Adult Enterprise

“How do we keep building the business,
how do we keep refreshing the product,
how do we keep focusing on...
Introduction

Overview and background to the project
‘New initiatives’ are by definition fleeting. Developed by the
creati...
The grant funding was only sufficient to enable the project to develop the Level 2 curriculum. The
solution to funding the...
aware of the essential, but all-too–often- missing, ingredient for success. “With a blended learning
product, the teacher ...
public money is that the
sector owns the research,
and with the AoC publishing all of the projects’
findings, this should ...
like-minded learners, supported by great business mentors,
can only increase their chances of success. It also means
they’...
Sustainability and expected longer-term impact
Now in its third year, the Adult Enterprise Board is looking back at what i...
a key part of its employee development programme – to
develop staff’s employability skills so that they can make
a more pr...
With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the
development of this case study and consultant
Tony Davis, Direc...
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Adult enterprise

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Adult enterprise

  1. 1. Adult Enterprise “How do we keep building the business, how do we keep refreshing the product, how do we keep focusing on the social purpose.” Christina Conroy OBE Chief Executive, Adult Enterprise Ltd
  2. 2. Introduction Overview and background to the project ‘New initiatives’ are by definition fleeting. Developed by the creatives amongst us – the idea-smiths, the dreamers, the thinkers – they are essential to the forward motion of the paradigm in which we live and work. But what happens to a new initiative when it’s no longer new and the seed money that got it started comes to an end? No one understands this dilemma more than professional entrepreneur Christina Conroy, Chief Executive of Adult Enterprise. ‘Professional’, because Christina’s business is the development of the entrepreneurial spirit and skills of others. Have the team’s own entrepreneurial skills enabled its new initiative to become a sustainable business? In 2011, Christina Conroy was the Principal of Richmond Adult Community College with a business problem to solve. She wanted to contribute to her region’s economic recovery by developing entrepreneurial skills programmes, but was thwarted by the lack of courses on the National Qualifications Framework. Her new initiative was to team up with nine other disparate organisations to create not only a new qualification framework, but the courses, blended learning materials and a shared learning platform to make it all work seamlessly. Backed by the Association of Colleges (AoC) and a grant from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), Christina Conroy and her team set to work developing the new infrastructure and curriculum. In 2012, that grant funding came to an end. This case study looks at what happened next. Have the team’s own entrepreneurial skills enabled its new initiative to become a sustainable business? Development Progress since November 2012 The original idea was to create the new curriculum for the benefit of the ten partners but, as often happens, the project increased its ambition as confidence in its ideas grew and new problems and challenges emerged. Not least of these was the need for sustainability once the grant funding had come to an end. During the grant funding period, most of the building blocks of the new partnership were completed, including the setting up of the new joint venture company, Adult Enterprise Ltd. (Further detail on the background to this project can be found on the AoC website in the first case study on the Adult Enterprise project developed in November 2012 1.) 1 Davis, T. (2012) Adult Enterprise: New approach, new framework. AoC. Available at http://www.aoc.co.uk/shared_services/material/shared_curriculum
  3. 3. The grant funding was only sufficient to enable the project to develop the Level 2 curriculum. The solution to funding the follow-on period, including the writing of the Level 3 curriculum offer, came from the core of their social enterprise model: to work for the benefit of all members. So membership was offered to the rest of the sector, and with over thirty Colleges and adult and community learning providers signing up, funding was secured to take the project forward, at least for another year. Members were given full access to the entire new curriculum with no cap on the number of learners they could sign up. Members could also base their provision on Adult Enterprise’s learning platform, and receive training for their trainers on how to deliver blended learning programmes successfully. For North Hertfordshire College (NHC), this keen focus on entrepreneurship was a snug fit with its ethos to ‘create entrepreneurial mind-sets for all students and all futures’. The College saw an opportunity to capture the mood of the moment, and set up a new Enterprise Shop in the heart of their community. For Helen Robinson, Deputy Head of Adult Learning at NHC, this has meant that: “We can now tailor a new type of provision to meet our new type of student and help our local business community grow – even if it’s only in a small way at first. You don’t need qualifications to set up a business, you need skills. So we take time to understand the skills our Adult Enterprise students already have, and those they need to develop to be successful.” Helen’s team then selects the units most appropriate to the learners’ needs and builds training programmes to help them start their businesses. “The students can do the whole programme if they want to, or add more units as and when they need, but we also knew when we started that Level 3 provision would be coming on stream soon, so we’ve been keen to show students that we can work with them in the long term – helping their skills grow so that their businesses can grow too.” “It’s great provision, because all of the work has been done for anyone who wants to deliver it. All of the teaching materials are there and you get access to their Moodle. It’s as off-the-shelf as it can be, and it makes the tutor’s job, and IVing [internal verification], really easy.” Helen is also pleased with how her team of staff is influencing the delivery of the courses. “They’ve all run or are running their own businesses as well as being great teachers. One is an expert in financial management and another in social media, so we make sure that we structure the delivery to make the most of each teacher’s skills.” As the business and curriculum models developed hand in hand, Christina Conroy and her team became increasingly 2
  4. 4. aware of the essential, but all-too–often- missing, ingredient for success. “With a blended learning product, the teacher on the ground is a really important vector for quality,” says Christina. “If the teacher isn’t fully committed to it, it won’t happen, or they’ll find problems with it, or they’ll say it doesn’t work.” At Hammersmith and Fulham College, getting the recipe right has led to over 100 enrolments in its pilot year. At Hammersmith and Fulham College, getting the recipe right has led to over 100 enrolments in its pilot year.“It’s a product that needs to be led from the middle,” states Christina Conroy. “So what I’m saying now is if you can’t lead it from the middle, it’s probably not the right product for you.” Outcomes Delivery model For most of the shared services projects, deciding on the appropriate legal entity was agonising, heavily debated and costly in terms of legal fees. One benefit of the projects being funded by
