Studying startup culture in class

BizWorld: the non-profit social organization responsible, together with Mind the Bridge, for introducing startupper courses in Italian middle schools

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What is business culture? Who dictated that business, supply and demand, marketing and startups were subjects reserved for high school or university? And who said that “work” was something you had to go out and search for when you can equally well create it for yourself? 

Such dogmas have been rejected by BizWorld: the American study course for budding startuppers created by Tim Draper in 1997, with the aim of encouraging an entrepreneurial culture amongst middle school students. Well, now BizWorld has also come to Italy, with a pilot project launched at the Alvaro Modigliani middle school in Turin. From the beginning of the school year, the programme was rolled out in other Italian middle schools. Adriano Marconetto is founder of BizWorld Italia, the non-profit social organisation responsible for introducing the courses to Italy, working in partnership with Mind the Bridge. He has a positive outlook: “There are already schools in Florence, Como, Milan and Turin which have welcomed our project. During this school year, we aim to run between 50 and 100 courses”.

The course is divided into 13 one-hour lessons, with the participation of the students on the one hand and input from volunteer startuppers and experts in business and economics on the other. Marconetto claims that the Turin course “has demonstrated that the BizWorld teaching model is ideally suited, and diametrically opposed to the usual Italian approach, which involves one person speaking and the class just listening. This method is based on constant interaction. The course begins and ends with a test, and the aim of teaching the various mechanisms behind a business venture has proved very successful”.
The students are divided into 4 groups, competing against each other to design, produce and sell a type of friendship bracelet. The youngsters allocate themselves roles within their company, learn to negotiate with investors and banks, decide upon product, pricing and marketing strategies and come to understand how good planning can help them generate profit and value for all their shareholders.

This is a teaching method which Marconetto describes as “interactive and dynamic” and as “multidisciplinary”. The students “learn the basic elements of economics and business management through the use of music, maths, English, Italian and art”.
Marconetto also emphasises that: “This is the format. Our pilot project has shown that the way the course has been developed in the United States also works perfectly here in Italy. We haven’t changed anything, and we don’t want to”.

However, BizWorld envisages that the format will be updated every year: “All the volunteers in America and other parts of the world have been asked by the BizWorld foundation to submit suggestions and ideas for any changes”.

With regard to the importance of teaching business culture, Adriano Marconetto stresses that it is “really necessary to begin in the elementary and not in the middle schools. In future years, we can start at an earlier stage. It is baffling that kids can leave school in Italy without the faintest idea why an ice-cream costs 2 Euros and not 20 Euros”. What about the parents? “It is vital to involve them as much as possible. These issues should be discussed within the family. There must be a realisation that one can create work instead of going out to look for it”. Marconetto also adds that: “We are searching for volunteers willing to teach business culture in schools. All our contact details can be found on the BizWorld Italia Facebook page.

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