Justine Greening: ICS Entrepreneur

International Development Secretary Justine Greening launches a new International Citizen Service scheme for young entrepreneurs.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP


Thank you for that introduction, and thank you to our hosts today.

I know Innovation Warehouse does brilliant work nurturing entrepreneurs and supporting start-ups.

And I’m delighted to be here today to launch ICS Entrepreneur, a new scheme for Britain’s future entrepreneurs and business leaders…that will see them go out and work with entrepreneurs and small businesses in the world’s emerging and frontier markets.

As I’ll set out today I think this scheme offers lots of wins, for young people in Britain, for young people in developing countries, and for British businesses and Britain as a whole.

National and International Citizens

The story of today’s launch begins with what I think is one of the best things this Government has done, but which has perhaps been the least written about.

The National Citizen Service launched by the Prime Minister back in 2011 gives teenagers from around the country and from all different backgrounds, brand new experiences and challenges…

…From rock-climbing, to revamping skate parks, to learning how to cook and manage a budget. So far more than 70,000 teenagers have taken part, gaining life and work skills that you don’t learn in the classroom, and dedicating 1.5million hours to social action projects as well.

I’ve met some of them, and overwhelmingly NCS graduates say they feel they’ve learnt vital skills for the future, and are more confident about getting a job.

I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of opening up experiences to young people and helping to widen their horizons.

A recent survey of CEOs in the UK highlighted their concerns that young people’s horizons were not broad enough for a globalised and diverse economy. The majority of business leaders felt Britain faced being left behind by other rising economies if this overly narrow outlook isn’t changed.

Opportunity isn’t just crucial for our young people it’s crucial for all of us. In developing them we develop our country.

Today young people grow up in a highly connected and globalised environment, they will have access to new technology, new markets, new ways of communicating and working together…there’s a world of opportunity out there.

But I know it doesn’t always feel like that for young people themselves. Many of whom feel like they lack the skills, the experiences, and the networks to take advantage of these opportunities.

I felt the same way when I was growing up in Rotherham and even after University I still remember the frustration of applying for a job at Barings Bank, getting right to the very last interview and being turned down because I didn’t have enough ‘international experience’.

I was too embarrassed to say I couldn’t afford a gap year and it felt impossible to explain that, for me, after already spending years studying, I absolutely had to get a job and start earning some proper money.

I am sure I was capable of doing that job, I didn’t feel out of my depth…But I did feel out of my world.

That’s why I’m really pleased that my Department for International Development has created an international dimension to NCS. We can make sure our best young people get those chances, whoever they are, wherever they’re from.

By 2015 our innovative youth volunteering programme, the International Citizen Service will have already sent 7,000 volunteers, aged between 18 and 25, out to the world’s poorest countries to work on development projects.

Each UK volunteer is matched with a young volunteer from the host country and as well as providing practical assistance to the local community, this scheme is also proving to be an invaluable learning experience for the young volunteers.

In fact over 90% of volunteers from the current ICS programme say they’ve gained practical expertise that has helped them get ahead in their careers. And three quarters of ICS alumni state that their experience made a direct impact on their employability.

You’ll be hearing from two graduates Saliya Jayaweera and Aman Brar about their experiences in a moment.

ICS Entrepreneur

It’s clear that ICS is not just having really positive effects on the volunteers but it’s also great for the communities they work in… 97% of partner organisations say volunteers make an effective contribution to their work in developing countries.

But I think we can do better, and it can be even more transformative.

Since becoming International Development Secretary I have increasingly focused DFID’s work on helping countries develop faster by supporting economic growth and jobs.

This means being smarter about how we give aid, so as well as the important work we do on health, education, water and sanitation programmes, DFID is helping countries reduce trade barriers, build better tax regimes and, crucially, we are supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses to scale up and make their businesses more successful.

I believe the International Citizen Service can also play a role in our economic development work and I challenged my Department to build a new ICS scheme that would have an explicit focus on supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups.

