Facing Social Challenges with Entrepreneurial Minds with ENPower in India

19 Aug 2021

Educational leaders are constantly seeking new ways to foster positive educational cultures and outcomes for their students and communities. Many schools are supporting skill development in creative problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking by integrating STEM programs and Coding curriculum with Minecraft: Education Edition. One team in India has developed recurring build challenges focused on developing an entrepreneurial mindset and empowering students to address important social challenges through that mindset. Arvind Narayanan is the guest author for this article, and the Co-Founder of ENpower, a group that works with students through Minecraft build challenges to highlight Innovation, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, and Life Skills that support their learning journey now, and their career development in the years to come.

The conventional school system has its limitations—disproportionate focus on marks, standardization of answers, and memorized learning. Discussions are limited around creativity and the importance of managing through our failures. As a result, when students step out into the real world, many are unable to think out-of-the-box or become creative problem solvers. This is why we created ENpower, the country’s first-ever entrepreneurship search and mentoring platform exclusively for young adults.

The traditional school education experience needs reinforcement programs to encourage our children to be ‘Future-ready’. ENpower relies on the Design Thinking framework to structure, deploy, and support entrepreneurship and critical life skills among our students. Research tells us that 62% of today’s jobs will not exist by 2022 due to automation, technological advances, environmental changes and transitions in global markets. At the same time, 85% of the possible jobs of 2030 have not even been invented yet. Thus, today’s students will face extreme uncertainties when it comes to ‘jobs of the future’ as well as ‘future of current jobs!’ And, unfortunately, conventional schooling won't equip them for what they may need.

ENpower’s India’s Future Tycoons (IFT) was conceived as a democratic platform encouraging innovative ideas among young students and mentoring them into sustainable ventures. IFT’s focus on future-ready skills like creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and empathy resonates beautifully with Minecraft’s vision of immersive and innovative learning. We need to empower students with Entrepreneurial Mindsets! Every child must be encouraged to build an entrepreneurial mindset so that the child becomes a creator rather than a seeker.

Nurturing entrepreneurial thinking & skills in school children will help them to:

  • Identify their passion and strengths.
  • Build the ability to identify problems around them and convert them into opportunities.
  • Deal with uncertainties.
  • Manage available resources optimally.
  • Collaborate with others.
  • Build solution-centric mindset, instead of ‘problem-centric’.
  • Create economic value for themselves & the society.
  • Be a ‘job creator’ instead of a ‘job seeker’.
Students are invited to showcase their Minecraft skills by designing a Sustainable School Model

Entrepreneurship is seen as a major engine for economic growth and job creation (Wong et al., 2005). Entrepreneurial education is also frequently seen as a response to the increasingly globalized, uncertain, and complex world we live in. There are economic development and job creation reasons, of course, but there is also an increasingly important conversation on the effects of entrepreneurial activities on students’ perceived relevance, level of engagement, and motivation in their education (Surlemont, 2007), which later impacts their work life (Amabile and Kramer, 2011). Finally, the role that entrepreneurship can play in encouraging communities to address important societal challenges (Rae, 2010) has positioned entrepreneurial education as a means to empowering people and driving equity.

A recent example of the impact of this mindset in addressing social challenges comes from IFT#3. This Challenge encouraged students to see COVID as a learning opportunity and to #RedefineEducation. We saw immense potential in joining hands with Microsoft to create a Minecraft IFT Challenge where we prompted students to share ideas for building Sustainable Schools. Microsoft came onboard as the Tech Learning Partner for IFT#3, engaging with 13- to 17-year-old entrepreneurial students and supporting the goals for IFT through Minecraft by presenting a new challenge hurdle for participants.

Krish Bhatnagar from Amity International School (Ghaziabad, India) was one of the top performers at the IFT Minecraft Challenge. This is what he had to say:

"I got to know about the Minecraft Challenge while participating in ENpower's India's Future Tycoon Competition. Earlier Minecraft for me meant just a gaming experience but through this challenge I got to know how to actually connect Minecraft with our real lives. Creating the model of a world which we could only dream of. The primary theme this time was how can we use our schooling experience to bring about harmony between people and the environment to create a sustainable learning experience.

Building the model of a Sustainable School was not a very difficult task as I was already clear about the idea—how to conceptualize, design and develop a project that demonstrates what Sustainable Education meant to me. I enjoyed the process of turning my ideas into an actual model! The variety and diversity of resources in Minecraft helped me make my project with ease.”

Students are invited to showcase their Minecraft skills by designing a Sustainable School Model

Divya Sijwali & Parth Puri from Tagore International School (New Delhi), winners of the IFT Minecraft Challenge, were equally impressed with the experience. This is their feedback:

"Working on the IFT Minecraft Challenge was indeed an enriching and fun experience. We sought inspiration from the problems that we saw in the current education system. At the same time, we wanted to propose a system where everyone associated with the school—not just the students—would thrive in their own ways. And most of all, we’ll have an inclusive system where students can learn and grow together. The project went through stages of elaborate deliberations and discussions on what all can be done to make this project practical and execute it in the world of Minecraft. It wasn’t easy to come up with the final product design in the very first attempt. We changed the design and workable system numerous times before deciding on the final one. It took nearly 10 long hours to complete it from the first step of research to the final product.

The biggest take-away from the project was that a project is a patch-work of ideas and thoughts, and the best ones are what end-up on the embroidered cloth!"

Even for ENpower, it was delightful to see how far we can extend the impact of Minecraft when it is combined with the right stimulus (Entrepreneurship) and right audience (young students). This creates many avenues to engage with the youth & gain insights into their minds.

Student champions of the Minecraft Education Challenge from throughout India

Microsoft & ENpower worked together to conceptualize the entire engagement: rolling out M:EE access, sharing case studies, engaging in Minecraft Bootcamp for the Top 400 Teams, using social media to build excitement & finally creating integrated videos that capture the essence of the collaboration.

The partnership was a resounding success! Schools, parents & students were delighted with the Microsoft experience. Many were exposed to the capabilities of Minecraft for the first time and were blown away by the possibilities! Students looked up to Minecraft as a valuable tool to fine-tune their IFT ideas.

ENpower is delighted with the support received from Microsoft. Simran Jha—our Microsoft SPOC for the engagement—ensured that the partnership generated maximum value.

Microsoft has been a great partner, and ENpower is keen to co-create similar student engagement experiences in future as well.