Competitions which ultimately provide a ‘winner’ have been a mainstay of Enterprise Education within the UK and further afield for many years. The premise being that the nature of competition will mimic the future world of the entrepreneur battling to get his or her concept to the front of the queue for consumers. If I win, people must love it!
But are competitions of this type fair? There is an argument to say that those who participate will benefit from the skills and experiences of others around them, that they will be motivated by the carrot of success and the ‘win’, that the motivation comes from the goal of success. However, for every winner of a competition there are of course those that don’t ‘win’, I don’t want to call them losers.
The skills and experiences one can generate by being part of a competition has undoubted advantages, and to say that those that don’t win, haven’t learnt would be wrong. However, what is the impact on those non winners going forward? For those who don’t experience the glory of be named the winner can that experience have a negative impact and make those students feel less worthy or less likely to engage with Enterprise Education in the future? Could we be perversely be turning students away from enterprise and business start-up?
I work with a great many University students from a wide variety of backgrounds, many students coming from backgrounds where perhaps attending University isn’t the ‘norm’. For some of these students the way that competitions are often judged maybe through formal presentation or pitch, for those students from challenging upbringings their confidence can be a barrier to success, not their ideas.
If success is often determined through confidence, and that confidence has come from a person’s upbringing and previous positive experience, is the playing field level, within such competitions for those that haven’t had that luxury? Indeed, are we increasing the social divide by pitching students against each other when their journeys could be hugely different and reinforcing that which has gone before, again, thus further embedding the ‘winners’ versus the ‘losers’.
I don’t have the answer to this question.
I am actively looking at ways in which the competitions I manage consider the journey as well as the polished conclusion. I would be interested to hear other thoughts upon this, what can we do to make Enterprise competition a fairer space to all? I understand the realities are, life chances are very different, and indeed it’s not fair. To suggest we can change this path with a simple competition is probably naïve, however, I want to challenge myself to be creative and look for other ways to judge success.
This blog post could perhaps move into many areas, those such as University League Tables and other forms of listings or rank, but that’s for another day.
My goal is to get creative and find new ways in which my competitions consider the full journey rather than simply the end shiny polished performance. I think we have a duty to those students to do this. Can you help me?