Educating for Entrepreneurship


Getting ready for non-stop collaboration


“Some organizations incubate companies – we incubate people. The mission of the Sandbox Network is to accelerate young leaders and help them have a global impact before they become 30.”

“Imagine if a country’s assessment system measured the growing impact a young person has had on sustainability, environmental responsibility, equity or social justice, rather than their ability to recall subject-based facts and content!” Stephen Harris

I had the outstanding opportunity recently of joining around 200 young entrepreneurs at the Sandbox Network Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. It was an at times challenging, but always interesting, experience to be one of only a handful of invited ‘senior mentors’ at this event.

Part of me was thinking – what if this had been around when I was in my twenties – would that have made a significant difference to my life, work and career. I suspect it would have accelerated the desire to ‘change the world’. The Sandboxers are an amazing group of energetic young people who seemingly hold no limits to their imagination and capacity. And I have no doubts that wherever they move, they will inspire, create, achieve, question and re-order their communities.

I came to the Sandbox Summit fresh from ten days in Rwanda – establishing an ‘open space’ summit for later May, 2012 (, that will look to create fresh models for twenty first century learning in the rural regions of developing countries. It was the perfect segue to bridge the gap of my immediate experience from developing world to developed world, as the optimism of the Sandbox participants reminded me that the notion of creating a ‘collision of minds’ in Rwanda, as a means to generate change, was not only viable, but logical.

I loved every rich conversation at the Sandbox Summit; every observed interaction; every activity shoe-horned into the crammed 72 hours. (I left the late night nightclubbing to those more accustomed to 72 hours of being awake!)

But the Sandbox Summit has challenged me in new ways. What did these 200 young people look like ten years ago when they were in school? How did their schooling enhance and grow their entrepreneurial skills? Did the school system support them or fail them?Have they written off their latter school years in their minds as just a journey of tolerance, ultimately teaching them patience – and perhaps even winding an inner spring that would bounce into energy once released into post-schooling world?

As someone passionate about transforming the educative experience of schooling to something relevant and engaging, I started to analyze what an entrepreneur was – and through this, consider how entrepreneurship might be into integrated into school curriculum. Why? Quite clearly entrepreneurial thinking is an accelerant to changing societies and making inroads into some of the world’s current dilemmas. Perhaps teaching real life entrepreneurship could bring a real life relevance to learning. Imagine if a country’s assessment system measured the growing impact a young person has had on sustainability, environmental responsibility, equity or social justice, rather than their ability to recall subject-based facts and content! Perhaps we would get real change in communities.

I have a hunch that seriously teaching entrepreneurial skills at secondary school level would significantly assist lowering post-school high unemployment rates in a many contexts. This alone should create an imperative to explore the possibilities further.

I am left with a myriad of questions and a desire to connect the world of creative entrepreneurship with learning.

  • What does it take to grow an entrepreneurial framework?
  • What qualities most accurately describe entrepreneurial perspectives?
  • Can we teach entrepreneurial skills?
  • How might entrepreneurship be introduced?
  • What might experience based entrepreneurship development look like?


Some early observations:

Entrepreneurial qualities are dynamic; entrepreneurial qualities are highly practical; entrepreneurial qualities lead to energetic outcomes. Entrepreneurship is about identifying and picking the ‘low hanging fruit’. Entrepreneurship is about creativity, risk, fear,
intuition and relentless endeavor. Entrepreneurship is about failing forward and not giving up.

Defining entrepreneurship (from first hand observation at the Sandbox Summit)


Skills Qualities Abilities
Negotiating Energized Make income from risk and initiative
Ideas focused Possibilities thinker Action oriented
Structured thinking Goal oriented Inspirational
Increased efficiency Enthusiastic Balance confidence with fear
Delegating Risk taking Tech comfortable
Time management Confident Catalysts for economic change
 Task completion Achiever Implementers
Organizing Extroverted Big picture thinker
Networking Learner Control own future
Connecting Strive for excellence Can focus intensely
Client focus Not afraid of failure Make connections between disparate ideas
or thoughts
Transferring vision Inventor See opportunities
People management Visionary Generate ideas
Technology skills Leader Demonstrate vision
Creating advantage Passionate Thrive on change
Investing in self Persistent Can self-promote (for positive community
Accessibility Adaptive Can create teams
Growing teams Rock solid reputation Ability to think what if / why not / try
Multiplying efforts Conceptualizer Can turn ideas into reality


Where to from here?

  1. I’d love to hear from Sandboxers
    and other entrepreneurs about their school experiences. Did their education
    help or hinder their entrepreneurial capacities? How and why?
  2. I’d love to hear from
    Sandboxers and other entrepreneurs who may be interested in establishing a
    mentor/speaker/role model link with schools. We could start a database.
  3. I’d love to establish a global
    school-aged group of young entrepreneurs who can share ideas via a web based
    community and encourage each other to initiate and implement ideas.
  4. Why would we not want to teach
    these skills to and nurture the qualities identified above for every child? I’d
    love to work with a team who would be interested to create some
    project/challenge based learning modules in order to develop entrepreneurial
    capacity for high school students – modules that could be used anywhere in the
    world (developing world and developed world).
  5. Schools should identify students
    with outstanding and evident entrepreneurial abilities and direct them to the
    Sandbox Network


  1. Thaba J said:


    Your unceasing passion for making a difference strikes me very much. I am a young (well maybe not so young anymore) educator from Lesotho, we only just started offering entrepreneuship at my college three years ago. I am looking at a web-based community to supplement my offering and to further spread the reach of my students and indeed my own networks.
    I found it pretty striking as well that you would see entrepreneurship education as a means of making a difference in developing countries. That I strongly believe.

