The Third Way (T3W) is a project devised to improve communication and knowledge sharing between the vocational and higher education sector and social enterprises (The so-called Third Sector). At the heart of the project proposal is the development of a new curriculum pathway for students from different educational domains around vocational and business subjects wishing to become social entrepreneurs. The need for T3W came from discussions held during a workshop at the Businet conference in Vilamoura, Portugal in November 2018. The discussions identified the need to narrow the divide in understanding between traditional business curricula in Vocational and Higher Education and the growing sector of social enterprises.
The curriculum devised will be available in digital form such as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) or through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as well as delivered as innovative face-to-face programs of study.
The project proposal supports the development of new curricular pathways through a process of knowledge sharing and communication. It shall be embedded into existing education programs to ensure an effective outreach. Furthermore it supports the social aims and objectives of the Third Sector. Flexibility and modularity is intended to ensure maximum uptake and enrollment. The partnership is composed in a transversal way combining a larger group of partners from different European regions with corresponding heterogeneous competencies. Two relevant networks outside Europe in Iran and Central Asia even extend the outreach of the project and will also trigger the development in a way that goes beyond a completely Europe-centred focus.
T3W has the aim of narrowing the divide in understanding between traditional business curricula in Vocational and Higher Education and the growing sector of social enterprises. While more and more young people across Europe are turning to social enterprises, this partnership is keen to recognize this and support and inform their choices. T3W is a project that requires HEIs with focus on (vocational) education and business development to work with the economic sector in the form of European social enterprises to develop a curriculum for business undergraduates in partnership with the Third Sector. It has the primary aim to create innovative and accessible learning programs that support understanding and awareness of social enterprises.
Our project does not just target vocational and undergraduate students and graduates but also lecturers that are delivering business related training programs in higher education institutions. The university partners will work with social enterprises and aspiring social entrepreneurs to produce a curriculum model and MOOC that offers information about social enterprise, for social enterprise and provides learning through social enterprise. As well as the MOOC, the devised curriculum will stand alone as a ‘Face to Face’ program of study delivered via a series of interactive workshops. This project represents a serious attempt to ensure social enterprise becomes an integrated component of the higher education business curriculum. It will also support the social enterprise sector to recruit from a pool of graduates and trainees.
An essential outcome of T3W is knowledge sharing and the potential for access to greater mobility across the EU. New initiatives in the business curriculum will support models for social businesses and will be generated through this proposed initiative. New strategies for successful and innovative delivery will be developed and shared across the project teams. The project is committed to the Objectives and Priorities such as social inclusion in education and training and open education and innovative practices in a digital era.
The result of the project is an integrated pan-European approach to the educational support for social business in all of its forms. This is supported by the following five objectives:
1. To identify and analyse the detailed requirements of related stakeholders across Europe to identify their specific needs;
2. To establish a platform for communication, co-operation, training and resources;
3. To develop a prototype social enterprise curriculum for business support that is available both online (as a MOOC) and as a face-to-face activity.
4. To establish (and further grow) European (global) networks of social entrepreneurs;
5. To provide internships/ work experiences across a range of European social enterprises.
In 2020 the development of the OER / MOOC resource has led to a first online presence: https://thethirdway.eu/
A series of workshops in online format did support that development and did as well serve a good public visibility. A special highlight was the joint development of Social Entrepreneurships in Belarus together with the social4entreprise project.