With regard to the employment goal of the Europe 2020 strategy the competitiveness of SME’s plays an important role. The review of the Small Business Act for Europe in 2011 leads to the conclusion of the necessity of supporting the internationalization of SME’s. To achieve this goal SMEs need internationally oriented young entrepreneurs, managers and professionals. To strengthen the international competencies of these groups the project proposes – with the focus on the Baltic Sea Region – the “Baltic Sea Mentoring Cloud” (BSMC). The relationship between a mentor and a mentee will provide junior professionals the opportunity to develop cross-border collaboration and to stimulate cross-border business development. This will help the SMEs to succeed in critical challenges like access to markets, human resource recruitment and knowledge acquisition.
The main focus of the “Baltic Sea Mentoring Cloud” (BSMC) is to strengthen the communication and knowledge transfer between SMEs, acting in the field of information and communication technology (ICT), in the Baltic Sea region (BSR) and neighboring countries like Russia and Belarus with the help of a mentoring cloud accessible via the World Wide Web. The essence of this mentoring cloud is the communication and training between senior entrepreneurs/managers/professionals or retired specialists (the mentor) and junior entrepreneurs managers/young professionals (the mentee). As mentees and mentors come <s>be </s>from different regions and countries the use of the BSMC leverages their intercultural und international competencies. In this way – online via the cloud, and offline via real face- to-face meetings – new business ideas can be realized, and the borders between different regions will be further dismantled. This cross-border collaboration enables both parties to gain access to new markets, human resources and knowledge.
What is mentoring in general? Mentoring is a personal developmental relationship between two people with a different life and working experience. During the mentoring process the mentor, as an experienced leader, offers her/his partnered mentee professional advice, personal feedback and access to an established business network. Because it is a very flexible and informal way of learning it offers multiple opportunities for all – mentees, mentors, companies and society.
The mentors and mentees in this project will be acquired with the help of existing networks. The current partners from Denmark, Russia and Germany already offer networks in the areas of education, university, ICT, mentoring, consulting, and small and medium-sized companies. Additional partners from other Baltic countries identified during the project will contribute in the same way.
From an economic perspective, the importance of web-based businesses for economic growth and job creation (especially among youth) is increasingly obvious. Start-ups create the majority of new jobs and a significant part of new start-ups are based on the web. Europe is clearly lagging behind other geographical areas in terms of global leaders in this sector. Compared to the United States, but also to regions like Southeast Asia, fewer startups are founded by European web entrepreneurs and of those that are relatively successful very few grow to become global leaders. For this reason we will build the BSMC with the focus on ICT. Web entrepreneurs worldwide have an enormous impact on human society by using innovative technologies and platforms to create products, and with services and solutions that improve and enrich our everyday lives, whether that means with better information, improved entertainment, or by protecting and educating us. As ICT is a cross-sectional technology it plays an important role in the development of other sectors, like biotechnology, medical equipment, renewable energies or maritime industries. The IT professionals in these branches will also be taken into account. Especially for the SMEs in the ICT branch there is a need to collaborate. According to a statement made by Torben Aaberg, Head of Public Affairs of the Baltic Development Forum, in a phone call the decision of to specifying in the area of ICT is right. Mr Aaberg said: “Currently there is - as far as we know - no comprehensive mapping of SMEs in ICT clusters in the Baltic Sea Region”.
As the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA) stated, the “capacity to build on the growth and innovation potential of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will therefore be decisive for the future prosperity of the EU. Some of the principles of the SBA are concerned with the support of SMEs with regard to innovation, the upgrading of skills and the benefits from the growth of the markets. But the review of the SBA from 2011 came to the conclusion, that additional actions would be necessary, also to support the Europe 2020 strategy. These actions should concentrate, amongst other things on enhancing the market access for SMEs and entrepreneurship, job creation and inclusive growth.
Up to now, the priorities concerning young workers and entrepreneurs were aimed at education (i. e. the Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe) or placement services (i. e. Youth@Work). What is lacking is the support of junior entrepreneurs/managers/young professionals during the first steps in their career. This is exactly what the project is focused on.
International trade will be stimulated by greater appreciation for diversity, cooperation across frontiers as well as via increased international understanding and improved language skills, all leading to a more dynamic Baltic Sea Region. To retain and share the knowledge of specialists in times of skills shortages has become more important than ever before. With the Mentoring Cloud the acquisition of knowledge takes on a new dimension since the mentee learns important skills and know-how from his/her mentor tailored to a specific situation and need.
Mentees will be able to exchange their knowledge but also ask their mentor abroad for help. Because of its “virtuality”, borders are no longer an issue and even language challenges vanish since the cloud is multi-lingual. Moreover the project supports the intercultural and intergenerational exchange of ideas, knowledge and opinions. So knowledge doesn’t get lost rather it is passed on. With the Baltic Sea Mentoring Cloud this knowledge will be saved sustainably in two ways – firstly in the cloud for future startups confronted with similar challenges and secondly in the mind and in the actions of the mentee. The easy access to the cloud via the internet no matter where one is and no matter what time it is makes ensures that the mentees get the help when they need it.
The Baltic Sea Mentoring Cloud is a Mentoring program with an online and offline focus. First of all with the mentoring cloud there should be a knowledge transfer from one generation to the other. It is important for the program that it is not one-way communication since senior professionals can also learn many things from young entrepreneurs. Of course the mentors should pass on their skills, know-how, and working experience as well as the benefits of his/her network to establish new contacts to the mentees. This could be done in a public-private partnership, too. The key factor is an exchange of knowledge to reach sustainable growth and enhance the growth of SMEs in the field of ICT in the BSR.
In fact the mentee could also give helpful feedback to the mentor. For this reason the Baltic Sea Mentoring Cloud provides a sustainable database for knowledge transfer and knowledge retention in times of skills shortages for everybody involved.
- Knowledge for international business, tailored to SMEs in the BSR
- Know-how exchanged between mentor and mentee and organisations, and
- Know-how exchanged between the participants in the program all together.
The cloud will be a growing encyclopedia for international business knowledge. It will grow with the input of the mentors and mentees. Since it is a cloud-solution this encyclopedia reaches across frontiers and becomes embedded in the heads, in the languages and in the lives of the regions and countries. It is multilingual and international. It is not biased towards gender or other diversities since it is important to boost the region with every committed and capable man and woman. So the cloud will enhance the collaboration between ICT players in the BSR.
The Cloud will also offer learning sessions – online and offline in live training with skilled trainers. There will be workshops for all participants, mentors and mentees at the beginning of the project to create awareness. Moreover the mentees as well as the mentors need to clearly understand their roles and tasks during a mentoring relationship before starting: Preparatory and reflection workshops will be held for the mentees and mentors to guide them. In addition the workshops will cover the topics of goal setting, planning and contracting as well as career planning, self marketing and the management of work-life-balance. Furthermore mentoring guidelines will be developed to provide both parties with some suggestions and proposals to shape their mentoring relationship. The accompanying workshops and preparations of mentees and mentors assure an efficient and guided exchange in the tandems.
- Stralsund University of Applied Sciences (Lead partner), Stralsund/Germany
- University of Szczecin, Szczecin/Poland
- Saint-Petersburg State University of Economics, Saint-Petersburg/Russia
- EAF European Academy for Women in Politics and Business, Berlin/Germany
- Municipality of Ringkobing-Skjern, Ringkøbing-Skjern/Danmark
Duration: 23.01.2014 until 22.09.2014
Budget: 49.976 EUR, part financed by the European Union
Projekt manager: Prof. Dr. Michael Klotz
Scientific Co-worker: Dr. Ingolf Sulk