    Now about where to go from here. I am sorry my techno skills and access are pretty limited. Am busy twicking with basic blogging and have only come across edmodo as a micro blogging platform that may be more appropriate for classroom use. So maybe when I have put my head around it, we could start linking our class room groups with other students from around the world.

    I also notice that you do work with high school students. Whilst it is true that my students are in higher education, I have no doubt that at the ages 18- 24 there is still a lot the students could learn from one another.

    February 6, 2012
  2. As you wrote Stephen, I wonder how a project like this could have changed my education…

    Also looking forward to Tony Wagner’s book Creating Innovators, which I think will be in line with what you did with this Sandbox group. Loved the table…another tool as we work to drag education into the 21st Century!

    Many Thanks,

    February 6, 2012
  3. Pete Welter said:

    It’s great to hear these questions about entrepreneurism being asked. We are two entrepreneurs who are currently working with and mentoring teen entrepreneurs through workshops at local secondary schools. Although a focus is on getting a business or activist venture going, the true value we are seeing is allowing the kids to approach their lives entrepreneurially – to not accept things as they are, and to initiate action for change. In the process of our workshops, we are learning things about what works with secondary school-aged children and entrepreneurism. I’ve put a bit of what we’ve found as possible answers to a few of your questions.

    • What qualities most accurately describe entrepreneurial perspectives?

    Three qualities that we have found are primary are:

    * the ability to question – questioning the status quo, questioning assumptions, questioning reality, questioning constraints, and then asking “what if” to imagine alternatives. For students who have spent their entire school careers succeeding by following rules, this is a large leap for them to make – not impossible by any means, but we have found this to often be a challenge for the teens we’ve worked with.

    * the ability to act – creative ideas don’t change the world if they aren’t acted upon. The action doesn’t have to require large investments of time or resources – in fact, it’s preferable if the steps are small so that the inevitable failures are small and not crushing. However, there has to be action to bring the ideas alive, to see how others react to them, to see if they function in reality, and primarily so that learning through experience can happen. Acting is scary, because then failure is possible, and many school kids have learned that failure is about the worst thing that can happen.

    * the ability to iterate – to work in a continual cycle of asking what worked, what didn’t, and why, and then modifying ideas to reflect what has been learned. Entrepreneurs live in a world in uncertainty and change, and adapting and evolving is critical to starting up and to long-term success.

    • Can we teach entrepreneurial skills?

    In our experience, definitely yes. If a teen has a passionate interest and a desire to create something new, then entrepreneurial skills can be learned. A caveat though – as you hint at in your later question, these are skills that must be used and experienced and not just talked about. There are no definitive right answers, something an entrepreneurial mentor must be comfortable with. There are skills that increase the probability of success, or avoid common pitfalls, but there’s no correct answer to look up in the back of the book, because what works in one context may not in another.

    • How might entrepreneurship be introduced?
    The gateway is a person’s passionate interest. Without this intrinsic motivation, the rest of the process of entrepreneurship is way too much work to be worth it. After that, it’s important to have a safe environment for questioning the status quo, and to provide space and support for failures.

    • What might experience based entrepreneurship development look like?
    Given what I’ve said above, you can probably guess that we don’t think there is any other way to learn it except through experience.

    Your question “Why would we not want to teach these skills to and nurture the qualities identified above for every child?” is a great one – and we see most entrepreneurial programs not answering it. There are plenty of programs, especially for young adults, who have an entrepreneurial inclination already. A challenge is for the rest of them – so that all children understand that they can use their passions and talents to act upon the world (rather than to be acted upon).

    February 6, 2012
  4. Grant Lichtman said:


    Great post and points and I hope to keep abreast of anything you want to do along these lines. I am on a panel at NAIS next month about many of these same topics. My sense is that we have to start by modeling what we want to teach, which means our schools need to act in an entrepreneurial model and mindset if we want students to learn and adopt as well. We are talking about what that means for teachers, administrators, and boards. So far, schools seem to feel that somehow they are immune from the laws that drive innovation, but that will change or schools will die out!

    February 7, 2012
    • nice to hear from you and i enjoyed your lesson is amazing and i will continued asking you many questions if get opportunity of touching on computer.

      September 7, 2012
  5. Ashley Phillips said:

    Hi Mr. Harris,

    My name is Ashley Phillips and i am a student at the University of South Alabama. I am currently taking EDM310, a class for education majors. I am very interested in the sandbox network. I think that entrepreneurship should be taught as early as possible. It should be introduced at a age where it will make a difference. The comment you made about teaching entrepreneurship will bring real life situations to learning, made me realize how important this idea is. I can not wait to begin educating and I will now try to blend this idea in my teaching. I will be summarizing your post and my comment on my student blog, . I love the ideas and hope to incorporate them when I begin my career.

    February 9, 2012
  6. for sure i have replied because i have like your leason. it have teached me the way of being enterpreneur the way some one can creat his own job
    thanks i love u…

    September 7, 2012
  7. now let me ask you,If aperson have no money how can he manage to creat his own job imagine he did not have opportunity of studying and he be the enterpreneur, HELP ME AND GIVE ME GUIDENCE

    September 7, 2012

    October 17, 2012

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