Social enterprise does not mean impact


Social enterprise does not mean impact


On Purpose's associate program is a unique way to turn your career around. It shows, for one, the range with which entrepreneurship and social impact can be associated. On the other hand, it can introduce concrete career paths that lead to work that makes the world a little better every day. To learn more about this program, we at tbd* interviewed Meike Franck, an Associate. She talks about her impressions, social entrepreneurship, impact and how it should continue for her afterwards.

"Whether an organization calls itself a "social enterprise" or not is first independent of the actual positive impact."

Why did you decide to participate in the On Purpose Associate Program??

I actually enjoyed the content of my former job. But after almost 4 years in the company, I had no more interesting opportunities to develop myself further. So I wanted to make a career change to learn something new, and I was keen to invest my working hours in something that added value to society and brought me together with people who weren't just doing their jobs for the money, but were motivated to make a contribution and were asking themselves similar questions to mine.

What have you experienced so far as an associate of the program? Where have you been deployed?

At On Purpose, you go through two project-based work placements within the 1-year program to learn about different third sector organizations. In my first stint, I was with a financial services firm that was transitioning to sustainability& impact investment. I supported the team in this strategic realignment. My background is in communication and organizational development, so I have been able to provide useful support with workshop formats, strategy methods and change communication. In the process, I learned a lot about the leverage of money to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But also that I can contribute in a small way and make my own money z.B. I can invest in sustainable companies or in microfinance funds in the form of shares.


Social enterprise does not mean impact


"A key moment was my first conference with representatives from the social sector: It was colorful, young, relaxed and a good mix of women and men. This was new."

In my second assignment, I was at Mobisol in the human resources department. Mobisol distributes solar home systems in East Africa to give people access to clean and sustainable energy. Here I learned what a complex challenge it is to combine a sustainable business model with social impact.

In which areas or companies were you previously employed? How different is your previous work from your current work??

I previously worked in organizational development for one of the large German publishers of textbooks and educational media, and most recently for a British group of companies in the area of communications and training for compliance& Anti-corruption programs.

In itself, two companies that also make a social contribution thematically. Interestingly, during the On Purpose year, it became clear to me that whether or not an organization calls itself a social enterprise is independent of its actual positive impact. I was surprised how little the daily work routine in my placements differed from my previous employers. A company – whether explicitly with "social" orientation or not – of course also uses Excel, PowerPoint& Co and tasks have to be completed. The question is then rather whether you yourself feel a stronger motivation when you know in which vision you invest your working time.

What "aha moments" or insights have you been able to take away for yourself??

Ultimately, everyone defines "purpose" differently for themselves. That means I first had to define for myself what is meaningful to me and what topics excite me.

The topic of impact measurement also drives me on. Many social enterprises or NGOs have great websites, beautiful pictures and great stories. But that doesn't necessarily mean that everything they do makes sense and has a positive impact. How efficiently the organization uses its resources to make an impact. In addition, "impact" is often very difficult to measure or is sometimes portrayed more positively than it actually is. "Saving the world" is incredibly complex, and you only slowly begin to grasp this complexity when you immerse yourself in a subject.

A somewhat sobering realization is that you can work in an organization with an inspiring mission, but if you're sitting day in and day out on tasks that don't suit you and you can't use your strengths, you won't necessarily be happier in your job despite having a sense of purpose in the background. The mixture of task area, team, mission and also a salary you can live on makes it.

A key moment was my first conference with loud representatives of the social sector: it was colorful, young, relaxed and a good mix of women and men. This was new. In my old job I was usually one of the youngest and one of the few female participants in the midst of many gray suits. So it was a nice moment: I fit in right away and conversations took place at eye level.

The program sounds very promising in terms of training and development potentials. What is your impression as a participant?

In addition to the two 6-month work assignments, the On Purpose program consists of weekly training sessions with the other Associates, as well as regular mentoring and coaching. The aspect of personal development is capitalized. I have also found the new friendships with the other associates to be particularly enriching. It's great to meet a group of committed people who have similar thoughts to your own about life and work. I have made wonderful new friendships that will last well beyond the program period.

Do you feel well prepared to take off in the social sector?

A clear yes. I have learned about many new topics and this has made me realize once again how little I know. I was inspired by founders who have presented their vision. And we had wild discussions as associates. Finally the social sector is a wide field, each organization ticks differently and an NGO differs also again from a social enterprise. But I think no matter what happens professionally for me, I bring more knowledge, ideas, contacts and self-reflection than before. And through the project assignments I realized how quickly I can familiarize myself with completely new subject areas. I know even more precisely what I can do and that one can move something everywhere in the direct environment, even if it is only very small changes which one initiates.

Do you already know how it should go on after the year? Do you now have new professional or even personal goals?

In a few weeks the program will end and I will take two months off. It has been a very intense, challenging and enriching year and I would like to take a deep breath and digest all the input.

Professionally, I am about to make a decision and it will be exciting to go on.

What advice would you give to a person looking for a career change??

Take time to ask yourself a series of questions: What bothers you in your current professional situation? What do you wish for? Knowing people who work where you want to go? Then ask a lot of questions and try to do a little reality check. I realized for myself that I sometimes had very unrealistic expectations and ideas about what it would feel like to work in the social sector. Because everywhere people work with their strengths and weaknesses, good and bad days, everywhere you find nice colleagues and just as people you would not have chosen yourself. And where people with strong convictions and values come together, amazing things can happen and at the same time fierce conflicts can be fought out, because strong characters come together and people can then also burn out and become very frustrated if they have invested a lot of heart and soul in their convictions and things do not progress in the desired direction or the initiative does not find the necessary funding.

You should also be aware that the salaries are usually lower and the offices are not necessarily top-equipped in the top locations of the city to find. You have to ask yourself: what is important to me and how much do I need to live a "good life"? In a lecture by the Foundation for Effective Altruism, we learned that we have about 80.000 hours in a lifetime on the job. Therefore, it is definitely worth an on purpose year to think about how you want to spend this time.

In the end I would say: Try it out! Everyone must find his own answers and every experience makes richer.

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