This might be my daftest idea yet. If it’s as obvious as I think, why isn’t it already happening in Wales?
Here’s the idea. An intensive University Degree Course, aimed at the over 50’s. On the course the participants will; create real businesses, with a strong social purpose (cooperatives if possible), and get a degree out of it. The continuation of the businesses after the course, and graduates that are; happy, confident, full of drive and social purpose, will be an ‘added value’ outcome. And the slightly controversial bit… link it to voluntary early retirement payoffs.
Does that sound realistic, or shall I get my coat and leave…?
Mondragon Team Academy (MTA) lit my fire. Basically, MTA is a degree course where participants really do create businesses, learn about business theory while doing the practical work and gain a degree from Mondragon University at the end. There are other bits of ‘magic’ that make MTA special and exciting in my view like:
- MTA is run using a ‘Team Academy’ approach. People really do work as a Team – throughout the course.
- It is delivered by a Cooperative University (Mondragon Unibertsitatea) – where undergraduates are immersed in cooperative thinking and ‘doing’ – that has got to have an impact on how you think and ultimately behave.
If you want to know a bit more about MTA try the following:
- The post I wrote about my visit to Mondragon Team Academy (MTA) in Bilbao with links to the course brochures.
- A detailed explanation of the MTA approach from Gilda Hass, on the Dr Pop (popular education) website. There’s a video in the post from Lihar Pillado who works at MTA which I’ll embed at the end of the post.
- If you like looking at slides, this Slide-share: Mondragon Team Academy – Brief Introduction, from Ander Izquierdo Ferran is very useful.
- And the video below explaining the foundation, how it works, the impact and future of Mondragon Team Academy produced as part of its 10th anniversary celebrations (May 2018).
Where do the over 50’s fit in? There are a few things that have spinning around in my head that prompted my ‘daft idea’ and this post.
- Shirley Ayres made a comment about my original MTA blog post around the potential exclusion of people over 50. I’d started that post with “I wish I was 18 again so that I could apply for the MTA course…”. From the conversation with Shirley I started to think, “why couldn’t I apply for something like it when I’m 55?”
- The conversation also highlighted that older people with ‘half a lifetime’ of experience could actually do something good in the world. A course for an 18-20 year old might not be an exact fit for someone who’s worked for 30 years, however things like the Team Academy approach and social entrepreneurship might be perfect?
- There’s probably a need in society for courses like this. Organisations like Prime Cymru (link here) provide support to people over 50 who want to remain or become economically active. The Prime Cymru website talks about 240,000 people in Wales between 50 and retirement age being economically inactive, with many depending on benefits. Some form of paid work, especially if you’ve created it yourself, ought to have a positive impact here.
- There’s probably a demand. Since about 2008 I’ve seen lots of people I know leave public services. Many of them with ‘voluntary early retirement’ or ‘voluntary severance’ financial packages. I often wonder what they are all doing. Yes Facebook has plenty of their holiday pictures, but you can’t spend your life on holiday (or is that just me?) There must be a small but significant percentage of these people who would be interested in an intensive University MTA type course for social entrepreneurs? What if it was offered as part of an early retirement severance package? Would that ‘flush out’ the right people?
This really could be a daft idea. There are many questions crashing around my head now. I think there is a need to do this sort of thing, I think there are probably people who would want to do it, and… it would probably produce businesses that add value. However, there are things that might prevent it like:
- What would it cost? Would it generate enough to pay the teachers/coaches and the University fees?
- Do we have the people with the right competencies to deliver this?
- Could we team up with Mondragon University and become a ‘partner’?
- Will it tread on anyone’s toes? Would existing Universities or other institutions with their flagship projects seek to block it (subtly or otherwise)?
- Could you actually link it to early retirement / voluntary severance packages?
In the spirit of working in the open (like I said I was going to), I’m going to press publish and see if anyone agrees it is a daft idea, or if they have answers and something could be done…
Finally, “Companies want innovation, but they don’t want innovators.” (taken from the Slide-share presentation)
An interesting quote from Johannes Partanen from Tiimi Akatemia – Team Academy at Jyvaskyla University in Finland.
Maybe the Team Academy approach is the solution to organisations getting the innovation they want, without giving innovators the ‘anti-body’ treatment? Something Paul Taylor from Bromford Lab might have a view on?
So, What’s the PONT?
- The Mondragon Team Academy approach is highly attractive (I was sold) and it is producing positive results.
- Running a similar approach with over 50’s is possible (I think), and could also have impressive results.
- Could it be financially linked to the continuing exodus of people retiring early from public services, or anywhere else?
Video of Lihar Pilldao speaking about Mondragon Team Academy, via The Praxis Peace Institute
Yeah, I could help you with this. I’m setting up a social enterprise, and I used to be a lecturer at the USW Business School. If you fancy a coffee, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org . Best wishes, Andy.
I’ll get in touch tomorrow to sort a catch up and coffee.
Sounds good Chris. There are of course accelerator programmes that will support the development of a good idea and which are ‘age-agnostic’. Bethnal Green Ventures supported my early work with Mycarematters – being 54 I did have a significant upward impact on the average age of the cohort!
The value of your approach is that it would bring together both those people with a potentially good idea, and those who’d like to use their skills and experience to support a good idea.
But why impose age limits? By all means design a course to suit someone with life and work experience, but someone of any age might have something to gain and contribute.
You could look at linking it to the apprenticeships programme. My organisation is currently offering a Certificate in Management Degree Apprenticeship to managers via a local university. Most of us aren’t the young and budding apprentices of the stereotype, but seasoned managers who would like a professional qualification to support their further career development and embed and expand on their existing expertise. There’s probably something clever you could do around offering apprenticeships to both the wider age range and the retirees which would tick the right boxes, but I don’t pretend to be an expert. The Co-operative College may be able to assist.
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It is a good idea to link people together.I don’t think you need such a formal structure as doing a degree and there is the danger that the people who get the most out of it are those providing it.Plenty of people do set things up without much if any external input and usually create things that are the most sustainable .I do however like a broader idea of mutual support and networks.
Thanks Chris, I’m reading this while slowly melting under equatorial sunshine, attempting to drum up the energy to reach out to my G&T. And all this as I sydle quietly up to my personal half century, so the idea appeals to me, where do I sign up.
As someone who throughout his career has been accused of being challenging, disruptive, irreverent to leadership, disrespectful to rank, mad, nerdy, hyperactive, talking shite and a million other ways of saying “wrong”, despite time proving me mostly and unequivocally right on most of it… I may be the kind of person suited to this stuff. I’ve worked in organisations my whole life who talk about innovation and engagement and all the new world of ecosystems, but constantly fall back on the old ideas of rank-led vision and values and strategies and objectives, to try and do anything. So I find myself wondering why I work for these idiots and not myself. A bit of fear perhaps, the weight of a mortgage more likely, but this kind of participative entrepreneurialism seems a reasonable stepping stone.
It’s fair to say that my current employer hates me, simply because the things I can do at 50 are far more scary to traditional institutions than what I could do when I was 20. But on the other hand if I got this kind of opportunity at 20… what would I be like now!! Way too scary for some people at the top of a couple of old hierarchies, to even contemplate 😂