Leveraging digital technology to support young entrepreneurs

Dee Jadeja leads the Livelihoods team at Accenture Development Partnerships, Accenture‘s social impact practice.

How does Accenture partner with development organisations on digital?

Accenture Development Partnerships supports development organisations to strengthen organisational capacity and enhance the impact of their programmes. Digital is a big part of this. The Livelihoods team works with organisations on the design and delivery of their initiatives. We support organisations to design, test and implement solutions quickly and at low cost – building the business case for investing in new digital solutions.

What big opportunities and risks do you think digital poses to young entrepreneurs around the world?

Digital is changing the way the world works, the way we interact with each other and what we look for in products and services. I think the biggest opportunity that digital poses for young entrepreneurs is that they can learn about the marketplace using different sources and engage with customers through different channels. There are also new potential value propositions because of fewer barriers to entry across different industries. Digital technology has opened up the field for entrepreneurs – but it’s not easy to know how to leverage it effectively. Technology can also be a risk, with emerging areas such as AI and robotics potentially replacing a range of jobs. However, overall I think it is more of an opportunity than a threat.

Why is it important for YBI to incorporate digital tools and approaches?

Through digital technology, YBI has an opportunity to create deep and lasting impact for beneficiaries, do more with less, and differentiate itself from peers to attract support. At a member level, it is an opportunity to enhance efficiency by applying digital technologies to internal processes and practices and engaging with entrepreneurs in different ways. I think it is key that they practise what they preach by demonstrating to entrepreneurs how they leverage digital themselves. Digital technologies and platforms can also offer a whole host of new opportunities for members to interact with each other and with external stakeholders.       

Can you share your reflections on the Digital Accelerator that we’ve collaborated on recently?

As part of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program in Latin America and the Caribbean, YBI and IDB Lab launched the Digital Accelerator in 2018 to support members to improve their services to entrepreneurs using digital technology. Accenture Development Partnerships joined as a consulting partner, using human centred design methods to co-develop digital strategies with each of the seven members and develop a regional strategy. We learned that a human centred approach, agility and focusing on the entrepreneur’s experience are all critical. It was also really important that we invested in the learning process throughout, helping to build key skills. Members not only benefited from the digital strategy, but also from the process, so this is now something they can keep live and agile.

What are the next steps for this collaboration?

In the final workshops of the Digital Accelerator, members shared their digital initiatives and discussed areas of synergy. Several found commonality on the issue of entrepreneurs not having a sustainable business one year after entering their programme. The group identified some of the potential root causes, shared their ideas and built on these to co-create a joint vision. The concept ‘The Digital Entrepreneur Experience Simulator’ (DEES) is a digital tool in which an entrepreneur can experience a personalised virtual journey that is closely related to their real-life entrepreneurship process. They can develop skills, access information to define their business idea and interactively test the idea through a range of games and challenges. DEES has huge potential: the solution helps bridge the technology gap and promote greater adoption of digital tools for productivity among disadvantaged youth.

Why should attendees join Accenture’s session on human centred design at GYES 2019?

It’s going to be a really hands-on session. Human centred design was critical for the Digital Accelerator in Latin America and the Caribbean and is equally important for YBI members as for the entrepreneurs they work with. It is a new way of thinking about problems and coming up with solutions based on user experience as well as technical feasibility and business viability. It’s about a different set of tools and techniques, mindsets and perspectives. In 90 minutes, we’ll expose people to these mindsets and provide an experience for them to test some of the tools and techniques. It will be playful, allowing us a chance to explore what it means to put customers and users at the centre of all that we do.

Accenture will be participating in the Global Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (GYES), taking place from 10-14 June 2019 in Cartagena, Colombia. GYES 2019 will bring together YBI members, leading experts, influencers and decision makers in the youth entrepreneurship sector to explore new approaches to the ever-changing needs, challenges and aspirations of young entrepreneurs globally. Visit the GYES website to learn more.

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