Regan Durkin joined The Children’s School this year as a sixth/ seventh-grade teacher. Before TCS, she worked for five years at Kennesaw State University’s Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center where she served as the assistant director. In this article, Regan talks here about her experience working with entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurship, and the value of an entrepreneurial mindset.
What if our students didn’t view making money and doing good as mutually exclusive? What if, on the contrary, we rose up a generation of students who obtained the skillset to create sustainable business models that also solved social issues? What if we could get students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade thinking about the impact they might have on their communities, and then making that very impact? Not by volunteering or charity, which are good, but going even deeper to make a lasting impact through creation, by learning what it takes to be pioneers, not just participants.
I spent the past five years of my life in the field of entrepreneurship education, training primary through postsecondary educators all over the world, on how to make their curriculum come alive and relevant through entrepreneurship. For the past two years, I served as the assistant director of the Kennesaw State University’s Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center where I was exposed to entrepreneurs from every stage and countless industries, testing a variety of business models. I saw entrepreneurs succeed and fail. I helped students start businesses, craft pitches, receive investments, develop mentor relationships, and, most importantly, witness their lives change by embracing the entrepreneurial mindset.
The entrepreneurial mindset is complex as students who endured the process of creating something from nothing had to be both adaptable and dedicated, courageous and careful, confident and teachable. Even though the journey is challenging, it is this mindset that will transform our students into social entrepreneurs. Personally, I don’t view entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship as two different endeavors. If you’re truly solving a problem, you can always figure out a way to monetize it; money follows value creation. True value creation is born of those with an entrepreneurial mindset. Those who are willing to challenge the status quo, create instead of complain, and believe before they see.
Though not a new concept, the world of entrepreneurship still has not agreed on a standard definition for social entrepreneurship. This is where the opportunity lies. Our students have the opportunity to define this notion not by words, but by their stories. They have the opportunity to not just learn about what a social entrepreneur is but become one in the process. Becoming a social entrepreneur is a lifelong endeavor as the problems in our world are ever-changing and increasingly complex. However, if our students can be exposed to the problems in our community and beyond, develop empathy for these injustices, analyze the causes of these issues, learn how to navigate ambiguity, and activate their voice, their ideas, and their ventures to be part of the solution, we will prepare our Middle Grades students to not only see problems, but be equipped and empowered to do something about them.
As they grow, mature, and evolve beyond The Children’s School (TCS) throughout their high school, college, and adult lives, these three years of becoming a social entrepreneur will set our students apart from their peers, rising up as the leaders who will create a better, more equitable future for us, themselves, and those to come after them.
I cannot imagine what our students will be capable of if they realize as eighth graders they don’t have to wait to change their world. The world desperately needs people who are willing and able to solve problems, more concerned with the question “why not?” instead of “why me?” Why not start now? Why not be the catalyst for a shift in education that will have a lasting impact on our communities?
At TCS, we believe in the power of play. Social entrepreneurship is the big-kid version of playing with building blocks as a preschooler. With few constraints and endless possibilities, our students will be engaged as they build meaningful solutions, having fun during the process.