Wednesday 12-11-2014 - 16:26
It’s often assumed that social impact and good business don’t go together, but students throughout the UK are proving this wrong.
Every year, we see new enterprises which are putting collectivism, sustainability and employability at the heart of their business models. These projects don’t just generate valuable revenue for students and our movement, but they make a positive social impact, and contribute to a fairer and more equal society. They are part of the core purpose of our students’ unions.
We love to see innovation across our movement, and enterprise is the perfect opportunity for this. At the University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union, students took a plot of underused land on their campus and filled it full of chilli plants.
Soon, the Cheltenham Chilli Jam Company was born, now making upward of 400 jars of jam a term, being sold in retail outlets across campus and in the local community.
The benefits go way beyond just creating a successful business. It engages new students with their union for the first time. It reconnects students to sustainable fod production. And it creates new skills across a huge range of disciplines which will add to graduate employability.
Projects like this bring new pockets of students into contact with each other – and their students’ union – for the first time.
From the growing, to the marketing, to the design, to the commercial management, social enterprises have an almost limitless capacity to offer opportunities to a huge array of students, whatever they study, whatever skills they want to develop, and whatever impacts they want to make.
The Cheltenham Chilli Jam Company is a brilliant example of this.
Nor is it a small project. It’s a viable business which has been taken to an incredible scale in recent years.
Based on the success of their chilli jam venture, the University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union have expanded into making cider and juice from local apples, as well as honey from their own urban bees. These can be really far reaching, high impact projects, diversifying into new areas all the time.
It doesn’t have to be food production, of course. The Cheltenham Chilli Jam Company is just one example. At the University of the Arts London Students’ Union, the Made in Arts project helps its students sell their artworks online, while the iCycle scheme championed by Manchester Metropolitan University Students’ Union offers affordable bike hire facilities across the institution.
Both of these projects generate revenue, and are continuing to expand and improve, reaching even more people every year.
We want to see more students turning their ideas into reality, while making a positive contribution to their union and wider community. We can do this by sharing our learning and collaborating nationally, helping the student movement to become the vibrant landscape of enterprise we know it has the potential to be.
Generating funding without compromising our values, we’re excited to see what students can develop when given the proper support, building stronger students’ unions, and a regenerative student movement.
Visit our enterprise pages to help us develop our national support network, and cultivate student enterprise at your students’ union.