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Students: the Future of Global Social Entrepreneurship


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 'Social enterprise is the future. It combines the entrepreneurial spark in people, and gives back to the community as well – it has made me a more responsible person and is creating more morale and responsible business leaders of the future.’

23 year-old Jack Stanbury is adamant that the experience he gained at University outside his course has offered him skills and experience invaluable for him to establish his own business.

With experience leading a team to raise over £21,000 to take some 20 Southampton students to compete in the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) World Cup in Kuala Lumpur this year, we think he’s on to something too.

As president of SIFE, Stanbury became team leader for a consultancy project, recruited over 90 new students to join the organisation, and led it to victory as National UK Champions earlier this summer.

He tells the TNS that SIFE ‘puts you in situations you have never been in before, and that you had not dared to even put yourself in; it makes you come out your comfort zone and find out things about yourself which you thought you could never do.’

SIFE, or Students In Free Enterprise, is a global non-profit organisation that works with leaders in business and higher education to help to make a difference in communities whilst developing skills to become socially responsible business leaders.

The organisation has operations at over 1,500 universities in 39 countries across the globe, with approximately 48, 000 active members internationally. Its worldwide revenue last year amounted to around $12,800,000.

As part of the Southampton University team, Stanbury and other members at the university established projects to sell or lease solar powered lamps to rural Madagascan villages, help young people in the UK who aren’t in education, employment or training, and a microfinance scheme to assist Madagascan farmers set their own family businesses.

It was these projects that the Southampton team took to the National SIFE World Cup, beating 33 other teams across the country and winning a place at the World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, this summer.

Unfortunately, the team lost out to a team in Germany who ultimately took the winning accolade, but Stanbury is passionately enthusiastic about the team’s experience in Malaysia.

‘The World Cup was truly one of the best events I have ever been to. With so many countries all congregating for this massive event, it was truly special. For example, just getting an insight into all the different cultures, traditions and attitudes was amazing.

‘Although it sounds like a lot of hard work, you develop great friendships along the way, with people from all kinds of backgrounds and subjects, which you go on a fantastic journey with.

‘The last days in Kuala Lumpur were amazing. The atmosphere of the competition was like a carnival, and such a pleasure to have been involved and represented the University on a global stage – the team bonding as a result of that, you just couldn't get anywhere else.’

The Civil Engineering graduate describes that he originally got into the society in his second year after ‘coming to the realisation that all I was doing at University was going out, working on my studies, and not really getting involved in any societies. I wanted to change all that.’

He explains, ‘SIFE is about using your business and leadership skills to implement real life projects that help communities and individuals; I thought this was exactly the kind of society I would love to get involved with.

‘Straight away, I was thrown in at the deep end. I applied to be project leader for a consultancy project that was aimed at providing funding for the social projects SIFE Southampton ran. I was successful in my application and went on to deliver the Learning Spaces Consultancy for the University, providing SIFE Southampton with a £5,500 profit, which would go on the help fund the social projects the following year.

‘We have done so many fun things in SIFE and could reel on for ages. Overall the most fun I had was taking the vision set out by my predecessors' and developing the team into a National winning team in the year I was President. We increased active membership from 35 to 105 students, had the most amazing impact in our projects, and built a legacy SIFE team.’

Stanbury’s plans for the future include ‘a few ideas with a business partner who was in the SIFE team last year.’ He told the guardian that, ‘we think we can do it and I think the effort is worth it. It gives me self-fulfillment. It sounds cheesy, but seeing the success we have achieved with our SIFE projects has made it all worth while for me.’

And the entrepreneur knows he’s on to a good thing.

‘SIFE is the perfect model for getting students actively engaged with their communities and I hope the SIFE brand and name grows and grows in the UK to make it the number one organisation for students to get involved with in the future.

‘I think the future is exciting with SIFE. With the economic crisis, it is becoming harder and harder to find graduates jobs and SIFE is exactly the kind of organisation with which you can develop yourself and your job prospects.’

We’ve got a feeling Stanbury’s job prospects, and the future of global social entrepreneurship, look rosy.

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