Success with “one-dollar glasses:” TUM students win World Cup of Non-Profit Organization Enactus

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For millions of people across the globe, glasses are an unaffordable luxury. The OneDollarGlasses organization decided to change this, launching a pair of glasses with a price tag of just one dollar. To ensure that this initiative actually reaches the people who need glasses, opticians in developing countries have to be trained on the technology and how to market the innovation. The Enactus team of students at Technische Universität München (TUM) is delivering most of this training. Enactus is a global non-profit organization that gives students the opportunity to use their entrepreneurial skills to improve quality of life for people the world over. The TUM group with its currently five projects faced off competition from 36 other teams to win the Enactus World Cup in October.

According to estimates, around 150 million people cannot afford to buy glasses. People who cannot see properly are often excluded from education and certain professions. Martin Aufmuth, a German teacher, has developed a new kind of glasses that opticians can sell for just one dollar – and still make a profit for the seller. They are made of robust materials and – thanks to their modular design – can be easily manufactured anywhere, without the need for electricity. The OneDollarGlasses organization started distribution in 2012.

To ensure that the glasses reach the right audience, opticians in the many target countries have to be kitted out and trained on both the technology and business development. TUM’s Enactus team stepped up to this challenge, providing equipment and training in Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Bolivia. Fifteen opticians now run businesses in these countries. They produce the glasses themselves and some have even taken on employees.

The Enactus network comprises over 62,000 active student members studying at 1,600 universities in 39 countries. Supported by commercial businesses and applying business management theory, they focus on projects that help people to help themselves to improve standards of living. TUM’s Enactus team has around 70 active members. “Enactus gives us the best of both worlds – we get to make a real difference and also do something for ourselves. The learning opportunities are endless,” explains Kai Hübner (23), one of three team leaders.

Basic economics for beekeepers

TUM students won the World Cup in Cancun, Mexico, after coming first in the German national Enactus heats. In Cancun, they faced a jury comprising 400 representatives from the business world, including CEOs of international corporations. The TUM students were up against candidates from 35 other countries. Their social entrepreneurship projects, however, won through in the end and the group was judged to be the best of 1,600 teams worldwide.

Enactus Munich projects other than the OneDollarGlasses initiative impressed the jurors, too: The Beeconomy initiative uses a specially designed game to teach basic economic principles to beekeepers in Burkina Faso. The Fogcatcher project uses innovative technology to turn fog into water in Morocco. And students working on the SmartMenu project have developed a business management software solution for small-scale gastronomies, while the Social Inclusion project aims to remove barriers for students with disabilities.

“Our success at the World Cup is a great motivational boost. Hopefully, it will also inspire other students to join the team,” enthuses Kai Hübner.

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