Being Streetwize in Business

Many years ago I saw a graph of the Total Entrepreneurial Activity Index which is a ranking of the countries according to the percentage of entrepreneurs in their population(*). To my surprise, Belgium was one of the last countries in the ranking at that time and still is. Even more surprising to me than Belgium being one of the last, was that the top of this ranking was populated with a lot of African, South-American and developing Asian countries. The explanation was however simple. In these countries people have to be entrepreneurial and creative to survive, while in a country like Belgium we all have our comfort zone and a large social safety net. Of course there is more than necessity; but nevertheless.

Some speak about Jugaad Innovation. Wikepedia learns us that Jugaad is a colloquial Hindi word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around or a person who can solve a complicated issue. It is used as much to describe enterprising street mechanics as for political fixers. Jugaad Innovation is often used to describe the creativity to make existing things work or to create new things with very limited resources. Sometimes you get nice results even with imperfect tooling or limited resources. Although not having the right tooling or resources causes often inefficiencies; it sometimes results in innovation and sharpness.

As a bass player I cannot resist to quote Este Haim, bass player of Haim – pop revelation of 2013: “a good carpenter doesn’t blame his tools; it’s my job to make the bass sound good”.

Or, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Apollo 13 didn’t land on the moon. The lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days after launch. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and especially the critical need to repair a carbon dioxide removal system with very limited, maladaptive resources, the crew returned safely to Earth.

Forgotten where the adage came from – “Je kunt beter met een kromme lucifer een vuurtje maken dan je hele leven te wijden aan het uitlijnen van een lucifer” (loosely translated to “It is better to use a curved match to light a fire than to devote your entire life to straightening a match”) – it makes sense to me.

So let us enter Arnoud Raskin, he has hands-on experience.

Arnoud Raskin is the founder of the companies Streetwize and the Mobile School. Mobile School is a Belgian organization dedicated to helping street children throughout the world. They have developed mobile school carts and they train local street workers in 21 countries, spread across Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. Under the motto ‘if a child cannot come to school, we will bring the school to the child’, they make it possible for street workers to organize educational activities with moving blackboards with hundreds of educational games. But the educational curriculum does not aim to replace the traditional school curriculum. All the materials and games target to increase the children’s self-respect and identity, and to empower the discovery of their talents.

Streetwize translates years of research and the experience on the streets with Mobile School into ‘unorthodox’ training programs for companies. The major identified street skills are a positive focus, agility plus resilience, creativity, pro-activity and cooperative competences. Indeed, these skills are very valuable in our business context as well.

(*) has been refined over the years taken into account the different phases of the entrepreneurial process