Lessons Learned for Wilderness Entrepreneurship Education

By articulating the lessons learned during the IP, we aim to contribute to a growing understanding of educational programme design to prepare the next generation of wilderness entrepreneurs in Europe.

Our first lesson originates from evaluating competences in the IP. The partition of competences as described can be contested, as they seem to ignore overlapping elements. For example, it can be argued that consulting stakeholders is an essential aspect of both social and complexity competences. Stakeholder consultation deals with communication in practice and with appreciating diverse, and even contrasting, views on problem perceptions and alternatives. The formulated competences can equally be contested for ignoring important requirements of (learning) wilderness entrepreneurship. For example, the aspect of critical reflection is not articulated in any of the competences. Similarly absent is the aspect of conflict transformation, which is often mentioned as part of interaction between local people and nature conservationists (Martin 2012). However, the five formulated competences provide a good entry point to design education on wilderness entrepreneurship, taking into account that the competences are interlinked and overlapping. This leads to a first lesson learned: curricula for wilderness entrepreneurship should include the following competences: opportunity competence, social competence, normative competence, complexity competence and business competence.

Creativity cannot be learned from textbooks or by thematic lecturing, nor can other important aspects of wilderness entrepreneurship such as negotiating or dealing with complexity. These are learned best when they are put into practice. Therefore, it might be supportive to frame the field visits as action research to move away from its understanding as an outdoor lecture. Considering local informants and stakeholders as partners in the learning experience enhances the relevance for all parties involved. Such an approach articulates opportunities for a more circular knowledge exchange between students, teachers and stakeholders, which could be indicated as a social learning process. Reed et al. (2010) defines social learning as “a change in understanding that goes beyond the individual to become situated within wider social units or communities of practice through social interactions between actors within social networks”. These thoughts lead to formulating a second lesson learned: the learning strategy for wilderness entrepreneurship should be all inclusive. All actors involved have to meet and engage in exchange of knowledge, expertise, opinions and other communicative resources (see also Leistra & Stobbelaar 2015).

The second lesson requires that learning for wilderness entrepreneurship competences should take place where the action is happening. On top of that, we also found that these competences seem to flourish outside formal educational settings. Creativity and out of the box thinking, both essential for building a new future for wilderness entrepreneurship, need unique experiences in which learners embark on unknown activities with a basic feeling of comfort. This consideration of comfort zones coincides with Wals (2007) whom states “The trick is to learn on the edge of people's individual comfort zone with regards to dissonance: if the process takes places too far outside of this zone, dissonance will not be constructive and block learning. However, if the process takes place within peoples' comfort zones—as is the case when homogenous groups of like-minded people come together—learning is likely to be blocked as well”. Other authors refer to dissonance as issues of friction and congruence between self-regulation and external regulation (Vermunt and Verloop 1999). When analysing these findings we realised it is not only learning on the edge but also 'instruction on the edge'. This analysis leads to the formulation of a third lesson learned: wilderness entrepreneurship takes place where the practice is discernible and aspects of dissonance should be added to this learning environment, such as intensiveness and exposure to different cultures, disciplines and backgrounds. The environment should challenge both learners and lecturers in a way that learning takes place at the boundaries of comfort zones, building on positive friction between self and external regulation.

The three lessons learned relate to each other and provide tools to use for curriculum development on wilderness entrepreneurship. To learn wilderness entrepreneurship competences, an environment should be created in which students, teachers and stakeholders learn from each other in a challenging way. Once educational designers find ways to get good programmes put in place, we may have filled the earlier identified gap between nature conservation curricula and the current European context, which calls for conservation activities that generate revenues to achieve economic sustainable conservation.

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