Colm Fleming, a business and management student in Dublin Institute of Technology from Enactus Ireland and a recipient of a KPMG bursary shares his experience at his first ever Enactus World Cup!
This past week thousands of students, faculty advisers and corporate sponsors descended into the ExCel Arena in London to celebrate the Enactus World Cup, 16 years after the first World Cup was held in the same city. I was one of the lucky few to be there as part of Team Ireland. I had heard stories and watched videos of the competition, however the visceral power and joy that I felt from being there from all involved as I learnt of the impact Enactus students are having globally, was the most rewarding experience of my life.
University teams from 35 countries from all 4 corners of the globe competed in the competition. The teams showcased their social enterprises which have directly impacted, improved and empowered some of the most disadvantaged and at risk people on the planet. Teams linked their projects to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, a list of goals which aim to solve the most pressing and salient social and environmental issues on the earth.
Now one might think that a group of University students tackling and solving issues such as Zero Hunger (SD goal 2) or Clean Water and Sanitation (SD goal 6) just would not be possible, however Enactus students are the exception. They are the business and social leaders of the future. They have this belief that despite all the political, environmental and financial inequity that is seen throughout our world, positive change is possible.
During my time in London, I was very fortunate to attend several fascinating events alongside the presentations. A highlight for all involved was the World Culture Fair held in Capitol Hall. Each nation set up a stand illustrating their country’s anthropology. Tables were covered in traditional decorations, foods, and ornaments. It was a wonderful experience seeing everyone there trying and embracing new cultures and never have I seen people smile and cheer as much as when the music and dancing began.
Now while I was enjoying my Mexican Tequila sweets and Russian tea, of course the most rewarding aspect of the week was watching the presentations. The standard was so incredibly high and surpassed all my expectations, from the pitching, to the videos, the judges Q and A, and of course the impacts, it was a whirlwind of emotion and contemplation seeing the challenges we face but most importantly the solutions Enactus students are bringing to the table. Enactus Ireland were exemplary advocates of that, and my colleagues at Enactus DCU did all of us proud with their great presentation, making it all the way to the semi-final round, come on you boys and girls in green!!
Throughout the week I had the opportunity to hear speeches from industry experts including Kees Kruythoff and Paul Polman. They both spoke of how we are in the lucky 2% who have financial freedom, must keep striving to help those who do not. If we do not, we will never see the society that we want, so lead a life of purpose. With great fortune, comes great responsibility. Some do not want that responsibility, Enactus students decide to carry that burden and lift the weight off those who should never have carried it in the first place.
After two days of very strong competition, the four finalists were announced on Thursday afternoon, the teams from Canada (defending champions), Puerto Rico, Kyrgyzstan, and India would present again on the main stage. I had not seen any of these four teams yet and I was very much looking forward to it. Needless to say, I was blown away by the presentations. These teams had empowered hundreds of people, changed thousands of lives, and had made millions in revenue, all I could do was stand and applaud, proud to witness it. To my delight, Enactus India were named World Champions. Their main project, called Project Rahaat, has nearly solved public sanitation issues in New Delhi, and has provided 11,000 people with access to safe sanitation and eight entrepreneurs who were disadvantaged now have a monthly income of Rs. 9,500.
As I try to glean clarity on all my thoughts surrounding the experience, my overriding feeling is one of hope and belief that if you as one person decide to change the world positively in whatever way you can, big or small, the universe will shift a bit more in the right direction. John Lennon once sweetly sung,
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”
I can imagine that now.