Enactus is an international non profit organisation that connects student, academics and business leaders through projects designed to transform lives and shape a more sustainable world. With operations in 36 countries and a volunteer base of over 66,500 students, it has built a strong relationship with hundreds of major sponsors and completed thousands of projects, which ensure its existence and expansion.
The name of the business can be split into three parts in order to outline its purpose: entrepreneurial, action, us. In short, this means taking entrepreneurial action by exploiting opportunities to create social value as well as form a group of people who feel part of a greater whole.
Enactus operations are spread across 1,600 universities, each working under the overarching vision of empowering people and communities. The latest addition to its growing network of subsidiaries is the St Andrews branch set up by Angus Townsend, a fourth year student at the University. The Saint sat down with Mr. Townsend to find out more.
What inspired you to bring Enactus to St Andrews?
I first came across Enactus in May of last year and was immediately calling every number I could find to get in contact with the headquarters. It is the perfect organisation for me. The combination of entrepreneurial business work and having a positive social impact on the community seemed an enviable opportunity. In my research, I was shocked to find out that there was not already an Enactus branch already established in St Andrews. We are actually the last of the UK’s top 30 universities to get involved so I felt incredibly lucky to be the one to change this. Social enterprise is such an exciting concept and one that is becoming increasingly popular around the world – it is amazing to be on the crest of that wave.
What sets Enactus apart from other student organisations?
What we feel makes us different is that we combine charity with business, which many people take as polar opposites. In reality, all it means is that we run efficiently to create programmes and social businesses that are sustainable in the long run. Enactus teams subsequently give ownership of these setups to a group of beneficiaries to help them empower themselves. It allows us to avoid the trap that a lot of societies and charities seem to fall into which is having the passion, but not the organised structure to maximise their full potential. We provide our members with the opportunity to have hands on project experience in the real world with real people and real problems, something that very few other student organisations are able to offer. Our members are able to observe and play a part in the whole process from the identifying of the need, to the designing of the solution, to its eventual implementation.
What has the response from students been like?
The reaction from students here has blown us away. We were worried we might not receive enough applications to fill jobs, but ended up with 170. The quality and potential of the people we now have on board is in- credibly exciting. The committee is comprised of final year students so there will be a lot of gaps to fill for our next project cycle, but looking at who we have ready to step up into those leadership roles it is not going to be a problem at all.
How many projects are you currently running?
We are currently developing four projects, which is unusual as most Enactus branches start with just one. Yet we believe that we possess the ambition, manpower and infrastructure to handle this more than the advised amount. Project details are at the bottom of the page.
How long is the average project timeline?
A really important aspect of Enactus projects is that they become sustainable without us and that there is an end point where we leave them to run themselves. We design an entrepreneurial business plan to solve social problems, and then hand it over to a group of beneficiaries to continue it into the future. Whether it takes six months or two years to get to that point, depends of the nature and success of the project.
How is the work of project teams assessed?
We have an Enactus criterion by which our projects are measured and that defines them as Enactus projects: “Which Enactus team most effectively used entrepreneurial action to empower people to improve their livelihoods in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way?”
At the end of each year we have a national competition in which the 60 UK branches compete. The winner will progress to the Enactus World Cup to represent their country. The competition was most recently held in Beijing.
Enactus St Andrews Projects 2014-15