What does CyprusInno have to do with country-themed food boxes and empty tin cans? And is the problem of young unemployment so easy that you can solve it during a dinner talk in a medieval castle? Burak Erkut from Dresden University of Technology is answering:
We're in a medieval castle designed as a restaurant - almost like the ones in a chapter of Don Quixote. I am attending the conference dinner of the 24th Public Economics Meeting in La Mancha, Spain, which is the area known for the adventures of Don Quixote.
With around 200 Spanish and international participants, the event, organized by the Spanish Public Economics Society, is a highlight for economic policy making, and a wake up call for new economic policies in Spain and Europe. The meeting begins with the remarks of the European Commission's Gilles Mourre on fiscal policies and public investments and ends with the observations of Panos Tsakloglou from the Athens University of Economics and Business on the issue of the Greek crisis.
Over the dinner at the Hacienda del Cardenal, a group of us talk on how regions of a country differ in economic terms, and what my wonderful and efficient co-authors Nadine Thierbach and Tuğberk Kaya and I suggest to overcome social problems and young unemployment in these regions.
We suggest focusing on social entrepreneurship. For over a year, we have focused on students and recent graduates who turn into entrepreneurs, with a special focus on overcoming social problems by educating a target group and offering solutions to the root of those social problems. At the very point where the social state fails to offer any solution, by definition.
The visionaries in the society who realize this can be called the social lead users. This was Nadine Thierbach's concept based on lead users, which we primarily know from the context of technology. They are ahead of society, recognize social problems, and offer solutions with their start-ups.
Our focus has been on CyprusInno, which aims to bring together entrepreneurs across the divide in Cyprus to contribute to an entrepreneurially driven peace economy and aim to avoid an island-wide brain drain, and Weltprobierer from Dresden, selling country-themed food boxes to overcome the prejudice towards foreign cultures.
Now, how does this solve the youth unemployment problem?
Focusing on supporting social enterprises in regions with social problems can either help the unemployed youth become enterpreneurs (entrepreneurship effect), or get jobs from other entrepreneurs in that region (refugee effect).
In some cases, like the Can Kid project of the Cyprus Green Action Group, the venture is non-profit, and instead of creating jobs directly, it offers ground to attract mobile factors of production by increasing the quality of life for the mobile factors. Can Kid does this for a greener society and better healthcare for children. Can stands for collecting tin cans in metal boxes to recycle them, and Kid stands for what happens with the revenues from recycling - renovating children's wards at hospitals.
Our observations from two pilot regions suggest that students recognize social problems in these regions, and know that they can overcome these with a social innovation, but are less willing to become entrepreneurs than those who do not know these social problems. To answer the question in the title: Is the problem of young unemployment so easy that you can solve it during a dinner talk in a medieval castle? No, not quite, but we can identify an action plan for that.
To sum up?
This is a starting point where universities can help those social lead users become social lead user entrepreneurs. With the lack of big (multinational) firms offering corporate social responsibility activities to engage them into the economic mainstream, universities can be transformed to serve society by helping those social lead users discover their entrepreneurial potential.
While we are discussing this over the dinner in this medieval castle, I cannot keep myself from thinking that social lead users are a bit like Don Quixote - fighting against social problems instead of windmills, and instead of Sancho Panza they have the power to innovate, to discover, and to generate new knowledge - something which the state (by definition) cannot do.
Burak Erkut, Professorship of Managerial Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics, Dresden University of Technology (Germany). You can read more on the research project at https://www.researchgate.net/project/Social-Lead-User-Entrepreneurs-A-Cultural-Comparison-of-Structurally-Similar-Regions