Business Perspectives

Wichita groups preparing youth for the innovative economy that awaits them

Jamela Peterson
Jamela Peterson Courtesy photo

The gig, on-demand economy is approaching fast.

Studies by Intuit have predicted by the year 2020 that 40 percent of the American workforce will be freelance. In other words, in the next three years a large portion of our population will need to create his or her own opportunities, also known as entrepreneurship.

For this reason, it is critical that we expose youth to innovation and business to prepare the future generation for this changing economy.

There are many organizations across Wichita doing just that: Youth Entrepreneurs, Network Kansas’ Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, DECA, InnovationU, Junior Achievement, Camp Destination Innovation, SocialPreneur Lab and Powered by e2e, just to name a few.

These programs each offer youth development in entrepreneurship in varying ways. For instance, some offer a program during the summer versus during the school year; some work with elementary students versus high school; others focus on STEM and design-thinking while some have a focus on business planning and pitching.

Together, these organizations for youth can collectively work and collaborate to create a pipeline that will give continuous exposure to the world of entrepreneurship. This pipeline will give students an introduction to entrepreneurship – starting as early as kindergarten – and create multiple and extended opportunities through school programs, summer camps and business competitions.

Collective impact is the technical term for how these organizations can come together: “It is an innovative and structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change.”

Collective impact also avoids working in silos and putting the burden mainly on public schools to fulfill the huge need to prepare youth to participate in the economy. Powered by e2e aims to facilitate and promote collaboration and coalition for youth entrepreneurship.

There are great advantages and challenges to accomplishing collective impact. Benefits such as:

▪ Dividing the workload.

▪ Sharing community and human resources efficiently.

▪ Applying for greater amounts of funding.

A few challenges include:

▪ Defining roles and relationships within collaborating organizations.

▪ Assigning ownership of work and outcomes.

▪ Working across missions and priorities.

A pipeline for entrepreneurship will provide youth a fundamental skill set to produce employers or valuable employees. Knowing entrepreneurship will be essential to survival in the ever-changing era of technology and innovation; therefore, teaching entrepreneurship to youth will put the next generation ahead of the business learning curve.

And, with this pipeline, we can foster the next generation of innovators and business giants.

Wichita is fortunate to have a number of organizations that focus on youth and entrepreneurship. Collaboration and partnerships between these resources will create a dynamic business ecosystem that other cities can model.

Jamela Peterson is manager of Entrepreneurial Education for e2e. Contact her at