  5. 5. public money is that the sector owns the research, and with the AoC publishing all of the projects’ findings, this should mean that extensive fact-finding journeys don’t have to be repeated by others. However, Christina Conroy urges caution in simply copying their solution, as the final choice of legal entity was a moral one in response to the small print in the SFA grant contract. Adult Enterprise was set up as a not-for-profit joint venture company, limited by guarantee. This was because the SFA contract required ownership of the copyright in the materials produced within the grant funding period. The final legal entity, then, had to be set up as a custodian of this copyright, to which all of the materials were novated once the limited company was incorporated. If the business model of another consortium requires it to make profit, then the choice of a not-for-profit social enterprise company limited by guarantee may not be appropriate. The transition was smooth, though, says Christina Conroy. “The original partnership pretty much morphed into the Board of the newly incorporated company, and we recruited two additional dynamic principals to help steer the new ship forward.” Impact on the organisation, staff and students The main initial impact on partners has been to: “Get them into the entrepreneurship skills training space where they wouldn’t have been otherwise,” says Christina Conroy. For instance, the City of Bath College has partnered with a local social housing organisation, which has given them free space in the city centre to set up an incubator unit around Adult Enterprise provision. The initial success, like that of the North Hertfordshire College Enterprise Shop, “…is to make a community impact,” says Christina – to make entrepreneurship training visible and accessible. Time will tell how many new entrepreneurs and new businesses blossom as a result. Make Rob Sibley, of the City of Bath College’s Incubator Unit says: “It’s entrepreneurship early days yet, but of our fifteen training visible learners we’ve now got three and accessible. new businesses, and I’m sure here’ll be more soon. Our partnership with the neighbourhood centre helps a lot as we can provide rent-free space to new businesses while they find their feet.” Unlike the NHC approach, earners study the full qualification rather than a pick-and-mix approach: “We felt that while our learners may already have skills in some of the areas, working through all of the units in a new team of
  6. 6. like-minded learners, supported by great business mentors, can only increase their chances of success. It also means they’re with us for longer and so have access to help and support built in to the start of their business.” As part of the grant fund project, Christina Conroy’s team also produced an Innovation Manual1 to help others develop creative solutions to problems. It begins with a case study on their own journey together with: new models of leadership through co-creation; using the Innovation Code; creating a blended learning solution; e-learnification; creating a shared learning platform; managing a virtual team; brand development in a shared environment; models for network generation for sharing and sustaining. Savings Precise savings figures are notoriously difficult, particularly when the project is about helping other organisations save money rather than your own. Christina Conroy is confident, however, that the Adult Enterprise project is not just about curriculum culture change, it’s also about the bottom line. “Over the last six months, enrolments have gathered momentum and our partners have provided 500 125-hour courses in 50 groups,” says Christina. If they’d been delivered using a traditional face-to-face model they would have required a further 60 hours per group to achieve the same outcomes. As the number of partners and enrolments increases over the coming years, this initial saving of around £150,000 looks set to grow exponentially. For many Colleges, this strong emphasis on a technology-enhanced blend of traditional face-to-face teaching with remote, non-synchronous online learning meets two key agendas: the reduction in the cost of delivering front-line services, and the new key focus of the Common Inspection Framework, which is to develop learners’ independent learning skills. 1 Conroy, C. (2012) The Innovation Manual. AoC. Available at http://www.aoc.co.uk/shared_services/material/shared_curriculum
  7. 7. Sustainability and expected longer-term impact Now in its third year, the Adult Enterprise Board is looking back at what it’s achieved as well as forward to the future. “We’re at stage three now,” says Christina Conroy. “We’ve got a sustainable membership structure, but how do we keeping building the business, how do we keep refreshing the product, how do we keep focusing on the social purpose?” These questions may lead to a refining of the membership costs and benefits, aligning them more closely with the numbers of learner enrolments and amount of staff training required. It may even lead to the development of new delivery models where the teacher role is replaced by a business mentor who supports the learner through a full e-learning programme. Whatever the detail, Christina Conroy is excited about the move into new markets and the development of new materials. A recent bid to produce a Level 1 course for black and minority ethnic learners could merge entrepreneurship training with ESOL provision, enabling learners for whom English is not their first language to remove a barrier to starting their own business. The team is also in negotiations with the Higher Education Academy, looking at how to use its new curriculum to help set up HE student enterprise societies to provide students with entrepreneurship training throughout their university courses. Christina Conroy is not afraid to explore new sectors and new markets, and is now looking at opportunities in the private sector. Following initial conversations with Ford Motor Company, for instance, the Adult Enterprise curriculum may well be used to form
  8. 8. a key part of its employee development programme – to develop staff’s employability skills so that they can make a more proactive contribution to the business. Replicability for the wider FE sector As can be seen from this case study, Christina and her Board are anything but complacent. They live by, and recommend to others, the co-creation of new initiatives through partnership working. They have published the tools and strategies for their success and have recently added a more focused summary version to help others on their way1. So whether you would like to add Adult Enterprise provision to your own portfolio of courses, introduce a blended learning approach your own provision, or begin your own collaboration, the tools and experience have been shared to give your own new initiative the best chance of success. 1 Conroy, C. (2012) The Innovation Manual. AoC. Available at http://www.aoc.co.uk/shared_services/material/shared_curriculum
  9. 9. With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the development of this case study and consultant Tony Davis, Director, Learning & Skills Consultancy and Research The Association of Colleges 2013 2-5 Stedham Place, London, WC1A 1HU Tel: 020 7034 9900 Fax: 020 7034 9955 Email: projects@aoc.co.uk website: www.aoc.co.uk

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