So, you want to make an impact on the local Norwich community? Look no further than Enactus, a global non-profit organization that aims to create a better, more sustainable world.
The catch, Enactus takes the form of a UEA society in this university; filled with a community of students dedicated to using entrepreneurial action to run social and commercial projects that lend a helping hand to two of Norwich’s most pressing problems: food waste and homelessness.
“Next Generation Leaders” are the three words that Vice-President Anisya Djohar uses when asked to describe the student society. And indeed, they are.
For the past three years, the society has been running two very successful enterprises, namely Budget Bites and Companions. The former focuses on tackling food waste by upcycling the unsold food they receive from Norwich Food Hub. After doing so, they hold pop-up cafes at the Hive which run on a “pay-as-you-feel” basis. These cafes happen every two weeks and have saved almost 300 kilograms of food waste and raised over £600.
The latter is geared towards improving social mobility among the rough sleepers in Norwich by providing sewing workshops for them to sew handmade pillows which will then be sold to the Norwich and UEA community. Companions also give out care packages to the homeless in Norwich, to aid them in their immediate necessities. All Enactus’ earnings are used to ensure the sustainability of their projects.
By partnering with Under-1-Roof, a local Norwich support and training outlet for the vulnerable and homeless, Budget Bites teaches workshops on-site to train the homeless in food enterprises. Enactus also provides them with a food hygiene certificate at the end of the workshop that will enable them to start their own enterprise. This is significant as Norwich is ranked as the second-worst local authority in England for social mobility with only slight improvements every year.
Former Budget Bites Project Leader, Erine Novita said, “I am proud of how our society has progressed from the development league to the national league. To put things in perspective, there are a total of 68 Enactus teams across the UK. At the end of our year, we had to showcase our project to regional panelists and only the best 32 teams qualified for the nationals. Environmental, social, economic and sustainability were the key criteria and we made it.”
Their biggest milestones include a £5000 grant from the Ford Motor Company for Companions and a BBC feature for Budget Bites that was accompanied by grants for food upcycling.
Enactus UK defines the difference between “improving” and “impacting” in terms of the level of continued support that the beneficiaries receive. While improving someone’s life is classified as a one-time encounter to aid their present condition, impacting is described as a
sustained interaction over 2 weeks that empower their lives through skills. Djohar said, “As of this year, we have improved over 1200 lives in the city through both our projects and impacted 10 lives.”
Nevertheless, this success comes with its struggles. “One of the main struggles we encounter is member retention rates,” Djohar adds. “The inconsistencies that are present in our projects mean that they face unstable times, especially when the running committee hands them over to their successors.”
Students at Enactus UEA are incorporated into every facet of the enterprises they run, not just reaching out to vulnerable populations. The entire society works together to help with marketing, business planning, and even the designing of pillows. They also hold meetings with various companies like KPMG and HSBC to help student members expand their ideas and practice interviewing skills.
University is an exciting time to make a difference in the lives of others and explore our strengths.