For many education and training organizations worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic was an extreme pivot point to the online teaching environment.
It’s not always been an easy transformation, especially for more interactive learning contexts. UNCTAD’s Empretec programme was no different and grappled with how to covert it's unique training during the pandemic.
Empretec is UNCTAD’s flagship capacity-building programme. It promotes entrepreneurship and helps micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries become more sustainable and embrace inclusive growth.
Empretec’s core product is the entrepreneurship training workshop (ETW), which uses behavioral techniques designed to unleash personal entrepreneurial potential.
This approach requires “more hands-on than computers on”, says Arlette Verploegh, head of Empretec.
“But COVID-19 forced a reconceptualization around how this training is delivered, and we now have an innovative training product that feels hands-on while being delivered digitally,” she said.
Pilot takes off
The digital product she is referring to is a new pilot project and product run out of Empretec Brazil. UNCTAD has 40 Empretec chapters all over the world which supports entrepreneurs on the ground through a wide network of fellow entrepreneurs and graduates of the programme.
In December in Brazil, Empretec delivered its first hybrid workshop using online tools. The training was delivered in partnership with the Brazilian Micro and Small Enterprises’ Support Agency (SEBRAE), which hosts Empretec in the South American nation.
The UNCTAD Empretec team spent 18 months designing, developing and testing solutions that would allow its centres to continue offering the ETW.
The workshop now has a new test jacket, Ms. Verploegh said.
Outside of the fact that the training can be delivered in person-to-person, hybrid or completely online, it now includes several innovative online tools and games as part of the interactive environment.
From November 29 to December 4, a group of entrepreneurs in a classroom used the online platform developed by UNCTAD, international master trainers and an information technology company to complete exercises, experience role-playing and play strategic games that would have otherwise taken place in person.
Three UNCTAD-Empretec International Master Trainers, Roberto Gandara, Renato Santos and Luiz Felipe Escarlate, facilitated the workshop and supervised the group to assess impact and learning outcomes of this new format.
A positive experience
So far, the feedback is very positive, say the trainers and attendees. “We managed to simplify our workshop and make it more playful and tailored for new generations,” said Daniella Santana, SEBRAE Empretec manager.
“As with every pilot, adjustments are still necessary, but the successful results of this first experience are very positive. Another plus was reducing the consumption of paper and materials that, in addition to being expensive, goes against the best practices of sustainability that inform our approach,” she added.
One participant, Fernanda Nascimento, a 39-year-old mother who runs Bahnhof, an ice-cream kiosk specialized in typical Amazon region flavors, in a shopping mall in the heart of Brazil’s capital, said the workshop helped her embrace change.
“Empretec woke me up to how important my behavioral change is for the growth of my company, and to identify important opportunities for improvement. Bahnhof will grow in 2022 because we are more focused on data and more assertive decision-making – all lessons from the training.”
The positive results mean UNCTAD is moving ahead with the development of a fully online training workshop. A second workshop aimed at incorporating suggestions from the pilot and refining the tools will be carried in Brazil in the first quarter of 2022.
A powerful method
According to David McClelland, successful entrepreneurs share a set of ten personal entrepreneurial competencies (PECs) which could be innate, but also learned or developed.
Empretec’s workshop embraces the theory that behavioral change can help entrepreneurs. In an immersive six-day training workshop entrepreneurs learn to recognize, practice, and apply the ten PECs in individual and group exercises, role-playing typical challenges faced by entrepreneurs when starting and growing their companies.
“Empretec’s behavioral training framework is designed to allow learning from experience preparing empretecos to deal with challenges and risks entrepreneurs meet on their paths,” says Lorenzo Tosini, Empretec programme coordinator at UNCTAD.
The results translate into impressive growth of sales and profits for established businesses, higher propensity to start new ventures, properly assessing risks generating more jobs and of better quality, higher than average wages and taxes paid when compared to average entrepreneurs.
With more than 500,000 participants (empretecos) in over 40 countries on four continents, Empretec is considered one of the most effective UN technical assistance programmes to support entrepreneurs and MSME owners. It has been operating for more than three decades.