The Enactus Pre-Accelerator Programme: A test of the Heart, Head and Will

Three weeks ago, our latest batch of students from the polytechnics embarked on their Enactus journey when they attended their first Pre-Accelerator Workshop. For some, this will be their first baby steps towards improving communities around them through entrepreneurial action, as they learned about problem identification and how to generate ideas to address them. For others, a path of personal discovery and development awaits. No one today can be sure where this journey will take them.

Nonetheless, as Tam, Team Leader of the Enactus Singapore Fast Forward Business Tools team, illustrates below, everyone can create his or her own success on the programme, as long as we invest sufficiently in the Heart, the Head and the Will.

The struggle for keep going

The utter confusion and mess of sustaining something, for which survival depends on your commitment, patience, faith, and hope. It forces you to think, feel and step out of your comfort zone to protect and defend your creation with every ounce of energy. It throws you into unanticipated situations where it becomes a trial of your character, your endurance, and even your identity. It is almost like motherhood.

You grapple with the thought of giving up. You wrestle with moments of your own incompetence. You are bewildered by how the unanticipated as thrown all your plans off course. You are bruised, beaten to the ground.

Flee, fight, or freeze?

It is your choice, and there is no right answer.

But if you choose to fight the good fight, we will be there to show you the way. We might not be able to walk with you through the entire journey, but we are committed to guiding you on your first steps.

We won’t promise an easy journey, but we will support the hard worker, the humble, the curious and the courageous.

We love to see fighting spirit, and we take delight in seeing growth, be it in your projects, in your conviction for your future, your awakened calling, or your character development.

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We want to partner you because we were once like you. We started on our own journeys, failed in our first attempts, got up and tried again. We fought a good fight and walked out of it a with renewed outlook about ourselves and about life at large.

Our story

Like many of you, we did not begin with any grand schemes in mind.

We were all Business students, and we were trained to write Business plans, marketing plans — basically plans for everything we were tasked as students. We were trained to examine existing situations through case studies and desktop research, to criticise it, analyse it, and come up with the solutions. We were taught to apply academic models and frameworks to analyse the cases at hand.

Our business background reinforced our confidence in our ability to embark on a new Enactus project. We were idealistic, full of energy, and clueless about the scale of the commitment we had just made.

Then came the time when we needed to do the work and reality sank in. And we were caught like rabbits in the headlights — frightened, unprepared, and incompetent. The chasm that existed between learning through case studies and solving the real problems was overwhelming.

Bridging that chasm wasn’t a matter of having sufficient knowledge or skills. It needed conscious effort and investment of the Heart, the Head, and the Will.

Heart

…Heart to put on the lens of reality to see issues and the lives of your beneficiaries as they are, rather than rely on a third-party view that skims the surface. Heart of courage, to step out of our comfort zone and get close to the lives of people that would otherwise have never crossed our paths.

…Heart of empathy, to listen with our hearts open, rather than relying on our ears to do the work aimlessly. Heart of conviction, to remind ourselves time and again the purpose of all this, rather be solely driven by deadlines and results.

We did unusual things. One day under the scorching sun at noon, we went out as a team to conduct interviews at hawker centers. We chatted with them and listened to their life stories. We spent an entire day at the YaKun branch in Tiong Bahru, observing people and noting down little details about them, the services they sought and the setting in the store. We organised talks, events, distributed flyers, offered free class to engage the community. We did all we could to push our understanding of the people we hoped to serve. We brought ourselves as close as possible to the daily realities they experienced.

Head

…Head to analyse complex issues we often stumble into.

The deeper we dived into the social issues, the more challenges we encountered in making sense of them. The complexity meant that sometimes we had to make risky decisions. That was also when we learnt the usefulness of business tools and design thinking principles in facilitating thought processes, and to leverage on individual strengths in problem solving.

We modified the business tools and frameworks to suit our needs. We learnt the critical skills required to frame our thoughts, see through clutter, and adapt our mental models according to the situation. We had to have a clear mind, for us to understand large amounts of information from different angles: From the point of view of beneficiaries, the business model standpoint, and with consideration for internal team management and motivation.

A ton of questions weighed on our minds, and sometimes we had to drag our weary hearts along to keep going. But we learned to prioritise by choosing an angle to the problem for it to be effectively solved with our limited time and energy.

Will

…Will to commit yourself to the hard graft.

We were no longer in the planning stage, but more often than not, we felt the consequences of ill-conceived plans. We had to be strong to move past hurdles and setbacks along the way. Soon, we realised we were no longer students presenting coursework to our Profs who would give us constructive feedback, but entrepreneurs facing the harsh reality of rejections, criticisms and disbelief. As we asked the team to keep faith and persist, internal team management issues soon added to the problems that we faced.

It’s your turn, now

We had been there, and we had seen and experienced some of the problems that you will face in bridging the chasm between vision and reality. We are by no means the expert, but we would love to support you on this journey and learn with you in this Pre-Accelerator programme. After all, we are all learning. And we help each other wherever we can, whenever we can, with whatever we have.

We can’t expect perfection on the journey. We may fail, often. But we know, whenever we fail, we grow a little stronger, a little more humble and wiser, a little more fearless. This is how we build our endurance, perseverance, and adaptability in this fast changing world. This is our first steps in being the change agents for tomorrow.

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