On the 10th of April, I had the good fortune to judge the final round of the British ENACTUS national championships and thus had a glimpse into the future of work.
ENACTUS is an international movement focused on training and empowering the next generation of social entrepreneurs while they are still at University.
For those unfamiliar with the organization, ENACTUS stands for :
ENtrepreneurial – igniting business innovation with integrity and passion
ACTion – the experience of social impact that sparks social enterprise
US – student, academic and business leaders collaborating to create a better world
Social entrepreneurship and business as a force for good is a subject very close to my heart.
In my twenties, with no business background or training, I set up my own social enterprise, The Life Project CIC. The aim of TLP was to provide young adults with clearer direction and greater life fulfilment through the provision of entrepreneurial and employability education. It was tough going. Yet, TLP was the foundation of the business we are in now… but I shall save that story for another day.
Here’s what I learned from the wonderful experience of hearing four University teams – Surrey, Kings, Essex and Edinburgh, share their phenomenal achievements. (Spoiler – my alumnus – Edinburgh, won the national championship and will compete in the Enactus World Cup).
#1 Students really care about doing work that has a positive impact
I found out about ENACTUS from a group of students in Glasgow that I shared a ride with. They told me how useful it was to learn about social enterprise in a structured and practical way. Looking around at a room of hundreds of students who had travelled from all over the country to be there, it was clear that this mattered. Making a change, using your skills for the public good and being driven by ethics, principle and problem solving was a huge motivator for these undergrads. That’s why Teach First and the Fast Stream (where I began my career as a graduate), remain enduringly popular.
#2 Companies are keen to hire ENACTUS students because they fit the profile of a pro-active, conscientious and values-driven grad
Let’s face it – not only was the day very inspiring and moving, it was also an ideal place to search for the next generation of talent. My colleagues on the panel shared with me how much their organisations, from finance to food, recruitment to media, believed in ENACTUS and wanted to help the students flourish.
They saw that in the changing world of Higher Education, the kind of student that gets involved with ENACTUS is one that stands out. It is a point of difference and a flag that says “I want to use business to be a force for good.” My colleagues told me that they had even handed out ‘golden tickets’ to particularly impressive graduates and recognized that ENACTUS grads would have their pick of destinations after University.
#3 The world of Higher Education is changing and broadening
There is a gap between what employers need and what education provides as preparation for the world of work… ENACTUS and organisations like it, help close this gap. The practical design focused education that comes from this extracurricular activity helps students develop soft skills that are invaluable in the modern workplace. In addition, the training provides invaluable exposure to real life workplaces and real-life social issues.
#4 Everyone has a little bit of the entrepreneur in them
What I most enjoyed was seeing how the teams worked together to address an issue. Whether it was the invention of a clean burning compost based fuel, by Kings or recyclable sanitary pads or locally sourced lighting solutions in the Philippines, the teams of students had to collaborate to achieve results. An engineer, working alongside a business student and a linguist, means that much more is possible than one person acting alone.
THE BIG AHA
The future of work looks pretty damn good from my view. I love that young people care about the effects of their work, that they are pro-active, conscientious and values-driven. And that is what makes them an asset to the organisations.
I remember Peter Holbrook, the Chief Exec of Social Enterprise UK telling me:
“We don’t need more social entrepreneurs, we need more social enterprises.”
By learning the skills to collaborate across the academic department and to work in an Agile fashion, these students are leading the charge for the future of work in business, in which values-led innovation can really lead the way.
Many thanks to ENACTUS and to Andrew Bacon for having me.
To find out more about ENACTUS please click here.
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