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Knowledge gained

Drei Männer sitzen an einem Tisch. Ein Mann steht vor ihnen und referiert.
Trainer Felix Amoako Boampong and participants in the training courses run by the Sparkassenstiftung

Anyone wanting to run a successful business requires commercial know-how. A course run by the Sparkassenstiftung shows how this knowledge can be gained in a playful manner.

The mood is relaxed, yet concentrated – just like a game where everyone's having fun playing but definitely wants to win. Over the three days of the “Micro Business Game”, the young men have learned a lot about what they need to know before becoming self-employed: Why do some small businesses succeed and what difficulties might they face? How do I calculate expenses and income? How can I find a suitable bank? How do I look after my customers? How do I react to changes in the market?

The trainees aren't just boringly spoon-fed information about the topics, but they act them out in the truest sense of the word. This is because the training is taking place in September before the restrictions were reimposed due to the corona pandemic, and so is therefore an actual in-person meeting. The participants have organised themselves into teams in the seminar room in the centre of Mannheim. Each team is managing an imaginary small fruit juice business. A large board with oranges printed on it is set out in front of the budding founders. The participants have to move play money around the board. The cost of the fruits is discussed. What other costs will there be, like for electricity and taxes? How do I calculate a selling price for the juice? The person who is the best at it wins the round. The others are not losers, though. They might have less play money in their tills at the end, but they have gained some knowledge. 

Auf einem Tisch liegen verschiedene Arbeitsblätter für das Planspiel.

Preparing early for a successful new start

“If only I had known this earlier”, says a Ghanaian. Like the other participants, he lives in one of the state reception facilities in Baden-Württemberg and was made aware of the Sparkassenstiftung’s “Business Games” by a reintegration scout and the return advisory service at BBQ/Newplacement International (NPI). The foundation provides these training courses on behalf of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. They aim to prepare people for a successful return and reintegration while they are still in Germany. This collaboration forms part of the “Returning to New Opportunities” programme run by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The issue of pricing is of particular interest to the participant from Ghana, because he already had to close down a small clothing shop he ran in his home country for that very reason:  “I didn’t know what costs I had to include to arrive at a realistic price. So I never made a profit.” He no longer sees any opportunities for himself in Germany, so wants to go back to Ghana. He is happy with the qualification provided by the business training. “I can do something with it”, he says, and is already making plans for a new start. 

Die drei Männer hören aufmerksam zu.
Better prospects: the knowledge gained from the course means that participants are well positioned for a starting a new career in their home countries

Successful learning through playful competition

“This type of learning has nothing to do with dry theory. Interaction, practical exercises and the motivation to finish a game as the winner results in successful learning”, says Felix Amoako Boampong from the Sparkassenstiftung. Amoako runs the game in English and occasionally uses the whiteboard to explain certain topics in greater detail. He is happy that interested people can come together again despite the restrictions due to the corona pandemic. The games also work with fewer participants, a greater distance apart and good ventilation.

After the “Micro Business Game”, the last two days of the training week are spent playing the “Savings Game”. The seven participants split up into two play families. This game involves making life decisions that are mostly also financial decisions. These are along the lines of: should we buy a house or rent somewhere? Can we afford a computer for the children or do we just buy the bare essentials? How do we finance a wedding?

“You really have to find a balance between quality of life and security for the future when making decisions about these kinds of questions”, believes one of the participants. Is it better to save or to get into debt? One way or the other, the path leads to banks or other financial institutions. How the credit business works and whether your money is better off kept in an account or at home – these are the sort of issues the young men discuss. Then the game begins. One of them plays the role of the bank and makes decisions on interest rates for loans and savings. The participants laugh as they handle the play money. “This is really about understanding what’s going on”, says a man from Nigeria who started the training with some previous financial knowledge. “This business coaching really teaches you a lot in just a few days, because you can simply do and decide everything.”

As of: 11/2020

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