Mick Jackson

6th January 2012 at 00:00
The entrepreneur and founder of Micro-Tyco found a way to address the material difficulties that people face in the poorest countries, while at the same time tackling what he calls the `poverty of spirit' in the West - by encouraging the enterprising spirit of Scottish children. Photography by Ashley Coombes

What was school like for you?

I was very fortunate. I received a fantastic education at St Bride's. I had a great history teacher. History is my favourite subject, and in so many of my speeches I constantly refer to it. The further back you look, the further forward you can see.

What do you think children in Scotland need to be taught?

Responsibilities that come with rights, and how the culture we have is a gift and is precious, and it is the duty of every generation to reinvent, express and protect it. It won't last forever if we don't treasure it.

How important do you think a formal education is as an entrepreneur?

The undeniable, over-riding, absolutely essential criterion for being a successful entrepreneur is drive. We all know brilliant people who are highly-qualified and who have amounted to nothing. Drive and all those things like faith, confidence, resilience, all the great stuff we are trying to instil in our kids now, are crucial. However, once you have that, if you don't seek out an education you will take longer, you will succumb to intense frustration and you will have to go through a lot more trial and error. The inner components backed up by a highly focused education - that is a world-beating combination.

When people ask you what you do, what do you say?

I fund compassionate banking for the world's poorest people. And in the West, we address head-on the poverty of the spirit.

Why are micro-loans the key?

It is a physical impossibility to trade in any business of scale without a banking service. And yet, 40 per cent of the world's population have no access to any form of finance, and 75 per cent of the population of women are excluded. No matter how hard-working these people are, no matter how determined and willing to learn they are, you cannot grow any form of business without basic banking, and we provide that now in 16 countries and five continents.

You talk about the poverty of spirit in the West. What is that?

Our culture has become obsessed with external wealth and materialism. If you don't have inner wealth, life can be unbearable. Things like confidence, connection, faith, aspiration, self-respect - if you don't have that, no amount of material possession can compensate. That is poverty of the spirit. If you have someone who does not have the remotest aspiration or belief they can change, nor do they believe it's their responsibility to change, every initiative and the most passionate teacher cannot transform and educate them. Teachers tell me there are kids in their class who tell them, "I have got an Xbox and a flatscreen TV, my dad has never worked and my grandfather has never worked - why do I need to learn?'

Is there anything education can do to tackle this?

If you give a kid a taste of selfless altruism, they can fall in love with that feeling. If we reinforce that enough, that can shed a light in the darkness. The message is that by discovering your own talents you make the world a better place, and we do not give handouts to the world's poor - we help them work their own way out. The second message is, you work your own way out of poverty for the benefit of your community; you do not sit back and expect the state to do it for you.

What is Micro-Tyco?

It is designed to ignite the spirit of enterprise across a whole culture, and to re-connect us to what is important. It starts from nursery and primary schools and goes all the way to multinationals. Teams apply to us for "seed capital", a micro-loan of pound;1. They then have one month to turn it into as much money as possible. It is a crash course in a month of running a business. The money created is then invested by WildHearts in micro-loans to help the world's poorest people. The participants will go from becoming dynamic wealth creators to global ethical investors.

What do the kids learn?

It is tailor-made for Curriculum for Excellence. South Lanarkshire reported exponential increases in optimism and confidence; kids started using words like "resilience". So they get all the emotional components, but they also learn how to sell, how to deal with customers, how to make a profit, what makes a team and what makes good leaders. The strapline is it will "inspire the leaders our country deserves", because they are stepping beyond what is comfortable, working together to help the world's poorest, and in so doing help themselves. Two universities, the University of the West of Scotland and Robert Gordon, have already made it a compulsory part of their business degree.

What is your vision?

I have a dream of helping inspire generations of kids who come through our schools and to whom being enterprising and being a contributor on a global stage is normal. They can then choose to become a teacher, and they will be a better teacher; they can choose to be a parent or a business person - but they will go into that with a much more refined idea of who they are and what they can contribute.

What is your greatest achievement?

It hasn't come yet.

www.wildheartsinaction.orgmicrotyco

PERSONAL PROFILE

Born: East Kilbride, 1969

Education: St Kenneth's Primary and St Bride's High in East Kilbride, Strathclyde Business School

Career: Singer in a rock band, sales manager, entrepreneur, founder of WildHearts in Action and Micro-Tyco.

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