can also benefit from fostering entrepreneurial and transversal skills features within the European Skills Agenda. Within the five-year policy agenda, the Pact for Skills aims to support public and private organisations with upskilling and reskilling, so they can thrive through the green and digital transitions. The focus here lies on the exchange of knowledge, visibility on relevant funding and partnership opportunities.

To this end, transnational, multistakeholder collaborations involving local authorities, businesses, civil society and academia allow for a more tailored approach to promoting skills while putting the needs of individuals and communities first.

An integral part of the EU’s skills strategy is EntreComp, the entrepreneurship competence framework, or platforms such as the Better Entrepreneurship Policy Tool. These initiatives, if promoted more widely, can increase the entrepreneurial capacity of European citizens and organisations while also improving relevant policies and programmes through self-assessment tools, with the goal of making them more accessible to migrants, women, youth, unemployed or other underrepresented groups.

Reframing entrepreneurial narratives

The European Parliament elections in June next year provide an opportunity to shift the traditional narrative of entrepreneurship to include those of marginalised backgrounds. By reframing migration narratives, we must collectively push for a stronger political entrepreneurial agenda that boosts inclusion and stresses the impact and value of diverse talents for Europe.

This article is part of our Rethinking economics series, find out more here. This article is a contribution from a member or partner organisation of Friends of Europe. The views expressed in this #CriticalThinking article reflect those of the author(s) and not of Friends of Europe.

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