15 April 2022

Unlocking the Entrepreneurial Potential of People With Disabilities

Although entrepreneurship is presented as an opportunity and alternative form of employment, people with disabilities face considerable challenges related to business development. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica (2021), more than 90% of the people with disabilities in Spain indicate the existence of barriers to find adequate employment – mostly due to health reasons, but also due to lack of opportunities, lack of qualifications and experience, and to societal bias

Aiming at unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of people with disabilities and to address the difficulties these individuals face when starting or growing their business, Fundación Prevent launched an academic-entrepreneurial program called Aula de Emprendimiento: Aprende y Emprende (which translates to “Classroom of Entrepreneurship: Learn and Undertake”) in 2014. 

Looking to accelerate inclusiveness in Europe’s entrepreneurial and incubation environment, Impact Hub teamed up with partners to enhance Business Support Organisations’ skills, methods and approaches towards different under-represented groups. For that end, Communities of Practices (CoP) have been developed and are taking place as a space for participants to share their knowledge and experiences on how to best support entrepreneurs from different backgrounds – for instance, Aula de Emprendimiento has been appointed as an exemplary good practice to be replicated targeted at the inclusion of people with disabilities in the sector.

Inclusion In and Out of the Classroom

Aula de Emprendimiento: Aprende y Emprende is the result programme of a collaboration between Fundación Prevent and
ESADE Business School. This partnership is based on the complementary expertise and experience of both organisations – while ESADE Business School and its faculty brings academic rigor and quality, Fundación Prevent offers advice and guidance on how to ensure the curriculum and classes are adjusted to the needs of the people with disabilities. 

The 7-months long training programme takes a holistic approach to professional, personal and interpersonal growth and is specifically targeted at people with disabilities. It offers academic tutoring, mentoring, networking opportunities and practical learning experience from prestigious companies, ensuring that participants are exposed to different aspects of knowledge necessary to venture into the entrepreneurial process. 

With an estimated cost of €6000 per student, the programme is free and fully funded for all students – which makes it as inclusive as possible. The program also has an economic fund offering to provide financial aid for the implementation of best valued projects. In addition, as an incentive, those who finalise the academic programme have the opportunity to ask for financial support to develop their projects.

“Learn by doing” is Aula de Emprendimiento’s philosophy, and in order not to leave anyone behind and ensure a smooth process, their support approach is customized and individualized. The accessibility of the content and sessions is also a guaranteed point (e.g. through the use of sign language, providing interpretation support, transcription of classes, accessibility to facilities for people with reduced mobility etc.), which enables participants from different contexts to fully emerge into the learning process.

Promoting (personal and professional) growth and social impact

In order to understand exactly how Aula de Emprendimiento contributes to the improvement of the participants’ socio-economic standings and evaluating if they are really unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of people with disabilities, Fundación Prevent has begun its recent journey towards measuring Aula de Emprendimiento’s social impact. During the process of assessing it by means of interviews, most of the entrepreneurs who participated in the program shared their tales of change and growth, and above all, how the opportunity to experience Aula de Emprendimiento added value to their personal and professional lives. 

After 15 successful editions and 202 supported entrepreneurs, Aula de Emprendimiento is set to make a great difference for people with disabilities that are both interested in joining the entrepreneurial universe and looking to improve their employability prospects.

In the framework of Better Incubation, Impact Hub joined forces with EBN and EVPA to trigger systemic changes and achieve a lasting inclusive entrepreneurial and incubation environment in Europe. Interested in reading more action stories related to the program? Then head to our Impact Blog and get to know Syed Hasnain, Larissa de Moura, and Monica Moldovan, who are making the difference by advocating and leveraging opportunities for under-represented groups.