Innovative entrepreneurship: young people are fascinated by the start-up model with a cooperative touch

Cooperatives are a concept of entrepreneurship that we are familiar with, but the Slovenians are also rediscovering it. As a partner of the European project COOPERATIVE CAMPUS, Primorska Technology Park enabled young people from Slovenia to develop the skills of lean entrepreneurship. These are skills used by the most successful start-ups in the world.

The project taught young people aged 19 to 29 how to put their entrepreneurial ideas into practice quickly and easily, with responsibility, open communication, a democratic approach and concern for others – in other words, the values of collaborative entrepreneurship.

In the EU, the youth unemployment rate (15-24 years old) is 15.2%, which is twice as high as the general unemployment rate. In Slovenia, the percentage of unemployed youth is 8.8% compared to 5.1% in the general population. Entrepreneurship is one possible way to increase the labor force participation of young people.

The OECD notes that young people between the ages of 20 and 30 are much more interested in self-employment than other age groups. In addition, cooperatives are seen as a particularly effective driver in empowering young people to experiment and innovate with new models to address the various challenges facing the current generation.

In light of this data, the aim of the COOPERATIVE CAMPUS project was to provide young people with the experience of modern cooperative entrepreneurship, thus strengthening their entrepreneurial orientation.

The project started in March 2020 and ended in August this year. In February, the Primorska Technology Park organized a STARTUP CHALLENGE – COOPERATIVE CAMPUS. The webinar, with entrepreneur Urša Žorž as a mentor, was attended by 17 young people who turned their ideas into a working, market-ready business model. The participants were introduced to modern methods of lean entrepreneurship in a practical way (problem perception, finding solutions, creating a business model, the dynamics of communication in the entrepreneurial team, creating a pitch, …).

It is the most intense experience of entrepreneurial thinking that involves collaborative values. Participants developed prototypes in groups, validated an entrepreneurial idea and worked with experienced entrepreneurial mentors. In preparing for the event, Primorska Technology Park worked closely with Employment Service and the University of Nova Gorica, in particular with the Department of Economic Engineering.

The result of the whole project Cooperative Campus is a joint venture program that is transferable and repeatable. Within the pilot project, young participants were given the opportunity to deepen their entrepreneurial skills and become familiar with the concept of cooperatives and learn about examples of good practice. Young people were given the opportunity to start their own cooperative business and strengthen the local ecosystem – cooperatives and startups.

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