MDX students have taken part in youth enterprise and social action network Enactus UK’s national competition for a second year running: one of 64 British universities to enter this year.
On Monday 23rd March, the team of five students from MDX’s Enactus UK Society made a presentation to judges of community projects they’ve been developing over the past 12 months, each linked to one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Finalists from the first round are competing in this week’s National Expo, with the winners going on to represent the UK in the Enactus World Cup in October.
A veteran of the 2019-20 MDX Enactus team returned as an alumna adviser – otherwise all of MDX’s team members were first time participants. MDX staff members, Senior Lecturer in Eco-Entrepreneurship Dr Chris Moon, who set up MDX’s Enactus Society, and Amanda Brace, Progression and Support Advisor from Library & Student Support, mentored the students.
The team is led by former professional musical theatre performer turned Product Design student Adam Painting, who has stepped up during the year from Vice-President Engagement to Enactus President. It includes two other Product Design students, plus colleagues studying Sports Science and Business Studies, giving the team multi-disciplinary insight.
“Being product designers we're used to thinking out of the box” says Adam. “We’ve got projects together, done recruitment, and got the team together”. Students joined the Enactus Society through different routes – Navpreet Singh Kaur for instance was inspired by attending a green tech festival showcasing what companies are doing to achieve sustainability in their operations around the world.
Adam says that “when people think of [student] societies they see them as something to enjoy. Enactus is a lot more than that – people realise the benefits aren't just an event, they're changing people's lives”.
This year’s MDX Enactus projects have been:
Let's Go Brighter Together – a programme promoting LGBTQ+ equalities and rights in secondary schools, which has been awarded funding by Enactus UK.
The project was set up by Foundation Year BA Business Management Sade Jane Ineson and involves fellow Enactus team members going into schools to deliver workshops. Enactus Society Vice-President Andres Yousif-Romero, one of the speakers says: “this generation is a social media driven generation, a lot of comment goes online”, and explains the programme’s objectives are to show LGBT school students, “it's not just about how you fit into the community, it's about making sure you are given respect”.
STEM to Stem – a conservation and education programme with St Joseph’s Primary School in Hendon. Navpreet is leading on a project to reconnect school pupils to a green space and pond area whilst raising awareness about climate change and dangers of air pollution. She hopes to empower the children to be environmentally and socially responsible activists, who can make a difference for the bettering of society.
STEM to Stem aims to promote sustainable and green path career opportunities and encourage more women to take up careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, to diversify STEM and break down the gender stereotypes of what an engineer or scientist looks like.
Navpreet has gained insight from Sister Anthony - a retired headmistress at St Joseph's - about the history of the site which used to have a cow shed and a flourishing pond with swans. “We’ve had meetings with teachers from the school and are developing cocurricular workshops to educate children about ecosystems, climate change, habitat loss and biodiversity," she says.
The LADS Project – an initiative launched by Andres - who is a Royal Engineers reservist alongside studying Product Design at MDX - to normalise men talking about their mental health. In five weeks, he built up around 1000 followers on social media, he’s partnered with Amnesty UK and MDX’s Amnesty Society, appeared on a global mental health and wellbeing webinar and on the MDX-based Student Light podcast, and had further media interest and mental health organisations interested in collaborating with him. Joined by his brother, he walked with his army day sack more than 73km from Croydon to Brighton in a single day to raise money for the project.
Andres faced his own mental health struggles in his first year at MDX. His interest in opening up about this and taking action over mental health was sparked from experiencing a death while working in security, and in particular from a conversation in a pub at the end of a particularly bleak week. “I’m meant to be the classic lad so it’s weird for me to show this side,” he says. “Hearing other people's stories, it encourages [people suffering] to speak”.
Carbon literacy – MDX Enactus is taking part in a national programme to educate students about carbon emissions, the impacts of climate change and what they can do as individuals and in their communities. Activities around this include building a model of a giant brain out of plastic bottles, filled up with LED lights that glow to highlight the different areas of the brain; recycling the university’s waste paper into a packaging product; and a bonsai cherry tree festooned with reusable cups.
Team members have had outside mentors including from Bic and Enterprise Rent-a-Car, who have helped them with techniques for presentations and more generally with building their confidence.
MDX Enactus Society also helped to programme this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight at MDX, in the last week of February and first week of March. They are taking forward ideas, discussed after a showing of documentary 2040 during Fairtrade Fortnight, about promoting sustainability on campus. A meeting about this planned with MDX's Environmental Steering Group at the end of May.
As well as with his Enactus teammates, Andres has found a sense of belonging playing rugby, outside lockdown, at Hendon Rugby Club and in the army, and as captain of the MDX men’s rugby team. He’s put his product design knowledge to use in the army, where he serves in 101 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search) in 8 Engineer Brigade, winning a silver medal in the Brigade’s 2020 Innovation competition.
Navpreet, who comes from a family with a strong tradition of educational self-improvement, swapped an earlier aspiration to become a chemical engineer for a focus on sustainable development and activism. She is a part time swimming instructor and is a member of No Sweat – a non-profit organisation that fights for the wellbeing and protection of sweatshop labourers. Her placement at MDX’s design and innovation centre redLoop last academic year “ignited my passion for product design” she says. She sees education as crucial in the fight against climate change and social injustice.
Adam, a mature student, started out at 18 training as a musical theatre performer, and featured as a dancer for bands including Take That and in West End shows. He then went to work in sales, for brands such as Microsoft, Sony and Mercedes Benz, before the offer of a trainee engineering job made him decide to take the plunge and train as an engineer, finally pursuing an interest he'd had since childhood in making things.
MDX “stole my heart because of the access to facilities, and the way teachers spoke about the course was completely different to other unis” he says. He was a Student Voice leader then Student Learning Assistant and describes himself as someone “forever trying to motivate people to engage their curiosity and creativity”.
Enactus “is a community of people driven by certain things, who want to achieve certain things” he says. “There’s an eco-entrepreneurial spirit of ‘I can do things and want to do things’. We've got so much going on internally - we're running a business, we've got on-boarding processes and committees”.
The ambition after this year’s competition is for MDX’s Enactus tradition to grow and grow – with the ultimate promise of the millions invested in the projects of the Egypt team, winners of the Enactus World Cup in 2019 and 2020. “Even though we're a small team so far, we've done so much,” says Adam. “And the Enactus organisers are inspirational".