More than 3,000 college students from 36 countries are in San Jose, Calif. this week for the Enactus World Cup 2018 to present their social innovation projects to panels of global business leaders.

Enactus is a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world. Coca-Cola has been a global sponsor of Enactus (formerly known as SIFE – Students in Free Enterprise) since 1994. The Coca-Cola Foundation previously sponsored the Enactus “Uncap Opportunities for Women Project Partnership”, which aligns with Coca-Cola’s 5by20 women’s initiative to empower female entrepreneurs. Coca-Cola also co-sponsors the Enactus World Water Race, which encourages teams to focus on clean water and sanitation projects.

We spoke with Rachael A. Jarosh, Enactus president and CEO, and Julie Hamilton, global chief customer and commercial Officer, The Coca-Cola Company, and an Enactus board member since 2015, ahead of the start of the World Cup.

Rachael Jarosh, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Julie Hamilton
Rachael Jarosh, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Julie Hamilton onstage at the 2018 Enactus World Cup.

How would you articulate the Enactus mission, and why is it today more important than ever?

Jarosh: More than anything, Enactus is a powerful network that shares a belief in the vitality of business to be a force for good. This mission binds us together and motivates us to engage the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders to positively impact the world. Our collective future depends on it. Together, we are focused on four primary principles: integrity, innovation, passion and collaboration. With these values and an entrepreneurial spirit, we believe this next generation will change the world in ways we can’t envision today. According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report, about one-third of the business skills considered important two years ago have changed. Only by nurturing skills like complex problem solving, creativity, collaboration, emotional intelligence and negotiation – all of which students glean from the Enactus platform – can we create a better, more sustainable world.

How has the mission evolved over the years?

Jarosh: We were founded in 1975 in the U.S. and began our global expansion in 1995. Today we have 36 country operations, from Australia to Zimbabwe. Our evolution in recent years has focused on embracing partnerships, and harnessing the collective expertise and passion of our partners, to ensure we create pathways for our network of students. Partnerships with companies like Coca-Cola ensure that we’re not only making opportunities available to students worldwide, but also setting an example of how partnerships can drive impact. Delivering results to the world’s greatest challenges requires working together not only across campuses and borders, but across industries. We’re mindful of the fact that no one company, person or team can accomplish change alone.

Coca-Cola has partnered with Enactus since 1994. What value does Coke get from this association?

Hamilton: It fits very much with our commitment to add value to every market we serve, and belief that business should be a source of good. What we get from our partnership with Enactus falls into three buckets: One, relationship-building with valued customers like Walmart. Second, the opportunity to partner with local colleagues and business entities at the community level on projects that connect with our core sustainability priorities and programs. In addition to our global sponsorship, we support Enactus chapters at the country level. And finally, from a talent perspective, connecting with these amazing students who are interested in business and social entrepreneurship.

How do your shared values align?

Hamilton: We’re both very focused on using business to make a difference in local communities, one project and one person at a time, through a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. This aligns with our local franchise model. We invest in a local operation, put down roots and stay. We don’t come with a suitcase and leave. With Enactus, it’s the same way. These students are working on for-profit business projects that are relevant to their local communities. You don’t see students in Puerto Rico or New York doing a project for India. And their work is always tied to results. They get their hands dirty. Also, Enactus’ work aligns with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which we are also very focused on as a business – especially related to women, water and waste. As a sponsor, we work with them to identify project areas that are important to us.

Julie, you’ve served on the Enactus Board of Directors since 2015. What has this experience meant to you personally?

Hamilton: I always come away from an Enactus event with a more optimistic view of the future and this amazing generation of future business leaders. Their passion, entrepreneurial skills, resilience and motivation inspires me. It’s also great to work with leaders from organizations who we may not interact with as often, such as the Ford Foundation and KPMG. It’s interesting to learn from how they’re doing business and recruiting the next generation of talent. Those learnings have been really beneficial.

What value does Coca-Cola bring to Enactus?

Jarosh: We’re proud of our partnership with Coca-Cola. In particular, their commitment to SDG 6 and sponsorship of the Enactus World Water Race is a clear example of how we can do good by doing well. In addition, Coke has not just its resources; its employees have contributed their time, talents and passion to help guide and mentor our students. That type of engaged partnership as well as the thought leadership Coca-Cola brings to the table have been critical to the Enactus network.

How would you describe the atmosphere at the Enactus World Cup?

Jarosh: It’s difficult to put into words! The energy is nothing short of awe-inspiring. These young social innovators – together with Enactus alumni, business leaders and faculty advisors – are all focused on entrepreneurial action. It’s the best of the Olympics, combined with the best of a business roundtable, combined with the passion and excitement that comes with a clear path to a better future.

Hamilton: It’s electric. It’s like an intellectual Olympics. In the opening ceremonies, everyone represents their country with flags, music and native dress. Then it’s three days of competition and collaboration. Precision presentations, a lot of rehearsing and a lot of nerves. The quality is mind-blowing. It’s great to see students who work so hard to better their communities and themselves get this great opportunity to participate in such a unique event.