SIFE: not only a competition
This week, the regional competitions were held in Shanghai at the Huating Hotel, Xuhui, which hosted approximately 35 teams from Shanghai and its surrounding provinces. The competition provided a forum for teams to present the results of their projects, and to be evaluated by business leaders serving as judges. Cindy Savage and Guan Xin observed the regional SIFE competitions.
“I have also had some experience with overcoming frustrations and difficulties, and have learned how to persist to achieve a goal. Above all, through SIFE, I understand the exact meaning of devotion and sharing.”
Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) is an international non-profit organization with its local headquarters in Xuhui that works with leaders in business and higher education to mobilize university students to make a difference in their communities while developing the skills to become socially responsible business leaders.
Participating students form teams on their university campuses, consider the relevant economic, social and environmental factors in an area, then develop a project which effectively empowers people in need by applying business and economic concepts and an entrepreneurial approach to improve their quality of life and standard of living. These aren’t paper and pencil projects—they’re hands on, in the field, cooperative efforts.
During the reginal competitions fourteen winning teams were chosen to advance to the National champions in Beijing in June, which, in turn, will send a winning team to the prestigious SIFE World Cup to be held in Washington D.C. this October. The 2013 World Cup is slated for Beijing.
SIFE’s mission is to bring together the top leaders of today and tomorrow to create a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business. By contributing their talents to projects that improve the lives of people worldwide, SIFE participants are demonstrating that individuals with a knowledge and passion for business can be a powerful force for change.
Gary Ha shared his experience of organizing the SIFE team for Shanghai Ocean University. “I established our team in 2010. I’m proud to say our effort helped with the financial standing of farmers, but we faced many difficulties, especially the doubt from the farmers. We then came up with the idea of connecting professors in our school who are famous and who own patents in fishery and agriculture. We inserted the real technology into our project, and cooperated with one of the largest breeding farmers to gradually cultivate a format in rice and crab breeding.”
Courage to pursue his dream is the most important lesson Gary learned during his SIFE project. “I cherish the friendships I’ve made during this competition and I have learned a lot from my peers,” he added.
In addition to the community aspect of the program, SIFE’s leadership and career initiatives create opportunities for learning and exchange among the participants as well as the placement of students and alumni with companies in search of emerging talent.
SIFE was established in 1975 in the United States. The founder of SIFE was Robert T. Davis, a lawyer from Texas. He founded SIFE on behalf of the National Leadership Institute. Since its founding in 2003, SIFE China has grown to cover 178 universities with over 50 well-known companies providing the resources to support its growth.
Currently, SIFE projects are undertaken by highly dedicated student teams from more than 1,600 university campuses in 38 countries. SIFE offers these students the opportunity to develop leadership, teamwork and communication skills through learning, practicing and teaching the principles of free enterprise, in hopes of improving the standard of living for millions in the process.
The projects are as diverse as the teams and the populations they choose to serve. Previous projects have included Shanghai Normal University’s youth education project which assisted more than 1000 migrant children and the University of Nottingham, Ningbo which increased the income of ginseng farmers by 200% through creative marketing. Culture and art, rural development, health care and hygiene and environmental sustainability were just a few of the foci of the enthusiastic teams.
Competitors from University of Shanghai for Science and Technology chose to tackle the soaring CPI. “We found that although the vegetable prices have risen for the consumer, farmers actually haven’t gained any growth in profit. The sum of money, mostly, has flown into the middleman’s pocket. So we spent two years on our project which connects the farm directly with the customers, straight into the communities,” explained the team’s PR spokesperson, Muse Shen.
USST also maintained that friendship is the most valuable thing they gained during the project. Talking about the most unforgettable experience, one member, Kingpin Li, laughed. “It is my first time ever to sit on the truck and deliver the vegetables to the community. Just after we unloaded the third box, the residents began selecting and buying! I felt so moved seeing that what we have done really helped the common people and the farmers.”
“Through SIFE, I know I am capable of learning things and adapting to the surroundings quickly,” said Tu Shilu, Team President from Shanghai University. “I have also had some experience with overcoming frustrations and difficulties, and have learned how to persist to achieve a goal. Above all, through SIFE, I understand the exact meaning of devotion and sharing.”