UCD Enactus society is a bit different from the other voluntary society on campus. As opposed to a specific focus on say homelessness or human rights, Enactus is more focused on enabling students to help tackle issues of interest to them, to create social entrepreneur projects to help those in need.
Enactus Auditor Andrea Whelton explained to the Tribune that Enactus requires students to identify a social need, create a project to tackle that need, and ensure that project is financially sustainable. That means no donations, if a project is to keep going they will need to change just enough to cover their costs. This is just the bare minimum requirement for Enactus.
Enactus is also a competitive activity, with various universities across Ireland and the world to present the best project with the most impressive impact. To compete each project must show that they’ve fulfilled a need, and that they’ve had an impact on a number of people. Additionally there is an increasing emphasis on the environmental sustainability of projects, reflecting the increasing societal focus on environmental issues.
UCD has a number of projects ongoing, as each of these projects runs across a number of years. Currently they are running projects such as C Spark, which aims to teach women in DEIS schools valuable computer literacy skills. This is being run along with the UCD School of Computer Science at bare minimum cost to the students.
There is also Social Boost, an initiative to provide marketing classes and social media support to small charities. Many small charities do not have the resources or people power to engage effectively on social media. This project aims to give them the skills to tackle these problems.
Additionally there are two further projects in the works at the moment, including Healthy Habits, and Green Brew. Healthy Habits aims to teaching transition year students about health social media habits to tackle the growing issues facing society from the increased interconnectivity such as anxiety and cyberbullying.
Green Brew on the other hand is tackling a number of issues at once. It aims to take the grain husks leftover from brewing, and convert them into new products such as biscuits and breads. They are also working with refugees in direct provision in this project to provide them with an additional source of income. This project cuts across a number of the key ideas at the basis of Enactus, a financially sustainable project, a project that tackles a need, and more recently a project that doesn’t have a negative environmental impact.
Enactus is also unusual in how subdivided it is internally as a society. Each project they are running has a dedicated team of between three and five people organising it. While Whelton says there is a lot of overlap between these teams, with people working on multiple projects in multiple roles at once, it can happen where a long standing member of the society might not have met members of the society outside of their team. Each of these teams operate quite independently of one another.
Additionally the society committee is more committed to providing overall organisation than it is to running the events. In fact the only consistent events run by the society as a whole are weekly meetings in the Innovation Centre to allow for teams to meet with each other. Otherwise it is up to individual teams to organise their own meets and projects.
The idea that social entrepreneurship is a competitive activity might seem odd on face value, but in the case of Enactus it seems to be designed to push students to actually achieve outcomes. For a project to compete in Enactus it must have some kind of outcome, some measurable impact. Until it has that it can’t be up for consideration. This is an interesting dynamic to encourage students to bring projects from concept to planning to implementation.
The scale of Enactus is also perhaps underestimated. In Ireland there are two competition heats with five Universities in each one to get to the Irish final. Once you get beyond that, there is the world final, with Universities from across the world competing to prove that they’ve done the most good.
Whelton said one of the most impressive projects that has come out of UCD in recent years is Generation Accommodation, which pairs students in need of digs with older people who have spare rooms and might be in need of someone to help around the house. This project has continued long after the students involved have left college, and demonstrates the impressive longevity of Enactus and its projects.
By Aaron Bowman – CoEditor