Action-orientation means that STEP students form teams and engage in the start-up process of a real micro business during the training. They proceed through the entire entrepreneurial process from preparing to launching and managing a real business. This involves that they identify and evaluate new business opportunities, acquire equipment and raw materials, deal with suppliers, and enter the market to offer their product or service to real customers. The students thus take an active role and learn entrepreneurship “on-the-job”. They experience becoming an entrepreneur under real business conditions. They receive real-life feedback and develop a better understanding of the tasks and challenges of an entrepreneur. This is key to develop a feeling of true mastery of entrepreneurship, a belief of “I can do it”.
Evidence-based means that STEP students learn entrepreneurship on the basis of action principles. Action principles are applied theory. The STEP action principles have been derived from the scientific literature on entrepreneurship, management, and psychology. The STEP action principles are science-based “rules of thumb” that provide practical knowledge guiding students what to and how to do it to accomplish the start-up process. STEP is also evidence-based with regard to the didactical approach. STEP is rooted in action regulation theory and the result of our long-standing experience in training and entrepreneurship research in developing countries.
STEP is a 12-week training course. In the 12 weeks, the students meet weekly to learn action principles about 12 topics important to succeed in entrepreneurship. The 12 topics are identifying business opportunities, marketing, leadership and strategic management, action planning, financial management, persuasion and negotiation, acquiring starting capital, networking, accounting, personal initiative, business planning, and legal and regulatory issues. The weekly sessions are three hours long and facilitated by local lecturers. The lecturers receive a three-day train-the-trainer workshop to learn the action-oriented and evidence-based approach of STEP. A team of STEP master trainers holds these workshops and instructs up to 12 lecturers in the methodology of STEP. Upon successful completion of the train-the-trainer workshop, the lecturers from the partner institution become certified STEP trainers.
The implementation process at partner institutions
We developed an effective procedure to facilitate the long-term implementation of STEP at international partner institutions. In a three-year project, the partner institutions are prepared to organize and run STEP, secure the financial resources to sustain STEP, and institutionalize STEP as part of their academic program. In the first year, STEP is introduced, implemented, and evaluated to demonstrate its beneficial effects on students’ entrepreneurial behavior. In the second year, the partner institution assumes responsibility for organizing and implementing STEP. The partner institution also starts securing funding and the administrative procedures to include STEP in the regular curriculum of one or more programs of study. In the third year, the partner institution independently organizes the training and decides about the institutionalization of STEP in their academic program.