Press release

Britain builds a new generation of global entrepreneurs

A new volunteering scheme will help young people work in start-up enterprises and companies in fast growing economies like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Tanzania.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
ICS volunteer Alexandra Kirkham with Justine Greening at the ICS Entrepreneur launch. Picture: ICS

ICS volunteer Alexandra Kirkham with Justine Greening at the ICS Entrepreneur launch. Picture: ICS

Britain’s most promising young entrepreneurs will learn vital commercial skills while working in developing countries under an innovative new volunteering programme announced today by International Development Secretary Justine Greening.

Volunteers will build business skills, confidence and knowledge of overseas markets so they can return home to become the entrepreneurs and business leaders that Britain needs to remain a global success. Meanwhile, host countries will benefit from the volunteers’ hard work, helping them to become more competitive and, ultimately, less reliant on aid.

Ideas and the drive to succeed are what counts and volunteers do not need a degree to apply. The 18 to 25-year-olds selected will spend up to three months working in start-up enterprises and companies in fast growing economies like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Tanzania creating business plans, managing finances, devising marketing and boosting sales.

The new scheme, called ICS Entrepreneur, is part of the UK’s successful VSO-led International Citizen Service programme. Around 400 young people will go through the programme over the next 18 months and participants will also qualify for academic credit that can be used towards qualifications from the Open University.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

Britain was built on the dynamism and graft of its entrepreneurs and our country’s future will be no different. That’s why we’re investing in the skills and energy of young people, no matter where in the UK they’re from or what their background, so that we continue to be competitive and successful.

For anyone determined to be the next James Dyson or Hilary Devey this is an amazing opportunity to kick-start a career in business and entrepreneurship. It’s a win-win for the host countries where the volunteers will work and great for British employers who are crying out for workers with the right skills and a global perspective.

Brian Rockliffe, Director of ICS, said:

ICS Entrepreneur is based on the established principles which underpin ICS and its proven approach in bringing together young people from the UK to work alongside young people from developing countries to contribute effectively to international development.

ICS Entrepreneur will not only support private sector development and economic growth in developing countries, but it will also enable skilled young volunteers – both from the UK and in-country – to build a global perspective and a practical understanding of the vital role of economic development in reducing poverty.

A recent survey of CEOs in the UK highlighted concerns that young people’s horizons were not broad enough for a globalised and multicultural economy. They warned that Britain faces being left behind by emerging economies if this narrow outlook isn’t changed.

“Creating and building a business enterprise gives everyone involved a hugely positive and constructive focus,” explained Nick Badman, Chairman of the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship at City University’s Cass Business School. “As well as the tangible job creation and economic value that ICS Entrepreneur aims to achieve, the experience should build life-changing confidence and resilience in all those involved.”

“For bright young professionals from the UK, ICS Entrepreneur will offer an accelerated experience of growing a business enterprise within a supported environment. Volunteers will be challenged and energised by ambitious young entrepreneurs from the developing world while applying their skills and early career experience with greater impact than they might achieve immediately at home.”

Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “As world economies evolve, an international perspective has never been more important. Enhancing the global outlook of our talent, enables a more outward-looking Scotland and at the same time, motivates developing businesses to reach their potential.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for young Scots to aid the development of frontier economies but also utilise their knowledge back in Scotland to grow our business community.

“Scottish businesses have a proud history of helping people in the world’s poorest countries to develop businesses that can create jobs and the Chamber of Commerce network is fully behind this endeavour.”

Read the full speech

Notes to editors

  • Justine Greening will launch ICS Entrepreneur at the Innovation Warehouse in East London on Thursday 27 March.

About ICS Entrepreneur

  • International Citizen Service is a UK government-funded development programme led by VSO in partnership with respected development organisations, which brings together 18 to 25-year-olds from all backgrounds to fight poverty in overseas and UK communities.
  • The new ICS Entrepreneur arm of the programme will be delivered by VSO, Raleigh, Challenges Worldwide and Balloon Ventures.
  • Between June 2014 and September 2015, 400 UK volunteers will work alongside local volunteers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia and Uganda to advise micro enterprises and SMEs. The placements will last 10-12 weeks.
  • Applicants will be assessed on their ability to make a strong contribution to meeting the objectives of the programme: to support micro-enterprises and SMEs in developing countries, promote economic growth in these poorer communities, and build their own entrepreneurial skills. Volunteers do not need a degree or other qualifications.
  • Volunteers will either:
    • Work with micro entrepreneurs in Kenya and Uganda to help them innovate and create new businesses ideas with the potential to grow and create jobs
    • Improve financial management, sales and marketing and business planning at small and medium enterprises in Ghana, Uganda and Zambia;
    • Work with social enterprises focused on water and sanitation or agriculture in rural communities in Tanzania and Nicaragua, helping them develop skills, make their business sustainable and build partnerships
    • Help develop micro and small enterprises focused on agriculture, women, tourism and conservation in Nigeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Kenya, and using maths and science expertise to improve teacher training and curriculum development in the countries’ schools.
  • To find out more and to apply, visit

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Published 27 March 2014