WorldChicago partners with GEA College in Slovenia to discuss Entrepreneurship in New Reality

WorldChicago's President Peggy Parfenoff discusses how young people can become more active citizens to an international audience.

On Tuesday, March 16th, WorldChicago partnered with GEA College in Slovenia, for their ninth webinar in Entrepreneurship in the New Reality program. WorldChicago's President Peggy Parfenoff was joined by Gretchen Zucker from Ashoka (US), Uroš Skrinar from Zavod Movit (SI) and Matic Žmuc from Zavod Ypsilon (SI). The webinar was moderated by Alja Gajšek from CEED Slovenija (SI).

The guests discussed how young people can become more active citizens. The focal point of the debate was identifying the necessary skills and competencies young people need in order to be more socially responsible and active. They also learnt that there are various initiatives in both USA and EU that, with programmes that support and engage young generations to be more included, have more impact and are more proactive. The guests also engaged in some very interesting and in-depth questions from the attendees.

Entrepreneurship in the New Reality program brings together top local, regional and US experts who, in a series of 10 free moderated webinars, provide the audience with professional know-how and share entrepreneurial experience with the aim of encouraging entrepreneurs to grow, prosper and find new business methods for the future. The program is organised by GEA College Ljubljana in cooperation with the Embassy of the United States of America in Slovenia.

Who are the people making the changes in the world today?

It is impossible to single out just one group of people who, in our opinion, have the biggest impact in changes in the world today. However, we are confident enough to claim that entrepreneurs are right up there with the best – especially social entrepreneurs. That is why it is crucial for societies to start building strong networks of (young) people who will lead positive changes in their communities.

Peggy Parfenoff: “At WorldChicago we host exchanges sponsored by the US Department Estate, and one of our biggest exchanges has been professionals bringing entrepreneurs from the Balkan region to Chicago for fellowship. We will now be working on Ytili, which brings entrepreneurs from 45 European countries to the US for a one-month fellowship. We are mainly looking at leaders. This programme makes a huge impact because young leaders and entrepreneurs learn and share new ideas and then return to their communities with more knowledge and experience. Most importantly, they build strong networks.”

At Ypsilon we try to help young people boost their careers, and help them find a career path they are passionate about. I believe that the most important part of this process is to make the right connections,” added Matic Žmuc.

Who is a social entrepreneur?

Most of us have heard of Maria Montessori, a pioneer in education who has developed the Montessori approach to early education in children. She is a great example of a social entrepreneur. By definition, social entrepreneurs are great people-recruiters who present their ideas or solutions in a way that many people, who are either part of the problem or surrounding it, recognise a need for change and get on board the change bandwagon. Therefore, mobilizing the masses for bringing about change, is a hallmark of a social entrepreneur.

Gretchen Zucker: “At Ashoka, who has 20 offices in Europe, we wanted to build a field of social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs are those people who are changing systems. Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example, who basically pioneered the personal computer industry, and this is an example of entrepreneurship. And then we have Florence Nightingale who came up with the nursing profession. That is social entrepreneurship. So, in Ashoka, we believe that everybody can be a change-maker. It doesn’t need to be on a big scale, but we can all work towards making a positive change in our communities, and that is good enough.”

Uroš Skrinar: “Something similar has been supported by EU programmes for young people. Not so much as change-making per se, although the impact is quite similar, but as active European citizenship, especially focusing on participating the young people. If we want to make changes, we need to start with the youth. So, we have a European strategy based on three crucial points: engage, connect and empower. I believe that these three points are crucial. Therefore, all these programmes support young people and organisations to prepare projects that will have an impact on local and national communities. One of our priorities is also to develop the right competencies in young people so that they will be empowered to make a positive change.

Which competencies and entrepreneurial skills are required to be a changemaker?

There are so many challenges and problems out there to solve and we need more people to step in. And those people need to be able to recognize unjust social issues, identify business opportunities, inspire change through participation, and be creative. These skills can’t be taken for granted and we have to develop them.

Gretchen Zucker: “Teen years are probably the primer years in that context. During those years we start to have an opinion on everything and yet we haven’t put limitations to what we can do. Through being initiative and starting to work on finding the solutions to problems you learn and develop needed skills. Entrepreneurial mind-set is one, for example. Then leading (a team) and empathy are also critical competencies.”

Young people need to learn how to make a financial plan. Then they need to learn how to communicate, which is a very important skill,” added Uroš Skrinar.

Can educational systems help to develop more active citizens?

“Despite frequent appeals to ‘active citizenship’ in EU political debates and policy documents, it remains one of the most challenging topics in education. Teachers, educators and youth workers must be provided with clear methodological guidance regarding citizenship/civic education. They should be offered authentic teaching resources and good practice examples. Some effective approaches develop interpersonal, intercultural, social and civic competences, and thereby foster social participation and active citizenship at local, national, and/or international level. For example, participation in Erasmus+ European projects and Virtual Exchange, in the online eTwinning programme, or in intercultural telecollaborations related to citizenship education topics,” wrote Irina Golubeva, University of Miskolc, Hungary in her The links between education and active citizenship/civic engagement report.

Uroš Skrinar: “Education systems have a huge impact and role to play in transforming young people into active citizens. I can only speak for Slovenian system and I believe that we don’t have enough programmes in schools that encourage these skills. We need to start developing entrepreneurial skills at a younger age than we do now.”

After a very interesting hour, the guests concluded that, in order for young generations to become active citizens, it is very important for them to be open-minded, entrepreneurial-driven and emphatic. Parenting plays a very important role here too. But in the end, there are no recipes. We need to try, fail and try again.

We would love to invite you to our tenth and the last webinar on: How to boost Trans-Atlantic Cooperation in the New Reality, which will take place on the 23rd of March at 17:30 PM CET. In this free webinar, we will discuss how Slovenia and the US can further develop our trade and how we can help our companies to enter these markets. We will discuss investing potentials and objective obstacles for business in both regions. Guests in this panel will be Chargé d’Affaires Susan K. Falatko (US Embassy in Slovenia, US) and HE Ambassador Tone Kajzer (Embassy of Slovenia, SI).

You can apply here:


We are proud to be part of this great program that will be carried out in partnership with:

This project was funded, in part, through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State.

Entrepreneurship in new reality is a tailored-made project, aimed at sharing knowledge and exchanging ideas among entrepreneurs in the times of new reality. It aims to promote cross-national collaboration, facilitate development of new business and enhance Trans-Atlantic perspective.

Reposted from GEA College

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