Last December, the city of Laâyoune hosted the 2018 PIA Co-Design Summit, convening 70 national and international participants to co-design entrepreneurship ideas for the social and economic development of the region. Fourteen young aspiring entrepreneurs - who had previously received a D-Lab Creative Capacity Building training – spent the week co-creating alongside members of the global MIT Practical Impact Alliance network and representatives of the local and national entrepreneurship ecosystem, to explore business opportunities around six themes.
In the spring of 2019, the aspiring entrepreneurs took part in a three-month incubation program offered by the Laayoune Learning Center (LLC) to help move their ideas towards becoming fundable businesses. The business acceleration curriculum was adapted from MIT’s acclaimed Disciplined Entrepreneurship to fit the needs of these young entrepreneurs.
Last summer, D-Lab followed up with summit participants in Laâyoune and elsewhere in Morocco to evaluate the outcomes of their participation in the summit. What follows are some highlights from the data we gathered from participants.
- 12 of the 14 of the aspiring entrepreneurs continue to pursue entrepreneurship and develop their own projects.
- Five out of six summit projects are being pursued by the entrepreneurs.
- 12 of the 14 entrepreneurs registered for the acceleration course and 8 completed the incubation program.
- 75% of the aspiring entrepreneurs report actively using the methods that they learned through the CCB and the summit.
- In addition to continuing to reinforce the mindsets acquired at the CCB (open-mindedness, resourcefulness) and Summit (confidence, initiative, teamwork), the acceleration course helped the aspiring entrepreneurs to build mindsets of risk-taking and learning from failure.
- 75% of the entrepreneurs are working in collaboration with each other and supporting the projects of their fellow entrepreneurs.
- The entrepreneurs received little support from the ecosystem actors. Only two ecosystem actors actively collaborated with the entrepreneurs, although several kept in touch.
- National ecosystem actors perceived a more positive impact of the summit on Laâyoune than local ecosystem actors.
- New connections between the local and the national ecosystem emerged and proved to be the most fruitful connections.
- Ecosystem actors did not feel capable enough of applying, sharing and facilitating the co-design methods to their own work following the summit.
In reflecting on the three overarching goals established for the summit, the evaluation results indicate that the goal of spurring entrepreneurship solutions has been met to a great extent. More than half of the participating aspiring entrepreneurs continue actively to develop their business ideas which include five of the six concepts prototyped during the summit. The summit was also intended to help disseminate D-Lab’s participatory design methods locally, and there the results are somewhat mixed.
Entrepreneurs and facilitators felt much more capable of applying, sharing, and facilitating the co-design methods than the ecosystem actors did. This imbalance indicates that more effort and capacity needs to be invested by the summit local partners, the LLC and the Phosboucraa Foundation (PBF), in order to effectively disseminate co-design methods in Laâyoune and in Morocco. Lastly, the outcomes related to catalyzing the local entrepreneurial ecosystem were clearly insufficient. While the summit catalyzed a few promising collaborations between local and national actors, there were not enough follow-up efforts to capitalize on the promise of ecosystem changes, and so the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Laâyoune continues to be disconnected and very much in need of coordination and facilitation.
Today, the LLC is focusing on integrating the summit learnings and MIT D-Lab recommendations to redesign the Foundation’s strategy for entrepreneurship development in the region. “We are working on a strategy that structures our support to entrepreneurs around three main areas: Initiation, Creation, and Scaling,” says Hamid Mernaoui, Director of the LLC. He continues, “This fall we experimented with three CCB workshops and have continued to see the CCB effects on fostering mindset changes and raising entrepreneurship. The CCB curriculum will, therefore, become a cross-cutting module in the entrepreneurship, women empowerment and employability programs at the LLC. Starting in 2020, the acceleration curriculum will be adapted as a major component to boost the LLC incubator's effectiveness in helping our aspiring entrepreneurs identify business opportunities, develop their business models, and test their value proposition.”
The LLC also continues to support the cohort of entrepreneurs that took part in the summit and incubation program. The entrepreneurs have worked with a business coach over the fall to finish developing their business plans, and are getting ready for a second showcase where they will be pitching their businesses to local funders.
Here are some updates from four of the entrepreneurs in their own words:
Sabah Amar: Tag Prestige
“Tag Prestige offers refined customized gift boxes that include a carefully curated selection of hand-made artisanal craft products. Since the summit, I have tested different market segments including associations, private school events, and weddings. This testing allowed me to get invaluable feedback and better understand the product from the customer perspective. It also gave me confidence in my product as happy customers recommended me to others. While word of mouth has been the most effective way for me to grow so far, I have also started developing a web page and attended several tradeshows to build my brand image. I have been working closely with Sukaina from my summit team as she supplies me with unique candle designs for my boxes. I continue to take orders from various types of customers, but I am thinking of potentially focusing on weddings as it seems to be a better fit for my offer and the demand could be more consistent.”
Ennama Elmaghraoui: Creative Competency Program (CCP)
“The goal of CCP is to develop creative capacities by using art as a process to help children under 13 years old improve their focus, increase their academic scores, and refine their social skills. The CCP offer consists of five workshops that I developed over the last year: creative dance, photography, theatre, painting, and crafting. I have taken particular inspiration from the CCB to develop the crafting workshop. After the summit, I tested my initial offer as a volunteer within associations working with orphans and people with disabilities, and private schools. After receiving feedback, I refined the product and I tried once more but this time with a learning center called BOOSTUP as a paying customer. I learned that I must have legal status to run my business more effectively and charge better prices. I am now trying to acquire my legal status of “auto-entrepreneur” so I can run CCP as a full-time job. I am also exploring taking my offer to other cities like Agadir where there are more extra-curricular centers with a need for my program.”
Maryam Jaim – Nour Creation
“Nour Creation is a one-stop-shop graphic design and services provider for new entrepreneurs. Since the summit, I have mapped and tried to test various market segments. I ended up focusing on learning centers and new entrepreneurs. As a young entrepreneur myself, I was taking part in various trainings at a number of learning centers so I decided to capitalize on my immediate network. I can clearly relate to my customers’ needs, and I have easy access to them - versus trying to acquire bigger companies or public administrations. I am structuring my offer in three progressive levels or design packs to make it affordable for new entrepreneurs to access my services. I am also able to bundle several of my services and partner with other young entrepreneurs to offer complimentary ones. I have worked with two of my fellow summit participants as clients and partners. My goal is to develop a professional web presence next year so I can start developing a portfolio of clients in other cities.”
Khadija Baba– Happy Kids School
“Happy Kids School is an educational center offering academic, language, and IT tutoring to primary school students through innovation and participatory approaches that foster creativity and personal development. We aspire to generalize these types of services to preschool, language centers, and schools both private and public. Last summer, I participated in a hackathon on early childhood development and advanced as a finalist at the national level. This helped me further develop my idea and my offer. Since October, I have rented a space in Laâyoune and started offering tutoring services focusing on academic support. I have a few students now, and I am looking for resources to improve and increase my training space before I can introduce more services.”