The City of Barcelona showed a pioneering political will in 1986 to create Barcelona Activa, a Local Development Agency to promote entrepreneurship and job creation as means for economic development and social inclusion.
In 1986 Barcelona had a high rate of unemployment, up to 21%, industrial employment accounted for 41% of total employment, and people employed in the service sector only accounted for 52% of total employment. In this context, the mission of Barcelona Activa was to foster the transformation of the economic model of Barcelona and its workforce to move from more mature industrial economic sectors to those of the knowledge economy through entrepreneurship, business growth, innovation, human capital, professional opportunities & quality employment.
Barcelona Activa started implementing entrepreneurship support services through a personalised and decentralised service offered from the city districts. The service was based on a personalised one-to-one model of entrepreneurship coaching. After some years, in 2003, the entrepreneurship rate in Catalonia was of 7.68%, higher than the Spanish and most European countries rates, but lower than the 11% - 12% rates of countries with strong entrepreneurial traditions as the USA or Australia.
With the described model of delivery support services to entrepreneurs, Barcelona Activa managed to coach, yearly, a relatively low amount of entrepreneurs (11,323) and business projects (1,350), achieving a relatively low business creation rate of 45% (592 new companies that created 1,340 jobs).
This system had as main handicaps:
- A certain slowness, as each expert had to coach a large number of projects, so timeslots from one interview to the next could be of up to 15 days.
- The system was almost totally based in personalised coaching performed on site by coaches and offered little room for the user’s personal autonomy and initiative.
- Expert coaches had to dedicate part of their time to administrative tasks (comprehensive user & business projects follow up paperwork)
- On line resources and contents, played a residual role in the model, so the service implied than users had to go to the service centres many times to get the project coached and assessed.
- Lack of specific programmes to support projects in strategic economic sectors
To improve the service quality and optimise resources, Barcelona Activa launched a new action plan in 2004 that introduced a new concept: an innovative blended model based offering universal support to entrepreneurs, identified as the city’s main drivers for employment and innovation. This model combines on line contents, executive training for entrepreneurs and expert coaching in innovation environments to achieve a high critical mass, results and impact while ensuring cost efficiency.
Using this new blended model the Glòries Entrepreneurship Centre coaches yearly a higher amount of entrepreneurs (33,897) and business projects (2,490), with a much higher business creation rate of 69% (1,700 new companies that create 3,200 jobs).
To perform this new service, using the new blended model, from January 2004, the municipal service was centralised in a new facility, the Glòries Entrepreneurship Centre, installed in a refurbished industrial warehouse.