Articulate, self-assured and confident, Jieyang oversaw an organisation that ran 6 projects with more than 30 active members. Through numerous projects, Enactus NUS has helped vulnerable segments in society: Granny’s Sprouts, CartSE, Coding for Children, Project Chatters Café, Project Silver Sparkles and Neighbourhood Noms, etc. From low-income family children who are academically weak, to senior citizens equipped with handicraft skills, many have benefited from the projects.
However, things were not rosy in the beginning.
“Nobody knew what Enactus was. Enactus was not very famous in NUS, so why would anyone want to join?”
Jieyang smiled while recalling the time when he first came to know about what became Enactus NUS’ first project, Project BakeryHearts, a collaboration with Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre to equip low-income homemakers with baking and social skills.
With most students wanting to join established CCAs, growing beyond the founding team of six was a challenge. After getting over the initial hurdle of having someone mildly interested put his name down on a piece of paper, there came other challenges. There was the lack of patience. Members left the club because of the lack of immediate results. There was the lack of time. The pioneering team had to run the CCA on top of the already heavy Engineering curriculum. Even matters as trivial as room booking within the campus became an issue without formal recognition as a CCA, as only established CCAs were allowed to book seminar rooms.
Growing through guidance and support
However, the mentorship and support from Enactus NUS’ institutional mentors, Mrs Hauw Soo Hoon and Mr Moh Hon Meng, who provided expertise and guidance on organisational development and business development issues, meant that Jieyang and his team had the best chance to succeed. Beyond technical advice, they urged the young team to go beyond their comfort zones. Having met Mrs Hauw through an internship opportunity, Jieyang recalls how she challenged him to take up Enactus projects and not just be a “manager in a club that organises events”. Jieyang and his team realised that this was a great opportunity to change lives. With that, Enactus NUS was formed.
Open, friendly culture
As the organisation grew beyond the founding team, there came with it the need to impose structures and hierarchy. Nonetheless, the culture in Enactus NUS remains open and friendly, driven by dedicated Exco members who work closely with one another and directly with the individual projects. This benefits the organisation.
“When relationships are personal, you’d want to help each other more”, Jieyang points out. The Enactus NUS Exco members make it a point to attach themselves to the project teams for individual projects, so that they can keep track of progress and provide early interventions if things do not go well. Such dedication and attention to detail has certainly reaped benefits. With this strategy, attrition rate in the club fell, and project teams are better guided in executing projects.
Doing real social entrepreneurship
“A lot of the CCAs around say that they do entrepreneurship. But they don’t actually do real business on the ground.” Jieyang is proud that through Enactus, he has managed to get his hands dirty, implement the changes that he believed in and value add to the lives of the vulnerable and needy. His team believes this is an invaluable experience, and hopes to help as many NUS students get a taste of doing real social entrepreneurship, through expanding Enactus NUS.
Don’t be afraid to try out new things
Jieyang openly admits that, like many others, he had little idea what he wanted to do when he entered university. Through leading Enactus NUS, he has found the things that make him smile and tick: helping, inspiring and leading others to greater heights. This is something that Jieyang hopes to continue doing for as long as he can, as he looks forward to a whole world of opportunities lying in front of him. “Don’t be afraid to try out new things, because one day, you’ll connect the dots looking backwards.” Jieyang highlights this quote from Steve Jobs, and encourages everyone to continue taking on new challenges, for every experience makes your story a more exciting one.
Jieyang explains that Enactus NUS’ success does not belong to himself, he owe thanks to the following parties who fought alongside this tough 2 year journey — Institutional Mentors Mrs Hauw and Mr Moh, Vice President Serene New, Pioneering Team Zhang Zhewei and Karina Ng, Enactus NUS Exco members and every Project Executive. This story belongs to everyone involved in building Enactus NUS.
— Zheng Jieyang, Outgoing President, Enactus NUS / 05 August 2015
Jieyang was the President of Enactus NUS from 2013 to 2015. He was awarded the Enactus Student Leader of the Year Award 2015 at the recent National Competition.