sparking creativity in young entrepreneurs

Hande Diker, Creative Spark Programme Manager, British Council, Turkey.

This article was first published in 2020 in the Entrepreneurial Mindset Network eZINE Volume 3 no 3

Hande Diker is based in Turkey and is the Creative Spark Programme Manager at the British Council.  In this article, she explains how the Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme aims to help young entrepreneurs gain new enterprise and English skills in order to start their own businesses or create their own career paths in the creative-economy sector. She introduces us to the Creative Spark Big Idea Challenge - a 60 second video pitch competition to support students and young entrepreneurs.

The Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme builds partnerships between the UK and the higher education and creative institutions in seven countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The programme has been developed in response to an underdeveloped creative sector and a demand for entrepreneurship training to support wealth and job creation in that region.

Image credit: British Council

Why do we need Creative Spark right now? 

Mainly because we need to solve the underemployment of graduates and harness their creative talents to help them develop their own sustainable businesses. Creative Spark is just one approach which has been developed in response to this need to improve employment opportunities. 

Each year 3 million young people graduate from higher education across the region, but most are unemployed. Young people who want to build their own businesses have a skills gap and need better access to financial support to allow them to expand in national and international markets. 

There is a real opportunity here as the creative economy has been recognised by the UN as being one of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy. In the seven programme countries the creative industries have great potential to grow, however the sector is still underdeveloped with limited policy support.

What is the Creative Spark Big Idea Challenge?

It’s a 60 second video pitch competition for students and young entrepreneurs. The competition encourages thousands of young people to develop an innovative ‘start-up’ idea and tell the world about it. Awards include up to £3,000 seed funding, mentorship and business support from the UK experts.

The aim of the Big Idea Challenge in  2020 is also to help young entrepreneurs to improve their enterprise skills, raise their profile and improve their career prospects, at a time when youth unemployment is a growing concern and the Covid-19 health pandemic has disrupted economies around the world.

Last year, more than 500 brilliant new business ideas were submitted, and 40,000 people voted online for their favourite. This year, despite the impact of the pandemic, the competition’s website had over 82,000 visitors voting for another 500 brand new inspirational business ideas.  

What brilliant ideas were created by the young entrepreneurs?

Young entrepreneurs competed across three categories: digital technology, social impact and creative ideas. The winning ideas include an accessible and affordable 3D contactless device for hand disinfection (Disinspector Toucan),  the first Ukrainian inclusive atelier providing equal labour conditions for people with disabilities which is scalable and sustainable (Lady Di Atelier) and an online platform connecting patients, medical organisations and insurance companies in Kazakhstan (Smartdoc).

Awards ceremonies were held in each of the participating countries on Facebook Live with more than 16,000 views. Young people of the region clearly demonstrated their development of brilliant ideas that not only tackle everyday problems but also provide solutions to the challenges of the pandemic period. We never know what kind of creativity and original ideas can be generated by young minds in challenging times so we should just 'let the youth create.’◼️