Fighting Poverty through Entrepreneurship: EBF Talks to Bruno Ponson, Director of the Institut De la Francophonie Pour l'Entrepreneuriat (IFE) on the Island of Mauritius

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EBF remains keenly interested in exploring the link between executive education and business performance. In this special section a variety of themes is explored. Firstly, Bruno Ponson discusses the impact which the teaching of entrepreneurship can have on poverty alleviation; next, Ilja van Roon summarises key findings of his research into reputation management at European business schools; then, Mette Morsing talks to Michael Porter about the role of business in society and to what extent this has entered the mainstream; and finally, Peter Gomez and Sascha Spoun explain how the German-speaking world (and in particular their own University of St Gallen) is responding to global pressures for curriculum change.


EBF Who are the IFE participants and how is the programme organised?


Ponson Participants are graduate students from various disciplines, with professional experience and involvement in one or more entrepreneurial projects or entrepreneurship support projects. A limited number with a university degree of less than four years can also be admitted if they can demonstrate certified professional experience. There is no condition of age or nationality. The recruitment procedure implies a pre-selection based on a written application (see IFE website: Preselected candidates have a 45 minute face-to-face interview by a three-person jury, including a business person. In 2002, interviews were organised in 20 countries. The composition of the student body is highly diversified. The 2003 class, for instance, is made up of 31 participants of nine different nationalities. The study programme lasts 18 months, ten of which are allocated to the academic programme held in Mauritius and eight to completing a project report in the country of origin. Professors come from prominent and internationally recognised management schools in Belgium, Canada and France and are grouped into a consortium along with associated institutions from the Indian Ocean region. The diversity of the entrepreneurship projects, combined with the diversity of the participants and of the teaching staff creates a unique cross-cultural and stimulating environment that provides participants with opportunities to network and to build contacts. In addition, each participant is coached by a CEO from a company in Mauritius and, for the non-Mauritians, by one from their country. The idea is to help students learn from entrepreneurs themselves.

EBF Is IFE really different from a regular business school?

Ponson In a business school, the emphasis is placed on knowledge acquisition and practice in management. The main objective is to communicate the know-how necessary to operate in and lead an existing organisation. At IFE, in addition to teaching basic managerial tools, the emphasis is placed on unlocking the necessary behavioural skills to enable a start-up to grow, i.e. implementation issues, initiative, risk assessment, creativity and independent thinking. The institute aims to prepare participants not for appointment in a firm, but instead to launch their own company, create their own job or to implement changes or projects in existing organisations.

EBF Is it possible to become an entrepreneur in a classroom?

Ponson Entrepreneurship training consists of developing the ability to create an appropriate environment, to develop a vision, to assess participants' tolerance of risk and to identify the direction to follow. In a traditional management school, the goal is more to develop the ability to respond to change and to use resources in the most efficient way. The concept of entrepreneurship has progressively emerged as a fully-fledged discipline. Its boundaries are difficult to define because it covers every aspect of the entrepreneurial process. It is a transversal discipline covering economics, business law, finance, marketing, project management, human and behavioural analysis. …