Today I am launching a pilot called ICS Entrepreneur that will match 400 young people from the UK with 400 young people from developing countries to give them a chance to support small businesses in developing countries, while improving their own entrepreneurial skills.

We have appointed four UK based development organisations Challenges Worldwide, Raleigh International, Balloon Ventures and VSO, who will recruit, train and place the UK’s most promising young entrepreneurs.

Successful applicants will be working on small and micro-enterprise projects in places like Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, Tanzania, Cambodia, Nigeria, Kenya and Bangladesh.

And they will be using their own skills, experiences and ideas to help small business-owners in developing countries manage their finances, market their business, pitch for funding and boost sales. And ultimately helping to support those businesses to grow from micro to small, and from small to medium.

Win-win approach

I know many young people are interested in international development. While some adults might have a ‘stop the world I want to get off’ attitude when it comes to global challenges, young people are naturally thinking I want to keep the world going because it’s my world and I want it to be a better one, with more opportunity; and that’s how I feel too.

ICS Entrepreneur is an opportunity for young people to learn about the challenges faced by local businesses and families in developing countries, and help them come up with business solutions to those challenges.

Volunteers will also get hands-on business experience that will boost their employability in the long-term.

And it’s also a unique opportunity to get first-hand experience of what it’s like doing business in important markets of the future.

We know that Africa, if its growth potential is nurtured, will become an engine of future global growth and prosperity. In ten years, the number of middle-class African consumers has increased by 60% to 313 million. African consumer spending could reach $1.4 trillion by 2020.

And these emerging markets are literally young markets, there are over a billion 15-24 year olds living in developing countries. Smart businesses and smart entrepreneurs will want to start building relationships with these young markets and their customers now.

And that’s why I also want to challenge businesses to get directly involved in ICS Entrepreneur. Our pilot partners are currently looking for corporate partners to act as mentors during initial training and as prospective employers following placement.

There’s a big incentive for businesses to sign up. The young people who go on this programme will be more job ready, be more adept at problem solving and they will have a real understanding of and connections to emerging markets. These are volunteers who could start the global businesses of tomorrow and lead international development in the future.

You talk about win-win, I think there is potential triple, even quadruple wins to ICS Entrepreneur….

…For young volunteers here and overseas this scheme will help them develop the knowledge and skills they need to compete in an international job market….

…For businesses who will gain recruits with an international outlook and experience of working in the frontier economies and emerging markets of the future. ICS Entrepreneur can help to create a workforce with a global outlook, that is better equipped to succeed in the global race.

…For developing countries, their economies will undoubtedly develop faster if we can unlock the ability of entrepreneurs and help small businesses to grow through this scheme…

…And ultimately promoting private sector growth in these countries is good for Britain too. If we get development right we are market making and creating new investment opportunities for businesses, including British businesses.


I believe it’s in all our interests to invest in our young people, and in doing so we can help deliver development, growth and jobs abroad too.

I didn’t get the job with Barings bank, but instead I was able to spend two years of my life working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Switzerland, learning about business and finance…And in fact just a few months after my interview I was driving in Lausanne when I heard on the radio that Barings had gone bust…so it all turned out alright in the end.

But I’ve never forgotten how it felt to be turned away not because of how good I was but because I hadn’t had the chance to get the right experiences, the right opportunities.

ICS Entrepreneur will help young people here, and young people around the world, get the opportunities and experiences that will help them to live up to their aspirations and ambitions.

Today we are launching the first pilot of this scheme but we will be tracking its success, and we are ready to take it further.

Volunteers don’t need a degree to apply, just ideas, the ambition, the tenacity and the drive to succeed. And as I tell businesses, joining the development push isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing…

…For anyone determined to be the next James Dyson or Hilary Devey this is your chance to kick-start a career in business and entrepreneurship…

…And by supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs in some of the poorest countries in the world…a chance to change someone else’s future too.

If that sounds like something worth doing, if you have that determination and ambition…sign up and seize this amazing opportunity to be a global entrepreneur.

Published 28 March 2014