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Luella Chiasson’s BlogPeru

Women in Entrepreneurship in Peru – Time flies when you are having fun and I have fun when learning and watching my students learn. Back in December, when I wrote my last blog about my trip to Peru to prepare for the trip in April with NSCC students, it seemed so far away. It has already been 3 weeks since I returned from the amazing learning trip and I have been able to reflect on the experiece for myself, for the students and hopefully for our partner ISUR as well.

In December, I had the following thoughts for the NSCC International program:

What value could the NSCC students add? How could both groups of students learn from each other? And finally, with an Enactus lens to the situation, how can Enactus NSCC Waterfront Campus help the women to help themselves?

In addition, for the past couple of months, I have been hearing and reading more about cultural competence and so I also had a personal goal of increasing my knowledge and cross cultural skills. Cross cultural skills are important for my own development and for the development of my current and future students. As we strive to build a culture of entrepreneurship in our province, these skills will be imperative.

As I ponder the two weeks, I realize we may not have accomplished everything we thought we would. Instead, the learning and results looked a bit different and that is great. In fact, any time I travel internationally, I learn that flexibility and following the lead of your host is most important to the relationship and to the learning.

Our partner in Peru – Instituto del Sur (ISUR) has already done some amazing work with 6 women who are very interested in starting a business or currently running one. They have done some training and business visioning with them. Our question for the program was – what value could we add? We decided to introduce the business model canvas to the project. ISUR was able to translate the canvas into Spanish and it became an easy tool for the students to use to help the women think about their businesses in a very practical way. The process of using the canvas provided value to the mothers in terms of business planning and gaining more credibility should they want to register their business and/or look for financing. The tool was new to one of the NSCC students and to the ISUR students as well. Using the canvas to plan out a real business results in a deeper learning than any knowledge shared in a classroom lecture. So did we add value? We did and the NSCC students felt great about being able to share. I think ISUR will be using the canvas more in the future so it is a win for all.

Next thought was what could the students learn from each other. I am sure the students have their own thoughts about their learning, but what I observed in this trip is that different learning styles combined with different cultures make students adapt to others, be flexible, use advanced communication skills and be very understanding. Working with others whose first language is not your own adds layers to problem solving, critical thinking and analysis. It was the first time the ISUR students had worked with the women in the 100 Women's Program and done some hands on work and for our students, who are lucky to have done a lot of applied learning, they got to see how disciplined the ISUR students are in their studies.

The NSCC students also put together a presentation about Canada and 3 international business students delivered one on Peru. Preparing for the presentation made the NSCC students learn a lot about their province and country and made them think about presentation style to a cross cultural audience. It was great to see both presentations and how proud the students were to deliver them.

As I do more work internationally, I realize my goals for learning are often too aggressive for the time period of the trip. My final thought in December was what Enactus would do with the women. Our project really became about the business model canvas and transferring that knowledge to the women in the 100 Women's Program. Transferring this knowledge is the kind of work Enactus does so it felt good to realize our work really did improve the lives of the women in the project.

The students got to spend 2 sessions working with the women on the canvas. Great questions were asked by the students and the women entrepreneurs and the result was a very thorough business model canvas the women can use to plan and run their businesses. I know that the best part of the trip for me was sitting around the table and watching the dialogue happen regardless of language and culture. Our third and final trip to visit the women was to participate in a graduation ceremony. The women all wore the Enactus NSCC Waterfront shirts we gave them and it gave us a lot of pride and joy because it signalled to us they appreciated our time together as much as we did.

The program was a success when measured against our learning outcomes and I think the students developed strong skills and ISUR was happy with our partnership and the value we added to their program. Officially, the students and the mothers received a certificate of their completion of the business model canvas. However, the portfolio learning goes beyond the piece of paper the students came home with to real world experience that makes them very employable.

Finally, did I increase my own cultural competence? I would say I did. The more exposure I get to different ways of working together makes me more aware of my preferences and awareness is the first step in becoming competent. I need to take a back seat on these trips since I don't speak the language and I always learn so much from observing. Reminds me to do this more at home and in my classroom.

Thank you to NSCC International for the unique learning experience. I look forward to the next opportunity for #learningabroad to continue my journey of #lifelonglearning. When I can develop my skills and provide opportunity for students to do the same, #weallwin.

Luella Chiasson

Business Administration Faculty

NSCC Waterfront Campus

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