This content is part of JA Europe‘s Knowledge Network on New Europe
Whether you become an entrepreneur or not, I believe exploring entrepreneurship in all its facets is crucial for all young people. It gives you self-confidence, creativity, and therefore it will help you in fulfilling your ambitions. I am proud that at NN Group, we can play a role in supporting young people in this.
Part of being a good corporate citizen as an insurance and asset management company means we use our resources, expertise and reach to help society achieve long-term, sustainable prosperity. In 2014 we set up a corporate citizenship programme, called NN Future Matters, to support local communities in helping people improve their well-being. As part of our programme we collaborate with various charitable partners. One of these partners is Junior Achievement (JA Europe), the largest organisation in the field of financial education and entrepreneurship that gives young people the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship.
Our partnership with JA Europe has so far empowered more than 30,000 young people, in ten countries around the world to take charge of their financial future. It fits with the goals of NN Future Matters to promote financial empowerment, create economic opportunities and alleviate financial distress. By providing young people with financial and entrepreneurial skills our partnership aims to help them to develop capabilities relevant in today’s global economy.
The main activity of the partnership is supporting the Social Innovation Relay. This competition aims to inspire secondary school students to create innovative business concepts that address social challenges, and in this way contributes to the development of entrepreneurial skills and social consciousness amongst secondary school students. During the competition, students are paired with NN volunteers who provide a combination of virtual and face-to-face mentorship in their personal areas of expertise. Working together with the business community provides students with the opportunity to connect their classroom knowledge with the ‘real world.’
Another entrepreneurial experience is the Social Innovation Camp, where students divided in teams receive a social business challenge for which they have to prepare a solution in less than 48 hours. They do this with the support of an NN volunteer, who guides their research and preparation. Together they build solutions for the most pressing social issues. At the same time students grow more confident as they turn their ideas into real business projects, ready to be implemented.
A third activity, the Job Shadow Day, offers the unique experience shadowing an NN colleague for one entire day. Students are exposed to the working dynamics, the do’s and don’ts in a working environment, and get to understand what it takes to be in that chair years later. I invite you to read how the Job Shadow day impacted the life of both young people and NN employees in our business in Poland.
Having been involved in all of these projects, I experienced myself how the JA projects have a positive impact on both the students and the volunteers themselves. Our volunteering colleagues have skills and expertise that are useful to people at a young age, who are trying to understand how the world works. In return, our colleagues have the chance to coach and inspire, while staying connected to the world of young innovators.
After three years of partnership I am proud that NN Group has reached more than 30,000 students that have participated in the activities we run together with Junior Achievement. It is important for us to understand the long term impact these activities have on young people. To do that, we joined forces with the Impact Centre Erasmus. The preliminary results of the impact assessment are encouraging. Students show an increase in their entrepreneurial intention, the level of skills related to networking and communication, but also an increase in innovativeness and creativity. Moreover, students gain a better understanding of what social innovation is, and what the social issues are around them, becoming more confident that they have what it takes to tackle them.
For example, last year’s winners’ of the Social Innovation Relay was a team of high school students, called Oculus, from Romania. Team Oculus developed innovative, high-tech glasses including safety and navigation devices to help visually impaired people in finding their way. After winning the Social Innovation Relay, their work continued, and they were recently awarded for their work with the Amcham EU Youth Entrepreneurship Award. You can read their inspiring story.
Being an entrepreneur myself, I also value the personal growth, pride and engagement that the students and our colleagues get from their experiences. And I know our work in community investment is important and meaningful when I hear colleagues say: ‘Contributing like this to society makes you feel good, reminds you what is right and what really matters’. As there is only one thing more rewarding than being an entrepreneur, and that is supporting other people to be an entrepreneur. This is why for me, our partnership with Junior Achievement matters.