The “Bureau International Jeunesse (BIJ) is a public body, part of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, Belgium. Its main role is to manage different international and national programmes based on non-formal learning addressed to young people living in Wallonia and Brussels that want to engage in learning mobility experiences. The BIJ is also the “Youth in Action” National Agency of the French Speaking Community in Belgium.
At the BIJ, we consider that every young person involved in an international project has an entrepreneurial spirit, yet this is not always acknowledged. Young people involved in non-formal learning activities develop a wide range of competencies that can be regarded as entrepreneurial: creativity, the ability to carry out a project and to manage a budget, autonomy, responsibility etc.
Moreover, the theme of entrepreneurial spirit has been adopted by the BIJ for many years already. The BIJ has particularly encouraged the development of Clubs of Student Entrepreneurs “Clubs Etudiants Entrepreneurs – CEE” in Wallonia and Brussels, facilitating meetings with similar clubs from Quebec Canada.
Meetings between experts in promoting an entrepreneurial spirit among young people from Quebec Canada, the “Economic Stimulus Agency” (ASE – Agence de la stimulation économique) from Wallonia Belgium and the “Agency for enterprises” (ABE – Agence bruxelloise pour l’entreprise) from Brussels were organised as from 2007.
In 2009, the BIJ, in collaboration with the ABE, ASE and the French initiative “Envie d’agir” organised a seminar with participants from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation (FBW), Quebec Canada, France and the Canton of Jura (Switzerland). This event brought together professionals from the youth sector and experts in promoting an entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the objectives of the seminar was to prove that the entrepreneurial spirit was not exclusively connected to the economic world. Bridges could be built between the participants with different backgrounds and several tools and methods were pooled.
Following this event, consultations with the different partners were undertaken in Wallonia and Brussels, most notably with the Export and Foreign Investment Agency from Wallonia (AWEX - Agence wallone à l’éxportation et aux investissements étrangers) and its “Explort” programme
Besides fostering knowledge sharing and facilitating the networking of different actors engaged in promoting an entrepreneurial spirit among young people, the BIJ also wished to develop a specific tool to support entrepreneurial projects, namely the “Entrechok” programme..
The rationale behind this programme is to support projects that cannot be supported by other existing financial schemes, because of different reasons such as status, accessibility, project specificity etc.
Launched in July 2012, “Entrechok” aims to offer young people, aged between 20 and 35 from Wallonia and Brussels, the chance to either do a study visit or participate in a training course or an exhibition in another country, with the purpose of helping them to better define and improve their initial entrepreneurial project be it social, economic, cultural, environmental or community project. Social economy, sustainable development and innovative projects are given priority.
The applicants are requested to present the state of progress of their entrepreneurial project, to motivate why they chose a specific country (Any country in the world is eligible) or event where they want to go to, to present the programme of their study visit, to explain the possible development of their entrepreneurial project thanks to the study visit/training course/exhibition as well as to present the potential contacts with project management support structures.
After more than half a year from its launch, we have supported more than 30 persons with an average age of 25. The “Entrechok” programme covers travel expenses up to 1000 EUR per person.
A few examples of supported projects:
A young designer went to Morocco for a study visit aiming to get familiar with the different leather craftsmanship techniques used in Casablanca. He worked with specific quality tools, met different local craftsmen and got involved in the activities carried out in the workshop.
Three young agricultural engineers from Wallonia did a study visit to Haiti with the aim of establishing a commercialisation network of Haitian cocoa cream on the Belgian market. They went there to gather information about the product, meet local producers and set up a fair trade professional network.
A young anthropologist passionate about aromatherapy went to Peru for a study visit. Her aim was to organise ecotourism visits in the region focused on essential oils including meetings with local producers and population.