‘The future belongs to social entrepreneurs’
‘We believe that a sustainable and honest world for everyone starts at home, with ourselves. We believe in empathy, guts, and entrepreneurship. That is why we invest in enterprising and responsible leaders.’ These are the first few lines of the mission statement of student association Enactus. Words that tie in perfectly with what Tilburg University wants to impress upon its students. High time, therefore, to talk to Fimme Jagersma, president of Enactus Tilburg.
Fimme is a student of IBA and he has been president of Enactus since the beginning of this academic year. Enactus is an acronym for Entrepreneurial Action for Others creates a better world for Us All.‘ Fimme explains: ‘It is an international partnership between students, higher education, and the business world. We are stationed in 36 countries. There are 14 student teams active in the Netherlands. Within Enactus, we start up social enterprises latching on to one or more Sustainable Development Goals. In the course of a year, a project team consisting of students go through all the stages you need to go through to start up a social enterprise and to make it viable: from brainstorm sessions to planning, from planning to execution. They are aided in this by academic advisors and alumni advisors. After a year, the social enterprise is expected to be viable enough to stand on its own two feet. The students from the project team subsequently go on to manage the company as social entrepreneurs. The company should not only be profitable but also have a social impact.’
Before he became president of Enactus, Fimme was project leader of the ‘Save a bike’ project. In this enterprise, old abandoned bikes are repaired and renovated by people at a disadvantage in getting jobs in the labor market. The bikes are painted a fresh blue, after which they are sold to students at a low price. The bikes are supplied, among others, by the City of Tilburg, which from time to time has these abandoned bikes removed from the streets. Thanks to the bicycle workshop, people with employability issues can gather work experience..
For Fimme, membership of Enactus fits his personal aspirations seamlessly. ‘I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Lately I have become more and more aware that social entrepreneurship is the way of the future, that’s it going to be the new standard. It should not just be about your own profit, you also need to be of value to society. After his Bachelor’s in IBA, he is going to continue his studies with a Master’s in Strategic Management, specializing - not surprisingly - in the Entrepreneurship track.
There is a great deal of common ground between Enactus and the objectives pursued by Tilburg University in the Tilburg Educational Profile. Both hold that students are the leaders of the future, and that they should go about fulfilling this role in a responsible way, with best interests at heart for the world around us. Fimme applauds the university promoting this in an active manner. ‘Students coming to study here often have no idea yet what it is they want and what their future will look like. It is a very good thing that the university guides them in their personal development and in raising their awareness of the role they can play in society. But you could ask yourself: ‘Is this really something students are looking for? Isn’t this social engagement more like something for the happy few?’ Fimme is adamant here: Of course there are student going for the big bucks, but he is convinced there are lots of students seriously thinking about what meaningful role they can play in society. ‘Students are given the privilege of studying at one of the best universities in the Netherlands. If you get an opportunity like that, there are many ways you can give something back to society. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but you should also give something in return.’
How do you get students to become aware of this, and then act accordingly? In this regard, Fimme emphasizes the importance for all students of study and student associations. His tip for all students: ‘Join an association. Associations put into practice a lot of what the Tilburg Educational Profile stands for. You learn important skills like pitching, cooperating and collaborating, debating, organizing, contacting businesses. Many associations have charity projects. If you take part in those, you come into contact with people you would not normally meet as a student, people who can do with a bit of help.’
Enactus Tilburg and Tilburg University can reinforce each other in this. After all, they have a common goal: to enable students to develop into enterprising and responsible leaders. Fimme outlines an ideal picture: The Enactus projects – the social enterprises started up by students – should become part of the educational programs. In their studies, students are taught a great deal of theoretical knowledge about how enterprises function. By combining this with the practical experience of starting up a social enterprise, you immediately contribute to making students aware of the importance and the societal significance of social enterprises.
For more information on Enactus Tilburg and their projects, go to the Enactus website.