Inclusive entrepreneurship model

Lowering barriers to make entrepreneurship an option for everyone

Labelisation date : 02/06/2017

  • Barcelona , Spain

  • Size of city : 1 609 000 inhabitants

  • Contact

    Cristina Gil

    Head of International Projects and European Funds


Barcelona City Council's development agency launched the inclusive entrepreneurship model (IEM) in 2004 to make entrepreneurship a realistic option for everyone. Entrepreneurship is a way to create jobs and raise individuals’ economic and social autonomy. However, many barriers prevent many people from becoming entrepreneurs - particularly in specific groups, such as women, youth, and people over 45. Closely involving expert stakeholders, Barcelona Activa's IEM is “universal”, “tailor-made”, “blended”, “integrated”: it targets everyone willing to be an entrepreneur. Its tools and services are adapted for the most vulnerable population who may not benefit from conventional entrepreneurship services. It combines online and onsite tools and services, enabling people with time and mobility limitations to create their personalised itinerary to start-up. And it gives people who are not ready to start a company the possibility of training and coaching to improve their professional profiles. The model has supported 18 000 new companies, creating 32 000 jobs.

The solutions offered by the good practice

The IEM’s aim is to coach entrepreneurs from their business idea to the setting up of their company. It has four features:

  • Universal: it is open to everyone. The first step to access the services is a welcome session where all the available tools are presented. 226 welcome sessions are held every year (both online and on-site). All the attendees are offered different services according to their needs. This includes personalised advice: a team of entrepreneurship experts coaches entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into feasible businesses with:
    • A set of on-line tools: an online toolkit to produce SWOT analyses of business ideas, well structured business plans, self-assessment of key entrepreneurial skills, and key information about legal procedures, access to funding and market intelligence;
    • Training seminars: entrepreneurs are offered training in those fields that are essential for the management of a new company, such as legal status and procedures, market research, financial plans, entrepreneurial skills.
  • Blended: the combination of the on-site and online services provides the model with flexibility for those entrepreneurs facing mobility and time restrictions.
  • Tailor-made: programmes designed for those groups that face specific hindrances due to their social/personal circumstances.
  • Integrated: it has the ability to refer those who reach out to BA, but are not ready to start a business, to other services (i.e. those offered by employment or training departments).

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

The Inclusive Entrepreneurship Model is a genuine solution that mainly combines the economic and social dimension using physical and on-line channels to provide the services, offering both individual and group coaching and in cooperation with the city’s ecosystem. This approach makes it possible to reach a high critical mass but, at the same time, is flexible enough so that each individual can build his or her own path towards entrepreneurship.

The model is implemented in permanent contact with the different stakeholders operating at economic and social levels in the city of Barcelona, which makes it possible to adapt to changes in the society and economy. These stakeholders include different levels of governance (Catalan government, Spanish government and European Union); the academic community (universities and research centres); the private sector (other companies, financial sector...). Thus, the model is based upon horizontal integrated interventions (economic, social) with vertical integrated interventions (cooperation with local stakeholders and different levels of governance).

Furthermore, Barcelona Activa as a City Council agency is the closest level of administration to the citizens. It develops its activity in different areas of the city in collaboration with territory-rooted stakeholders as professional associations or third sector organisations. Because of this close collaboration, specific and newly raised needs are better detected.

Based on a participatory approach

BA acts as broker and connector: analyses, connects and “makes things happen”. While it has a wide vision of the reality of the city, it works closely with expert stakeholders to define the means of the IEM. There are different kinds of stakeholder collaborations in project development and implementation:

  • Cross-cutting partners for permanent services and events’ co-design: Barcelona Fair, Chamber of Commerce, business associations and workers associations take part in permanent activities and especially in the organisation of BizBarcelona, the biggest entrepreneurship event held (more than 300 organisations involved);
  • Co-development and implementation of sector-focused programmes: sector-focused promotion institutions, high schools, professional guilds or big business players act as experts and get first-hand connection to the newest and most promising ideas and startups of the sector within the sector-focused programmes;
  • Permanent connection to finance sources: Caixa Capital Risc, Microbank, Banc de Sabadell, as well as Business Angels and other investment platforms are in permanent connection and co-organise events together with BA, providing them with a flux of technically viable projects to invest in.

Involvement is based on two pillars:

  • Connecting expertise, co-design programmes and avoid overlapping services.
  • Providing expert support for entrepreneurs with high degrees of specialisation.

What difference has it made?

The current entrepreneurship model started in 2004, although Barcelona Activa provided entrepreneurship support services from the very beginning of its activity, back in 1986.

The main results of the model in the period between 2004 and 2016 are: more than 100,000 people participated in its services (3,800 of them in tailor-made programmes). This participation turned into 26,000 business plans coached and 18,000 companies created. Up to now, these companies have created 32,000 jobs.

In OECD’s words (“The Experience of Barcelona: Promoting entrepreneurship, employment and business competitiveness,” 2009) the transformation of the economic structure of the city of Barcelona, from an industrial site into a knowledge-intensive hub, has been very successful. The agency has also encouraged entrepreneurship and business growth.

Moreover, it has promoted the adaptation of the capacities and skills of the population to meet the new demands of employees, tackling unemployment. Today, the entrepreneurial and innovative environment that stimulates the creation of new small firms and the transformation of new ideas into businesses is still perceivable.

In a nutshell, IEM is based on the idea that economic development has to be seen and projected as a means to achieve social welfare. With this purpose, BA takes people as a reference when designing and implementing its entrepreneurship support model.

Why should other European cities use it?

The good practice would be interesting for other European cities because it is a tested approach to an unsolved common European challenge: “In the European Union, approximately 4 million jobs are needed to return to pre-crisis employment levels. Groups such as youth, women, seniors, ethnic minorities, and the disabled face particularly high risks of being marginalised in the labour market. Policies should leave no stone unturned in delivering a response, and one of the under-explored avenues is action for entrepreneurship and self-employment, targeted at disadvantaged and under-represented groups” (OECD/The European Commission (2013), The Missing Entrepreneurs: Policies for Inclusive Entrepreneurship in Europe, OECD).

Promoting inclusive entrepreneurship could be a strategic tool to fight against these problems, since stimulating successful business creation across all sections of society is an important requirement for achieving inclusive growth and reducing social and economic exclusion.

Only 2.6% of the adult population in the EU were new business owners in the 2009- 2013 period (OECD). These rates decrease dramatically in groups of people with specific problems to become entrepreneurs. Across the EU, women are half as likely as men to be new business owners (1.8% vs. 3.5%); businesses run by young people tend to have lower survival rates; and older entrepreneurs (+45) tend to run only small companies. For this reason, IEM would be an interesting good practice in EU cities.