Courtney Spence on Why to Teach Entrepreneurial Spirit in Schools

In Chapter 18 of 19 in her 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive Courtney Spence answers "How Can the Education System Better Prepare Social Entrepreneurs?"  Spence differentiates between entrepreneurs who have started organizations from those with entrepreneurial spirit who want to create something new.  She shares how the education system - middle school, high school, and college included - should turn focus to teaching the entrepreneurial spirit and how to help students thrive in uncertain times.  Courtney Spence returns to CYF for her Year 3 interview.  As Founder and Executive Director, Spence leads non-profit Students of the World to empower college students to use film, photography, and journalism to tell stories of global issues and the organizations working to address them.  Spence graduated with a BA in History from Duke University.


Erik Michielsen: How can the education system better prepare social entrepreneurs?

Courtney Spence: Well, first of all, I think it’s really important to recognize the difference between someone who is an entrepreneur and someone who has the entrepreneurial spirit. So what I’m noticing with the team that we’re putting together with Students of the World, everybody is motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit. Everybody is excited by the big challenge and even the uncertainty and really is finding, you know, excitement and drive and motivation, not through what are they getting paid or where is their name gonna go on the collateral or on the website, it’s really through this idea of we’re creating something that wasn’t there before. Does that mean that everybody that’s a part of our organization is an entrepreneur? Not necessarily.

I think that an entrepreneur is someone that in that capacity can help set leadership and vision but the – everybody on our team has the entrepreneurial spirit. So I think there is an importance that is lacking in educational system, and this is middle school, high school, and college quite frankly, that helps to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit and that idea of thriving in uncertain times, I mean that’s I think the world is trended that way and I think we all recognize over the course of the last decade that uncertainty is the only certain thing we have, and the really successful individuals and organizations are gonna be ones that can thrive through in uncertainty and uncertain times, externally and internally.

And I think that our education system could do more to support whether it’s teenagers going through those uncertain years or whether it’s college students preparing them for when they leave college, those – there are some massive uncertain years that happen right after college and most people that I talk to say, “Well, no one told me that this was gonna happen.” So I think that really preparing individuals to find internally the strength and the courage to get him or her through those tough times, those uncertain times, will help to foster entrepreneurship in general.