Creative Spark project partners visit Cass from Kyrgyzstan

Cass Creative Spark project partners travel from Kyrgyzstan to London to solidify knowledge and strengthen international networks.

Little more than four months in to Cass's Creative Spark projects the effects of the collaborative training programmes are already being felt in Central Asia.

The projects are part of the Creative Spark: Higher Education Enterprise Programme, funded by the British Council, and are working with local partners in both Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to provide skills development for 500 students and young creative entrepreneurs in each country.

The training being delivered through the Creative Spark projects has been co-designed with ChangeSchool, City, University of London's UK project partner, as well as local partners, to ensure it is appropriate to the local environment.

In late March Kyrgyzstan project partners Gulbarchin Suiunova from Enactus, and Natalia Slastnikova from the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) toured London, Cass Business School and City, University of London's Launch Lab to learn more about entrepreneurial education and start-up incubation in the UK.

During her visit to the Launch Lab Ms Suiunova said she was excited to learn how it had helped start-ups grow into full-fledged businesses and, more importantly, how she could implement similar practices to support entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan.

"I'm looking for the links and how I can cooperate with these sorts of successful models in my country," Ms Suiunova said.

"We have partners in Kyrgyzstan who are requesting things like this from us but we don't know what kind of model is the perfect fit.

"Of course, we will adapt the idea for Kyrgyzstan but just building the network is the first step."

Ms Slastnikova, the Executive Director of Leadership Development at AUCA, said she could identify elements of the Launch Lab already within her university but the visit provided her a better sense of how and where it could further develop.

"What I see here is a more integrated approach to what we have at AUCA and in Kyrgyzstan in general," Ms Slastnikova said.

"It makes me think about how to apply what we have seen here and integrate all the pieces we already have to make the puzzle pieces work better together."

Ms Slastnikova said she hoped the Creative Spark project would help, in part, to reshape the way Kyrgyzstan's education system thinks about creative entrepreneurship.

"Speaking ambitiously, we would like, eventually, to see our country's Minister for Education thinking about how to integrate entrepreneurship into our universities," she said.

"Whether that's in an elective course or a specific programme, we'd like to not only raise awareness but have very hands on programmes that help students to be entrepreneurial and to be creative.

"What the Creative Spark project has already done is to encourage what I call cross pollinating — learning from each other, country from country, people from people and it will bring, for sure, good results to Kyrgyzstan."

Cass Creative Spark project leader, Dr Sara Jones said there was increasing realisation in many sectors that significant change requires new skills and that this was true in both developed nations like the UK and developing nations like Kyrgyzstan.

"We need skills that cut across the traditional silos and creativity is a great way of making connections between those different backgrounds, disciplines, contexts and sectors," Dr Jones said.

"Creative entrepreneurship and the programme we're developing in partnership with Gulbarchin and Natalia is an exciting way of bridging those gaps in Kyrgyzstan and hopefully beyond."

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