Article featured in The Society for Diversity: "Business4ALL: a new generation of entrepreneurial assistive tools".
We at Closefunding strongly believe that diversity is about much more than simply being aware of individual differences, it is about embracing and incorporating them into everyday life. We know it is not only a matter of creating accessible solutions, but a matter of creating tools allowing and managing diversity. Diversity management is an essential skill of new innovators, entrepreneurs and mentors (if they want to solve the right “jobs to be done” and optimize resources) and a clear competitive advantage for entrepreneurial programs aimed to deliver impact and scale.
From its inception, Closefunding Project in Murcia (Spain) declared its mission as creating a new generation of handy and collaborative tools and methodologies to effectively implement an Inclusive Entrepreneurship process model where not only less engaged groups of people are included in self-employment opportunities, but stakeholders and other business-peers from diverse sectors are also to be included in the project design and implementation. The development of “multi-ability” tools has been one effective way to incorporate diversity in daily entrepreneurship and has helped facilitating a greater understanding of existing barriers and challenges faced by projects, as well as opportunities, best practices and references to overcome them.
Creating the business plan may not be the first task when helping disadvantaged entrepreneurs become business owners. Well-researched, validated and updated business models are very necessary to operate a successful business and, eventually, achieve financial investment. But such a business model awareness must also come with a strong and tailored assessment of entrepreneurs’ capabilities, working preferences, personal motivations and purpose underpinning a career as small business owners. So we must initially have a clear picture of the business and personal support needed to move their projects from a place of aspiration to a place of feasibility. Indeed, this initial understanding on “personal and business viability” must also empower entrepreneurs to make an informed and objective decision to start or not to start a formal business process (or move on to another career goal).
Business4ALL Tools meet this approach. They have been recognized as the first Innovation and Entrepreneurship Assistive Tools aimed at accelerating the understanding and adoption of business models literacy to a broader base of people and personal circumstances.
With Business4ALL, entrepreneurs, mentors, stakeholders and business-peers may creatively discover, co-design and understand the whole dynamics behind projects while developing entrepreneurial competencies that will get them to new growth opportunities (commercial, knowledge, cost-reduction synergies, cross-sales, setting-up to accommodate the work to entrepreneur’s capabilities, etc.).
Diversity and inclusion "by design"
Adopting a universal design approach within new entrepreneurship ecosystems can enhance their cost-effectiveness while improving the quality of services and performance outcomes. Following this premise, Business4ALL is built upon Universal Design principles to make inclusive projects and business strategies generating shared value ‘Business as Usual’.
Particularly, underlying principles of Business4ALL Tools are congruent with the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, especially:
- Article 9: “Promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost”.
- Article 4: “To undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities, as defined in article 2 of the present Convention, which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person (…), to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guidelines”.
Business4ALL Tools principles are also congruent with the principles and practices of social entrepreneurship that seek to create social change using business development methods.
Currently, the tool is delivered through two channels or formats: a physical or “face-to-face” kit, featuring cardboard pieces (Braille-ready, QR codes accessing to card descriptions and practical examples fully compatible with user device screen readers, color-blind friendly mode and high-contrast versions available for low-vision users) and an intuitive online graphical interface. Business4ALL Tools also include in their graphical symbolism diversity-related features, to influence the perception held by people and normalize participation around under-represented groups, as well as changing cultural and territory-based aspects, having impact on the easy recognition of business concepts and stimulating creativity (beyond preconceived limits).
Combining physical and online interactions
Certainly, face-to-face Business4ALL Toolkit is also built to reach people who are less prone to operate on the internet. Physical interactions around Business4ALL Toolkit can be complemented with progressive online interactions with other business-peers, stakeholders and specialized support services.
Such an online co-creation and support is even more important for some inclusive entrepreneurship target groups. It is important to recognize that traveling to support or networking events is potentially difficult for many groups with mobility challenges. For any entrepreneur, but especially for “housebound” entrepreneurs (like those with physical disabilities but also those with low incomes who may not have a disability), it is still more important that means are found to overcome their social and support isolation. The online environment of Business4ALL eliminates such physical distances between entrepreneurs, and between entrepreneurs and mentors and offers some of the key characteristics of traditional networks including connections with other entrepreneurs and collaborators that are built on trust and reciprocal relationships. So far, the holistic support delivered through Business4ALL is also allowing a broader range of professionals to increase and deepen their knowledge as to the needs and nature of less engaged entrepreneurs.
I think a good closing remark of this article may be Steven Johnson’s quote regarding where good ideas come from,
Innovation doesn't come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect”.
Indeed, this sentence resonates with Closefunding’s purpose on the importance of recognizing and managing diversity through accessible and more affordable business resources to truly build all bridges needed for each entrepreneur to realize his or her full potential.