European Entrepreneurship Workshop in Cadenabbia

by: Katie Leary

Three Brandt School students (myself included) had the opportunity to attend a workshop from August 12th – August 15th in Cadenabbia, a small village on Lake Como in Northern Italy. The workshop was generously sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Haniel Foundation, one of the Brandt School’s main partners.

The topic of the workshop was “Entrepreneurship of the Future” and was hosted at the Villa la Collina, a picturesque villa overlooking the shores of Lake Como and the mountains surrounding it. While the environment (the beautiful villa, the scenery, the laid-back atmosphere) seemed like it could be a distraction from the workshop itself, the surroundings actually complimented the atmosphere allowing the participants to have the time and space to comfortably reflect and be creative.

The participants were a mix of young professionals working in both the public and private sector, students and professors from the NRW School of Governance, people involved with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and students sponsored by the Haniel Foundation, including several former Haniel scholarship holders from China who are now working in Germany.

For me, the mix of participants was different than what I am used to (especially after studying at the Brandt School with people from all over the world). Apart from the Chinese students and the two other Brandt School participants, the group was only made up of Germans (plus one guest lecturer from Austria). After two years of discussing and working with people from every region of the world, I noticed the unique group dynamic right away. However, it was not only a factor of geography but also the participants’ backgrounds that made it so unfamiliar for me. At this workshop, participants from academia were in the minority, thus leading to a very different discourse and methodology, where practical examples in discussion were primarily used mostly disregarding any theoretical basis.

At the end of the workshop, the organizers asked us to each write a short reflection entitled “10 Points from Cadenabbia”. The report was in direct response to the topics covered during the entire workshop. Below are some key points and phrases from my own report, which could be used as a basis for a second workshop:

  • Germany/Europe should not only look towards the USA as a model for entrepreneurship
  • Germany/Europe must recognize it’s economic strengths (notwithstanding comparisons with the USA or China)
  • The world economy is dynamic and transforms rapidly
  • Innovative and entrepreneurial thinking starts in childhood and therefore should be welcomed in schools/schoolwork
  • Are transparency and sustainability key in the future of entrepreneurship (or are they simply fashionable terms that will disappear over time – as some of the participants in the workshop believed)
  • Should Germany/Europe change to become more innovative? Which social costs would come with a stronger focus on entrepreneurship and innovation (if any)?
  • Is a new framework of entrepreneurship in Germany plausible?
  • What is Germany’s role in the European and global economy?