Proactivity and innovation are important for the development of resilient democratic societies. Civic engagement and participation are important elements of active citizenship, a basic prerequisite for an innovative and democratic Europe. The Council of Europe Charter on Democracy and Human Rights Education therefore focuses on this active component of civic education, learners should “play an active role in democratic life…”.
In the work context, too, new and sometimes disruptive developments require active responses. We have witnessed various crises in Europe that have particularly affected youth. The digital transformation is currently challenging workers and companies, civil society and citizens. Young citizens need to find ways into the labor market, as workers and perhaps as entrepreneurs.
Education can help in such processes of active (re)orientation with a holistic, human-centered and systemic understanding of learning and teaching.
In line with the EU concept of key competences for lifelong learning, the EntreComp competence framework focuses on one area of these key competences, namely the proactive aspects and the importance of value creation through civic engagement or entrepreneurship, of values that are not necessarily measured in capital but also in social impact. Contrary to the usual associations people make with the term “entrepreneurship”, EntreComp does not just describe the acquisition of economic knowledge or an economic mindset. This would be a classic economic education approach. It encompasses all kinds of social, cultural and economic activities that aim to create value or social impact in society.
According to EntreComp, active cultural pedagogy and active political education are also in the sense of “entrepreneurial.”
EntreComp points to a problem in European education and learning. Too often, proactivity, engagement and entrepreneurship are perceived as natural consequences of knowledge-centered learning and teaching. Therefore, it is a challenge to create learning designs and learning spaces that recognize that “creating” starts with “creativity” and that shared creative processes in the sense of “co-creation” are a fundamental prerequisite for shared achieved social, cultural or economic impacts or for social innovation.
Finally, we should talk about a misunderstanding: Here is the field of philanthropy-inspired civic engagement pedagogy; there we teach entrepreneurial skills. Look at the changes our European societies are currently undergoing. For example, with digitalization and people’s fear of becoming unemployed and useless. Look at the environmental challenges that require active action even at a very local level. Or think about the growing need for our democratic societies in Europe to find constructive and democratic positions towards diversity or to live inclusion in our societies.
We should ask ourselves: is civic engagement and volunteering something you “like to have”? Is it not becoming more and more a part of the critical social infrastructure of our societies? Especially democratic civic engagement.
From an educational standpoint: Isn’t civic engagement and volunteering one of the greatest informal or non-formal learning spaces where adults and youth can learn proactivity, experience self-efficacy, or experience individual and collective self-organization outside of school?
Democratic spirit and people-centered solutions to social challenges are emerging in civic engagement, forms of social entrepreneurship, projects dedicated to the idea of commoning, cooperatives, and even start-ups.
Let’s leave behind the old ideological debates and look for the intersections between the different forms of proactivity. Let’s explore how civic engagement and civil society, social entrepreneurship and teaching and learning in schools can enrich each other and motivate young active citizens.
- This text was my contribution to the conference “ESSENCE – Entrepreneurial Skills in School Education: Nurturing Citizenship and Entrepreneurship” held in the school IC “Fontanile Anagnino” in Rome Italy at June 5, 2021.
More about Entrepreneurship Education: Project EntreComp 360