epOnsite in Montevideo: The impact of peer-learning spaces on growing enterprises
By Clara Hidrón, Founder Reflejarse and Anais Mangin, international consultant and associate at adelphi
Entrepreneurs are, by definition, creative, hardworking and determined people; they have a clear goal and will do everything in their power to attain it. This is perhaps why, no matter how much work it is, we feel so energized after working with a group of like-minded people for a couple of days. Even more so when working with entrepreneurs who want to challenge the status quo: those who believe that their business idea can actually change the world around them. We think this makes them even more resolute and engaged, and when they work together they create a vibrant and optimistic atmosphere where ideas flow naturally.
This is the atmosphere we experienced during our three-day epOnsite in Montevideo at beginning of June. This was, no doubt, a valuable opportunity for this amazing group of people. They got the chance to learn how to implement new practical tools that can help them develop strategies to strengthen their organizations and learn about their customers and their markets. But above all, they got a chance to learn from each other, to share their experiences and shake off their doubts. This peer-to-peer learning was, in our opinion, one of the greatest takeaways from this workshop.
Having different business models and targeting diverse markets was not an impediment for this exchange, instead it allowed for richer discussions. It was very interesting to observe how the learning process built up throughout the three days, becoming more intense as connections deepened between participants.
Peer-learning is certainly not new, but we would like to highlight some of its benefits, especially for social entrepreneurs. From our experience in facilitating peer-learning workshops, three general observations have emerged:
- Networking and B2B partnerships, this is one of the most important impacts of peer-learning platforms for entrepreneurs. They are given the time to get to know each other in an exclusive setting, and build strong relationships. Through international programmes like the epOnsite, they also get to know organisations from a variety of countries and sectors, which can lead to new target markets. This happened, for example, in 2014 when innovator Gregor Schäpers from Mexico met Auke Idzenga. Auke works in the water supply sector in the Philippines and they together initiated a great technology transfer. Using the hydraulic water pump in the Philippines, Auke supplies people in developing regions with a stable water supply. When Schäpers saw this Ram Pump he instantly knew that it could improve access to water in remote areas of Mexico. Luckily, Siemens Stiftung provided support and he was able to send one of his best technicians, Ivan Gomez Romero, to a several-week training session in the Philippines. No sooner initiated than done and the technology transfer was complete! Besides this, we also saw many cases where agri- or waste- businesses connected with renewable energy providers to improve their energy supply.
- Peer-to-peer platforms offer a great learning effect. These are rare occasions where entrepreneurs can dive deep into the business models of others. This is particularly interesting for start-ups or growing enterprises eager to learn from experienced entrepreneurs. The epOnsite is designed to foster B2B learnings and uses a variety of interactive formats that enable collaborative advice and exchanges, which can spur innovation. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to get feedback from their peers, they become inspired by new good practices or solutions and the questions that arise from their peers help them revise their business models and identify new opportunities.
- Finally, motivation is strengthened. Being an entrepreneur is tough work and the road to success is made up of a lot of ups and downs – and this is true for every entrepreneur. Listening to other people facing the same problems and fears, or understanding how they overcame specific challenges will boost their confidence and can motivate them in difficult times.
Even if time is precious for growing entrepreneurs, they shouldn’t underestimate the value of peer learning platforms.
About the authors:
Clara Hidrón Botero is Founding Partner and Consultant at REFLEJARSE. She is an Environmental Engineer (Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia; Medellín – Colombia) with a Masters in Development Economics and International Project Management (Université Paris-Est, Paris – France). She is certified in GRI methodology and has over 12 years’ experience in international cooperation and sustainability consulting. She has worked in the public, private and social sector. As a consultant, she helps organizations integrate social, environmental and governance issues into their business strategies; performing sustainability assessments, providing training and coaching, designing and implementing stakeholder engagement processes, developing materiality analyses, helping design collaborative strategies to achieve more sustainable supply chains and providing orientation on writing sustainability reports. She has had ample experience designing and facilitating participatory workshops on an array of topics and with different audiences. Her experience includes project formulation and evaluation workshops, consultation processes with organizational stakeholders (community representatives, suppliers, employees, CSOs) and multi stakeholder discussions and round – tables.
Anais Mangin is international expert in social entrepreneurship and associate at adelphi. With more than 6 years’ professional experience as an advisor and project manager, she is specialised in the field of social entrepreneurship and inclusive business. Before working as a freelance consultant, she has been working for 6 years as a project manager at adelphi on various projects at the intersection of business and sustainability. She has experience in managing and coordinating consultation projects, providing trainings, and organising high-level policy dialogues on topics related to social entrepreneurship and inclusive business. She was actively involved in the SEED Initiative, a global partnership to foster social and green entrepreneurship. She also has experience in the design and implementation of capacity-building programmes that foster social entrepreneurship. In this sense, she provided business support to local entrepreneurs in Africa and led many trainings and workshops with the different sector players. In addition, she gathered a lot of experience in the field of climate change adaptation and sustainable consumption and production in the context of SME promotion. Before adelphi she worked in the field of interethnic relations in conflict areas for the German parliament, as well as for the European Commission representation in France. Furthermore, she gained experience at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Berlin on a project dealing with the development of private sector and investment promotion in Ethiopia. She has a degree in political science and international relations from the French University Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence and the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany. She also has a Master in International Management from the ESCP European School of Management and the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, Thailand.