It takes an ecosystem to raise future innovators and entrepreneurs. An Ecosystem that consists of Community (mentors and peers), Resources (tools and materials), and Place (space to meet). amplifies the effect of collective learning, and it attracts new members helping it grow and stay sustainable.
The creativity of a group depends on the skills of the people in the group, their culture, access to tools and resources, and a space to meet and exchange ideas. The last two are easier to set up than the first two.
A nurturing ecosystem exposes the community to new ideas, encourages them to try things, supports when things fail, and inspires them to reach higher. New members join and the group grows and stays sustainable.
Can such ecosystems be built from the bottom up? Yes, we have created such ecosystems in schools, universities, communities, and corporations through programs. Students learn to ideate in teams, create products, solve problems, and teach each other.
In 2019 we created Zero2Maker Ecosystem Development programs in seventeen schools, ten in the state of Kedah, Malaysia, and seven in rural Mysore, India. These programs started with conducting a maker workshop and giving these schools a MakerLab-In-A-Box. We trained and mentored them over the next 6-9 months to learn on their own, build more products, and solve problems. The final challenge event was held in Jan and Feb of 2020. We are planning to scale this across Asia in the next years.
Industries that were disrupted had leading companies that believed their solution would live forever. Industries such as taxi, hotel, video rental, and banking were shaken up by companies that were not from the industry who created revolutionary approaches to solve the same problem. Every company is ripe for disruption. Its employees need to constantly watch for changes in customers needs or the impact of evolving technologies to predict market directions and create new solution approaches. Companies must be ready to test out new solutions and business models such that they could be ready for the looming changes.
But how can companies train their employees to look at the market with fresh eyes everyday? How can these employees challenge industry-accepted methods to improve them or to replace them with more efficient ones.
This is where an innovation ecosystem within the corporation will help. It requires people who are trained to be creative, always viewing problems as opportunities in disguise, and create new solutions. They attract similar minds and build the ecosystem. Our Ecosystem Development program is designed to offer such training.
Case Study: How our Entrepreneurship Ecosystem made an impact
The intervention in colleges are done to create a seed group of innovators and entrepreneur, who builds the ecosystem from the ground up. It require 10 to 20 students who need to be trained in design and problem-solving. The college also needs to create an innovation or maker lab where the students can practice their skills.
The experience at Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology at Trivandrum shows that the ecosystem and active student entrepreneurs may be created in a short while.
The number of student startups at MBCET significantly increased after a five-week Bootcamp on innovation and entrepreneurship in 2014.
A series of Maker Education and Training workshops were conducted in rural parts of India since 2014. The first intervention was conducted at Mar Baselios College of Engineering and Technology (MBCET) in Trivandrum, Kerala State. In the first four years 21 student startups emerged.
This figure shows that workshop participants from MBCET (orange) influenced and recruited their non-workshop peers (blue) as co-founders of firms indicating a Ripple Effect to create a sustainable ecosystem.
Later, those students created Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centre at MBCET which in-turn has developed further entrepreneurs
The ecosystem created the centre to nurture entrepreneurship
Zero2Maker Ecosystem Development Program, Kedah, Malaysia
(in partnership with ASB and ADB)