Formally started in 2004, but like with any good corporate story, much more played before Enviu’s official launch. It took a trip to Antarctica in 2002, where Enviu’s CEO Stef van Dongen got inspired to create positive change through impact driven entrepreneurship. During his journey towards the icy south, Stef overnighted in Isla Navarino Chile, the most southern point of South America. There he faced his first big issue, that he wanted to tackle with both hands.
Due to overfishing by the big European companies, local fishermen went bankrupt with all that this implies for the local community and environment. Stef had the great idea, to set up an alternative, more sustainable economy driven by tourism. The local governor loved his idea, and soon Stef started working on transformation of the local economy of Isla Navarino. Not only did he inspire the governor. Students and young professionals from all over the world came to the most southern point of South America to co-create a better future for Isla Navarino.
Now that tastes morish! After returning in Rotterdam in 2004, Stef wrote a letter to the Dutch Minister of Development and Cooperation in which he presented his plans for a new social economy. And successfully! The Dutch government granted him for his plans. From that moment the organization started to expand to other areas like Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas to unroll the same concept. Enviu was set up and Stef officially hired his first colleagues.
Inspire, involve and make it happen
After the adventure and success stories in Chile, the future strategy for Enviu had to be developed. An important decision for the future of the company. Under the umbrella “inspire, involve and make it happen” Enviu was going to be the corporate NGO that would set up ventures through business development and co-creation. In 2006 Enviu set up its first venture.
Sustainable clubbing all over the world
Earlier, when Stef was in a club in Argentina in 2004, he wondered “why isn’t it possible to mix people, dancing and sustainability? This is where the idea for the Sustainable Dance Club was born, and idea that followed worldwide buzz. January 2006 Enviu organised the first brainstorm sessions with club owners, architects, government institutions etc. From day one the concept of the Sustainable Dance Club attracted media from all over the world. In a couple of weeks the business plan was ready and first contracts were signed. In 2010 the Social Dance Club was represented in more than 70 countries.
Both in Chile and in the Netherlands, Enviu showed how issues, too big to solve on your own, can be tackled through co-creation with big diverse groups of people. In 2007 two new challenges got launched: one to provide sustainable and affordable housing designs in Africa and another challenge aimed to improved lives to 1 million rickshaw drivers in India. Both challenges attracted thousands of people worldwide. The so called “Tuk Tuk Challenge”, aimed to improve the livelihood of lives to 1 million rickshaw drivers in India got 150 students to quit their studies for one year to work on the development of an affordable, eco-friendly Rickshaw.
Sometimes success stories seem everlasting, but no one really does. Like Bill Gates once stated, “success is a lousy teacher; it seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose’. After years of new achievements, pioneering successes and growth, 2012 was a low point for Enviu. The organization got too big, and too much focussed on selling Co-creation Challenges. Dozens of challenges were organized, but were small-scale and close to home.
2012 was an important moment for Enviu to revise its strategy. Enviu had to get its act together in order to keep being successful. Instead of only selling its challenges to create impact, Enviu started focussing more on Business Development partnerships. In 2014 Cordaid partnered up with Enviu and both parties together launched the Social Business Incubator.