The management of Engage about challenges and opportunities in an uncertain time

The current COVID-19 pandemic situation has turned life as we know it upside down. Uncertainty is a key description of our new everyday life where new challenges and opportunities arise. We asked the management of Engage about their thoughts on the current situation and how it affects their work and the future role of Engage Centre. What are the opportunities Engage sees and how can we take advantage of these?

The pandemic has resulted in around 400,000 people in Norway being registered as unemployed, partially unemployed or job seekers at Nav. This is a large percentage of the Norwegian population. In a complex situation like this, we need entrepreneurs who have the ability to identify challenges, the will to act upon these challenges, the knowledge to acquire the resources and skills needed and the confidence to be the driving force for change. Øystein Widding, the center director at Engage, has seen a tendency, especially in developing countries, where many become entrepreneurs due to pure necessity. Will the people losing their jobs in Norway be more open-minded to become entrepreneurs? How can Engage facilitate more people to create their own workplace?

“Engage Centre is discussing taking part in a continuing educational programme for those being affected by the layoffs that want to become entrepreneurs. This is not a group Engage has approached in the past”, says Dag Håkon Haneberg, a PhD Candidate from Engage.

Dag Håkon Haneberg is also conducting research on how COVID-19 affects start-ups at the School of Entrepreneurship.

“Right now, it is too early to conclude anything since we are still collecting data. Because the situation can change quite quickly, we follow up approximately every two weeks. It is important to get an overview of how things are going so that we, as a professional staff at the School of Entrepreneurship, can better adapt teaching and support. It is also important knowledge to have, as other universities with similar educational programmes may face similar challenges”

A new digital platform

Engage talk is another new concept Engage is trying out. The concept is a digital series in the field of entrepreneurship where we highlight current topics that can be useful for professionals, experts and businesses. The goal is to connect these different actors. The first talk was held on the 2nd of April on our Facebook page, and the theme for the talk was uncertainty; “how do entrepreneurs handle a world that is turned upside down?” The entrepreneurs Mariell Israelsen (the founder of No14) and Marie Jacobsen Lauvås (the founder of Capeesh) were the guests of the talk, together with professor Gry Agnete Alsos at Nord University. Dag Håkon Haneberg was the moderator. They discussed how uncertainty can become an opportunity and how you can facilitate to find these opportunities and take advantage of them.

“It is important that you take care of your existing customers, but at the same time you should listen to the market. Which new issues arise for potential customers in such a situation? How can we solve these problems? It’s all about trying and testing out different solutions, and you have to be quick. Don’t use a lot of resources and time to create a solution. Make it fast and get feedback on it.” – Marie Jacobsen Lauvås, the founder of Capeesh

Professor Alsos thinks entrepreneurs and startups can have an advantage in this situation. First of all, there is a short distance from idea to decision-making. They are also most likely already in a testing phase and they have employees who are used to being involved in such changes. The disadvantage is that they have less available resources. However, she believes that those that have the will and ability to test new creative ideas are also those who will succeed. 

If you want to watch the Engage Talk, check out the video below. The next talk is on the 16th of April.