Impact starts here – the fellowship journey 

I recently started a new journey with the iCats Fellowship handled by LGT Venture Philanthropy (LGTVP). I will get to talk more about them and impact investment on a later post, but for now let me tell you about my experience by meeting 23 of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life, yeah they rank that high in my scale of interesting.

I arrived to Zürich around 10am on January 4th, to my surprise to a very snowless Switzerland ready to embark on the next chapter of my life the very next day, the fellowship that will later take me to Peru for a year. So there we were 24 fellows meeting for the first time in person, all eager to start changing the world; but not sure about exactly what they got themselves into. As for me I have to admit that I wasn’t really sure if I had made the “best” decision of my career but I was about to find out.

The training progressed with more on how LGTVP came to be, how it incorporated the principles of philanthropy with venture capital to create what is known as impact investing, which is a pretty interesting take on philanthropy.

As days went by I got to know more about my fellows, from the ones that were working in non-profits all over the world to the ones, like me, that recently graduated from their MBA. During these chats I got to know not only more about the other fellows, but I also, and I think more importantly, got to know myself.

iCats fellows at LGTVP HQThe fellows learning about impact investment and LGTVP

Let me share the insights I got from these 4 days:

Sometimes it’s not enough to “make it rain”: Yes it is good to make money, you know be a good MBA and get that coveted job at Oldman’s Sacks or O’Kinsey, but at some point you start wondering if this is enough? Don’t get me wrong sometimes it is good enough. But other times there is this itch, a thought in the back of our head that says: “I could be doing so much more than this, I could make a real impact”. And this is what I found in this fellowship a way to satisfy that itch, a way to have an good impact in the world.

The scene has changed: The needs in the social enterprise have changed, companies and investors have developed a more sophisticated approach to this sector. So there is not only charity now, there is investment, there are venture capital funds available for good-well-thought plans that offer real social impact, and very important: can measure this impact. This has made the sector develop a hunger for professionals with experience and from different backgrounds to help the sector grow and achieve a meaningful impact. Nowadays I don’t think is enough to have the spirit of social good, although very important, but you also you need the business/technical skills to make sure you achieve a lasting impact.

All roads lead to Social Impact? Think about this, it is becoming very important to have a positive social impact. Corporations spent millions and millions on their Corporate Social Responsibility programs, but how good or impactful is to just give money to non-profits and NGO’s that can’t or don’t really measure their impact or are not sure if their model could be expanded or replicated. Now instead of focusing in blindly giving millions to charity, companies are focusing on giving (investing) the right amounts of money and effort to social enterprises and causes that have a model that can grow and can measure its real impact on the communities where it operates.

To close this posting I would like to share something that the manager of the fellowship program said at the end of the training program:

” When I was offered the position to manage and help grow the fellowship program I talked with the manager of my fellowship (he was one of the first iCat fellows working for an organization in South Africa that helps prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV) he said to me ‘Why don’t you stay here with me in Africa helping these mothers, having a real impact, you are always talking about impact; so stay here with me’; and now that I see the 24 of you guys ready and eager to go and help these organizations to grow and multiply their positive impact around the world, I know that I made the best decision.”

The fact that I can use my skills and knowledge to create and magnify a positive impact on the world tells me that I made the right decision to take this fellowship.

For more about my journey in social entrepreneurship check An MBA without borders