Enable progress through entrepreneurial action!

Enable progress through entrepreneurial action!
ENACTUS is a community of young people who understand the transformative power of entrepreneurship - in spirit and practice.

Turning third level students to become socially conscious and enact positive change using social entrepreneurial business models is the mission of the Enactus programme globally.

Liam Redmond, country manager in Ireland, believes that this is a learning experience of a lifetime which inspires hundreds of students to think differently.

Q: How does Enactus work and what makes it unique?

Enactus empowers third level students globally to create social enterprises to generate a positive impact. To do this, we provide training, mentorship, seed funding and development opportunities.

At the end of each academic year, we hold the Enactus Ireland National Competition which crowns the Enactus Ireland National Champion who then goes on to represent Ireland in the Enactus World Cup. The competition aspect of Enactus gives the students an opportunity to showcase their hard work and the impact they are creating through social enterprise.

  • We have a dual-focus – the development of the social entrepreneur, as well as the development of the social enterprise. A social enterprise cannot scale and grow if the social entrepreneur is not capable and vice versa.
  • To ensure the effectiveness of our programme, we work with a cross-section of leaders from many fields, such as students, business, academia and the social economy.
  • We are part of a 37-country network which promotes social enterprise and leadership development across the globe.

Q: What is the secret of the Irish teams to perform well at the international level?

The key to international success with a social enterprise is simplicity and a business model which facilitates growth. That said, the social entrepreneur needs to be able to deal with growth and scaling to an international level.

The eco-system of creativity and innovation in Ireland at the moment is second-to-none.

Coupled with the famous Irish sense of philanthropy and helping those in need, we are seeing some amazing social enterprises coming out of our network.

Just last year, students from Dublin City University (DCU) placed in the Top 12 at the competition with their enterprise, Giveback.ie – a Google Chrome extension which donates 5–10% of online purchases to a charity combatting homelessness at no added cost to the user.

Enactus projects are also making waves outside of our network.

Keep Appy, a mental wellness app from Trinity College Dublin was represented at the Global Social Innovation Challenge in San Diego, 2018. The app’s leader, Aimee Louise Carton, won the Global Female Entrepreneur Award as well.

Q: What is the impact of Enactus on future leaders?

At Enactus, we are creating the next generation of socially conscious leaders.

Through our active alumni network, we see the progress these leaders are making as they begin their careers.

Some students have even gone on to work for corporations and are lobbying for ethical practices and environmental sustainability in their new workplaces.

Other students have realized that social business and social enterprise is their passion and have re-entered education to learn more.

Then, we have the students who have taken the leap and turned their Enactus projects into social enterprises.

One of the most successful transitions to date is that of FoodCloud , a social enterprise with the aim of addressing the problem of food waste, founded by Iseult Ward, who was a member of Enactus Trinity College Dublin in 2013.

Access Earth by Matt McCann from Maynooth University is also another success story. It is a free platform that allows you to find and rate places by your accessibility needs.

Given the lack of a nationwide social enterprise structure in Ireland, the transition from Enactus project to a fully-fledged social enterprise can be tricky – especially for a student as they graduate from college.

Latest projects which are making waves now:

Moyo Nua – University of Limerick

The students have created an ergonomic seed planter out of bamboo which allows farmers in Malawi to increase productivity, which in turn allows children to go to school rather than working on the farms. They are just back from Mexico City where they pitched the project at the summit for the World Trade Centre Association Foundation.

Understanding Le Chéile – NUI Galway

Students in NUIG have created a programme which trains companies’ employees to treat autistic people correctly. The programme was created by autistic members of the team and has grown from strength to strength with RTÉ and KPMG already listed as happy customers.

Q: How did you become Country Manager in Ireland?

I was actually an Enactus student back in DCU when I was studying Irish and Business. My lecturer, Dr Emer Ní Bhrádaigh, is a social enterprise champion and encouraged me to get involved with Enactus.

I never really considered setting up a social enterprise, but Enactus DCU enabled me to create HeadstARTS – an organisation which empowers people with intellectual disabilities to engage with arts. HeadstARTS was part of DCU’s presentation at the Enactus Ireland National Competition 2013 and I am proud to say we won!

My teammates and I travelled to Cancun, Mexico, to represent Ireland at the Enactus World Cup. It was an amazing experience and really made me realise the importance of social entrepreneurship in the world today.

At the same time, a job came up with Enactus assisting students across the country to help set up their social enterprises. It was the perfect opportunity to work in a role that helps others make a difference. I haven’t looked back since!

I love hearing students create new projects which make a difference. I always get a shiver down my spine when I hear an idea that I know will take off and create a positive impact.

Enactus Ireland has a great team and network of partners committed to making the world a better place through social entrepreneurship. It is a pleasure to work in such a positive, engaging environment.

Q: What is the biggest challenge for you right now in your work?

Awareness. Enactus leaders are doing amazing work across the country and beyond, but it is going unrecognised.

Since 2012, we have empowered 2,000+ students to create 132 social enterprises which have created a positive impact in the lives of approximately 9,000 people.

Working for a small non-profit means resources are tight, and we need to constantly think strategically and be agile to ensure maximum impact.

Sometimes organisations outside of the social economy don’t take our sector seriously.

They see charities, non-profits and social enterprises as a nice photo opportunity but don’t take a minute to reflect on the impact they have and the results their actions make.

On top of that, I believe that the third level education system can be underestimated when it comes to the potential to achieve. Career advisers tend not to recommend social enterprise as a viable career path and there is a lack of support for someone aspiring to set up a social enterprise.

We cannot create a better, more sustainable world by being insular and staying in our own lanes.

We need to collaborate, innovate and create a multi-pronged approached to be able to produce sustainable results which will ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are reached and maintained.

That said, there are some great organisations and opportunities out there to support social enterprises from the idea phase and after they get up and running:

In addition, the government will publish Ireland’s first National Policy on Social Enterprise this year, so hopefully, that will help build an eco-system which can foster social enterprises at all levels.

What’s next?

2019 is shaping up to be our biggest year yet. We are currently preparing for the Enactus World Cup, which will take place in Silicon Valley on 16 – 18 September. Over 3,500 students will come together to showcase their social enterprises and will use the opportunity to grow and scale.

One thing I’m fascinated with at the moment is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how Enactus can work to achieve a greater level of implementation.

I strongly believe that the SDGs should be interwoven with everything we do to ensure sustainable development and to make the world a better place.

Our students create and implement, social entrepreneurial projects which empower the project beneficiaries to change their own lives’ for the better.

In addition, these projects are financially, socially and environmentally sustainable.