If it would be easy, comfortable and with no loss at all, what would be the merit in joining a social cause through a fellowship program such as ICats – Impact Catalysts? If those “comfortable” premises would already be given, very much likely the social problem would not even exist.
Any social problem is the symptom of decades, or even centuries, of the lack of the very basics that one must have to survive at the minimum acceptable level. The speech that government should be in charge of those basic needs in the regions that lack them is still an old and worthless speech. No action is merely the perpetuation of the problem.
In my specific case, the decision to join the ICats Fellowship Program was very much tough in many aspects. From one hand I had the strong desire to apply my best professional skills built by years in multinational corporations in the social field. Due to the master thesis of my MBA studies, I met the very reliable, serious and professional platform of LGT Venture Philanthropy – an impact investor supporting organizations with outstanding social and environmental impact. I held a strong admiration towards this organization and its team. In the other hand I was living in Zürich/Switzerland, a city that has been awarded by diverse studies as one of the best cities in the world to live. Due to my senior expertise in a specific financial market, I had a very stable job with a middle management position in the headquarter of a multinational Swiss bank. Furthermore I was living comfortably by Lake Zürich with a gorgeous Alps view. My son was 3-years old and my daughter 3-months old.
In this scenario, why should I accept a 1-year full-time social and volunteer job in South America in another foreign country with a stipend that would cover only the very basic living costs?
The answer is simple and very obvious: the sense of urgency and possibility.
The sense of urgency: I couldn’t be indifferent with the situation that the majority of the global population still lack the very basics. The sense of possibility: I truly believe that most of those disadvantaged people just need some help to rebuilt self-esteem and initial support to their own development. My vision is that any disadvantaged person one day should have at least the same opportunities I had.
Besides the middle to long-term social impact of my assignment according to my vision, what would be the immediate trade-off joining the ICats program? Leadership!!! Just a few months working for the NGO Enseña Chile in the city of Santiago I can confirm that I’m a transformed person. I’m not at all the same person and professional as the days before I joined Enseña Chile via LGT Venture Philanthropy.
I was used to work for corporations that somehow were easy to manage: or you do as the person in charge wants or your bonus and job are at risk. At Enseña Chile I found a team with people that come from the top universities of Latin America, having many of them master or PhD degree from US universities such as Harvard and Columbia. The staff has a very low salary in comparison to the jobs they could have in large companies based on their high educational degree. It’s been a big learning to see a whole team motivated and led purely by the organization’s vision, mission and propositions. The bonuses that make them continuously working hard are the testimonies of the kids impacted at the very end.
Within this situation that I can’t persuade anyone offering formal compensations in cash or even threaten one’s job, I had to develop the most difficult however true leadership: make people fully engaged and motivated towards my role and ideas via the buy-in that I came to higher the impact of the organization’s proposition – nothing more. Somehow I’ve been succeeded, but there are still endless rooms for improvements and many challenges to break. Certainty is that my leadership development and learning has been exponential day by day.
At this stage, if I balance the initial disquietude and losses in joining the ICats program for 1 year against the personal leadership development built so far, plus the positive impact in the organization as well as in the lives of the kids supported by it, I’m steady at the winner’s side. I feel like I’m all times the greatest investor.
Being part of the ICats program makes me think every single day: How different would be the whole world if every single professional would dedicate 1-year full-time to a social cause? We ICats have endless reasons to inspire you.