As part of the Comenius Teaching Fellowship scholarship ‘Making Entrepreneurship Education more inclusive’ and the NWO OSMARE project, we have developed a rapid prototyping learning event (RPLE). In the RPLE teams of international BSc and MSc students from two universities (Wageningen University and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)) got 48 hours to jointly design and develop a prototype for a local cheese maker in Malawi. The point of departure was an authentic, local entrepreneurial case: an owner-manager of a local small cheese making company who felt that he needed to grow his company but faced many challenges to do so. The RPLE was held synchronous on the two university campuses: the students never met each other face-to-face. All interaction between the students was done via internet and social media (in particular Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp).
The goal of introducing this entrepreneurial learning activity was to encourage interaction and cross-boundary entrepreneurial problem solving between university students from western and non-western origin.
The RPLE has been monitored and evaluated in detail on different evaluation levels. The results show that the program contributes to short term impact (e.g. joy of learning and collaborating, confidence in the own expertise, seeing where to contribute), but also enables longer term impact (e.g. moving from intention to an actual start-up). Moreover, the activity produces actual solutions that, in this case the cheesemaker can implement, which can help the business to grow and survive.
A distance type of rapid prototyping is very worthwhile to adopt as learning activity for higher education teachers who look for new, cost effective inclusive entrepreneurship education programs. However, although the learning event is cheap in its actual implementation, preparation of the event, including finding an appropriate local university as well as case owner requires substantial effort.
The rapid prototyping event has been developed in the context the Comenius Teaching Fellow grant in 2019 (completed) as well as the NWO OSMARE research project. The full description and analysis of the results of the learning intervention will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal (currently under review).