Meet the Enactus World Cup 2014 Champions
Eight years ago, in Paris, France, China was announced as the World Cup champions, winning the global competition for the first time. A few weeks ago, the country earned that prestigious title again, this time in front of cheering friends, family and peers as China hosted the event in Beijing.
This year’s champion team is from North China Electric Power University, a school with a strong engineering, science and technology focus whose main campus is in Beijing. The team was founded in September 2009 by seven students who aspired to take their technical learnings from the classroom and use it to address problems they saw in certain areas of society. They encouraged their peers to join them, to “step out of the laboratory and into the community” and offered them the opportunity to make a difference by using their technical expertise in developing sustainable business ventures. Their message clearly resonated on campus, as the team has grown to 35 students who last year gave over 12,000 volunteer hours. When asked what makes their team successful, they give credit to the strong support they receive from their three dedicated faculty advisors; their proactive relationship with alumni; and team members who constantly look for opportunities to learn and be innovative.
Their flagship project, ‘Empowering the Grasslands’, came about from the childhood experiences of one of their team members. Born in Bayannur in the rural area of Urad Rear Banner in Mongolia, Zhang Haoqian understood the difficulty of living in the dark, where animal dung was often used as a dangerous fuel source. He dreamed of bringing electricity to the families of the herdsmen living in the area, improving their quality of life by addressing safety issues and increasing their ability to be efficient. He shared the problem with his team and together they developed a wind and solar hybrid generation system they could offer to each family.
The process was not without its challenges: their original technology design was hampered by the effects of a harsh landscape and severe weather, forcing them to rely on the team’s culture of innovation to solve the problems. They also had to address the concerns of the herder families who were understandably hesitant to adopt this new technology and invest in the infrastructure. As a first step, they ran a successful pilot with two families, whose lives were enhanced thanks to extra income and cost savings, and this success convinced 13 additional families to sign up. The power supply was increased to 6kWh from 0.18kWh, providing them with enough power to introduce machinery in their work that increased their efficiency and shortened their workday. In fact, average annual income of the participants has grown by $4,900.
Impressive, right? But the effects of this initiative continue: to effectively manage the project and future partnerships, the team set up a company that ensures the sustainability of the project and provides them with continued real world experience. To manage repairs and new installations, the team has trained and hired selected herdsmen, giving them a new skill and additional income through part-time work. The families involved can now take advantage of basic things those of us in the developed world take for granted: using a cell phone to connect with family; having access to a fridge to preserve food; and getting news and information by television and radio to combat isolation. Children in the village now have greater educational opportunities thanks to electric light to extend their study day and access to technology. The system itself generates clean energy with zero emissions, reducing 2.7 tons of carbon emissions per year. All this happened because one individual saw an opportunity to take action and enable progress.
Building on the success of the project’s first phase, the team has big plans for the future: they already have a signed contract with the government to introduce the system to 500 households in five years, covering 25,000 km2. With 936,000 families living in non-electricity areas in China, the opportunity to extend the project is vast. And that’s just in one country: the team sees great potential to use their technology and program model to positively affect non-electricity areas in countries around the world. It was their experience at World Cup that made them realize the viability of this expansion: they connected with many of the teams from the 33 other countries in attendance and in discussions about goals and future plans, they realized there is strong interest from the network to partner with them on expanding their project. Exploring this option, as well as building their team operations and looking for additional project opportunities, will be their focus for the coming year.
Speaking of World Cup, the experience of being a part of the host country delegation is not one they will soon forget. They took immense pride in welcoming their peers from around the world to Beijing and were quick to offer suggestions on things to see and do. They will never forget the feeling they had during the Opening Ceremonies, as they proudly waved their flag with the flags of the other nations in attendance, and described the experience as being with family, thousands of likeminded individuals passionate about entrepreneurial action and using their own skills and abilities to benefit others. Of course, the highlight of the event came when they were announced as the World Cup 2014 Champions. It is amazing to win but even more so to do it in your own country, and they are excited about what the win means for the Enactus program in China. The team, their win and the event have been the subject of over 70 media hits to date including print, web and interviews, and this number doesn’t include global coverage of the event.
Although World Cup 2014 is behind us and the social media posts about the event have slowed, the magic of the event never quite leaves us. The chance to attend next year in Johannesburg is a motivator to many of our teams, and the learnings gained through participation either in person in Beijing or online through the live stream and saved videos is guiding the work of many of our teams this year. For the students from North China Electric Power University, it’s an experience that will stay with them for life, shaping what they accomplish this year and in years to come.