Resilience Through International Networks: A co-produced pilot project

How can we support young entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Bristol to support new ventures through international collaboration? And how do we develop effective strategies and tools to bring international groups of young people together to collaborate?

All young people’s well-being, regardless of where they live, their race, gender, or social class, is essential for personal and professional success. This ideas exchange pilot project brought together young entrepreneurs (creative, social, sustainable, financial, political) who face structural inequalities in Bristol, UK, and Enugu, Nigeria, to collaborate with our team of facilitators in understanding their needs for support and their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This project’s participants were already disadvantaged by their socio-economic status (poverty) and lack of access to opportunities. Many of these young people lived below poverty levels, were neither confident of their abilities nor aware of any options they may have to get ahead in their entrepreneurial journeys.

By bringing these groups together in a participatory-design process, the researchers aimed to support young entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Bristol to work collaboratively to support new ventures (creative, social, sustainable, financial, political) through international collaboration.

What did the project involve? 

The project began with the recruitment of the young entrepreneurs. The team selected from Bristol, 4 young entrepreneurs between the ages of 16-35 who had an interest in starting a new venture, whether it was creative, social, sustainable, financial or political. These participants were paid for their time in the study, awarded a certificate of participation, and had access to a range of possible further support after the project.

To determine the participants, the researchers conducted a one-hour walking interview around a route determined by the participant. Each participant chose 3 locations in their neighbourhood that had significance from their past, present and future. They used an open and conversational approach while walking between locations to discuss their aspirations and priorities as a young entrepreneur. At each of the 3 locations, they asked the participant to record, with the help of the facilitators, a 1-3min video discussing why they chose that location.

At the end of each session, the researchers had lunch with the participant and used this as an opportunity to discuss, clarify and take notes on critical parts of the walking interview and to playback the recordings from each location. The facilitators made handwritten notes which the participant was able to see and check at the time. This was also an opportunity to discuss with the participant and agree on their continued participation in the project.

Based on the information from the working interviews, the researchers then facilitated an online participatory-design workshop for their participants. At the workshop, they shared the videos as a way of introducing the participants to each other (with their permission).

The workshop discussion was framed around the following questions:

  • What new ventures do our participants want to start?
  • What are they doing already?
  • What are the challenges to doing more?
  • What can we do together as participants and facilitators to mitigate those challenges?

After which, the facilitators had a final meeting to pull together the results from the sessions held with the participants and planned the way forward from the project.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Keir Williams (Centre for Innovation, University of Bristol) is a multi-award-winning participatory educator, designer and creative technologist. His work focuses on the role and design of digital technologies as tools to support advocacy, play and education. Keir William’s Website.
  • Zibah Nwako (Education, University of Bristol) is an international consultant, trainer and scholar-activist. She is passionate about gender justice and the personal development, welfare and wellbeing of African girls and women. She is member of several international, professional and research networks, including the Springboard Women’s Network, Nigeria (SWoNN) and the British Association for International and Comparative Education. Zibah Nwako’s Website.
  • Ben Carpenter (City Fellow, University of Bristol) is a youth and community worker with over 14 years practical experience of working across South, Central and East Bristol. Ben founded ‘Grassroot Communities’ an organization guided by the professional principles and practices of youth and community work and influenced by the positive impact of nature, to deliver a wide variety of innovative school, youth and community led projects in communities on the margins of the city.

What were the results?

The project structure and results were written up in detail in the report ‘‘I’m not the only one hustling to escape poverty’: Resilience through International Networks’.

Following this initial Ideas Exchange, Zibah Nwako was successful in applying for Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA) funding to further this research in their project ‘Developing a Peer Training Guide for Young African Entrepreneurs’. She is also being supported via a pre-ARC (Accelerating Research Commercialisation) – this allows them to explore potential impacts, partnerships, and commercialisation of the idea/product.

This resulted in ‘Impacts at Scale’ a case study by Zibah Nwako

This also resulted in the development of the Nigerian Young Entrepreneurs Project.

After taking part in this project, Angelica Uwaezuoke and Ogechi Nwonye (on behalf of the Resilient Young Entrepreneurs Network, Enugu, Nigeria) have blogged about their reflections on the Resilience Project and how their values connect with their experiences as young entrepreneurs within Enugu State. Read their blog: ‘Resilience: Doing her business with her full chest’.