A Year in Review – Through the Eyes of the epNetwork Team

With 2019 coming to a close, and 2020 ahead of us, we would like to reflect on highlights and challenges that have made an impact on us and (hopefully also) on the empowering people. Network (epNetwork) over the past year.

In any case, the events in Cairo have been a huge highlight for us; the epNetwork grew with the winners of the empowering people. Award 2019 (epAward), and the epWorkshop was a fantastic opportunity to welcome and connect them with the “alumni.” Also, with the epRoundtable in Cairo last July, we could address the topic of social finance and establish an exchange between experts, which left us with key themes as a focus for next year. As for epOnsites, these gatherings fuel regional solidarity, which we also consider to be incredibly important. Truth be told, it is our epNetwork members that continue to inspire and motivate us!

2019 was full of exciting projects that continue to shape the social impact environment. With that in mind, the epNetwork team selected a few questions to answer to give some personal context to some of this year’s biggest highlights. Before we kick-off 2020 and continue driving impactful projects around the globe, let’s have a quick look back, shall we?

Out of all the foundation’s accomplishments this year, what has made you the most proud (personally and/or professionally)?

To be involved in this year’s epWorkshop and epAward! It was by far my biggest challenge and, thankfully, also a great success! I learned what it means to juggle planned schedules colliding with a lot of unexpected circumstances. And guess what? In the end, it always works out. Since I joined the empowering people. Network team this year, it was great to meet and get to know the wonderful network members for the first time. It is always inspiring to see people who work so hard to reach a higher goal!

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?

The challenges and needs of the network members are really diverse! While getting the chance to have deeper conversations at our workshop and award ceremony in Cairo, as well as our Latin American epOnsite in Colombia this year, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, we are working on adapting the content and formats that our network provides to the members with different approaches such as coaching, mentoring or individual financial support.

Anna Balas

Learning & Development; epNetwork; Communications

Ann-Kristin Schmidt

Working student

Out of all the foundation’s accomplishments this year, what has made you the most proud (personally and/or professionally)?

I am very proud of our team for the very successful realization of the epAward ceremony, epWorkshops, and epRoundtable in Cairo. It is a massive undertaking to begin with, but it’s one that we enjoy putting together; despite personnel shortfalls due to illness, knowing that everything in Cairo was such a success made me very proud of our awesome epNetwork team. It was great to see that all of our efforts and energy invested led to such a wonderful event!

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?

We are working on a re-launch of epNetwork’s website to showcase our epNetwork members, projects and useful resources in a clearer, fresher and “more 2020” way. Besides the 80 or so inspiring epNetwork solutions that will continue to form the heart of our website, relevant services for social entrepreneurs as well as this blog will surely shine in new splendor.

Based on your experience, what has been the most challenging, yet rewarding, project this year?

For me personally, the most challenging yet rewarding task in 2019 was, without a doubt, the organization of our first round table; for those of you who aren’t aware, the expert discussions occurred at the same time as the epAward ceremony and epWorkshop in Cairo. It brought together more than 30 international experts who discussed crucial questions around finance for SocEnts. In the end, the participants came up with super exciting ideas that we are currently working on further with great dedication and conviction.

If you could identify one stand-out memory from your work in 2019, what would it be? And why is this your choice?

The moment I saw our 11 epAward winners on stage in Cairo, with two via internet connection due to travel issues, I felt so grateful for these new network members, for their impactful solutions and for having them as a part of our thriving ecosystem of social impact entrepreneurs! At this moment I felt goose bumps even though it was a 30°C evening in the outdoor arena at the Startup Haus Cairo.

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?

There are many topics we will be focusing on next year – driving the ideas of the round table forward is, in my eyes, one of the most important tasks. The approaches on financing are promising and urgently needed for our target group in the network. By no means should a round table be a single event.

Carola Schwank

epAward & epNetwork – Program Lead

Christine Janezic

Learning & Development; Social Ventures Support

Out of all the foundation’s accomplishments this year, what has made you the most proud (personally and/or professionally)?

I am grateful for the experience we shared with epNetwork members in Cairo last July, as it has shown to me that dedicating time to each other, deep listening, and experience sharing are already a great part of problem solving. Especially the many in-depth one-on-one conversations during the epWorkshop and the weeks afterwards stimulated my interest in further dialogue and collaboration.

I also very much enjoyed accompanying our social venture, One Dollar Glasses, to Bolivia where the team implemented their ‘eye health for schools’ strategy, together with the GIZ and our foundation’s education program, Experimento. I hope we can reach more schools and develop the distribution channels further in 2020.

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?

My main goal for the upcoming weeks is developing a sound concept for further individual support through coaching and mentoring. We can all learn from each other: inspiring ideas and inherent skills can significantly help everyone succeed in social venturing. The relationship between social entrepreneurs and their mentors and coaches can drive such developments – I look forward to bringing together our epNetwork members with great mentors from around the world in 2020 and beyond.

Based on your experience, what has been the most challenging, yet rewarding, project this year?

From my perspective, it has to be epAward 2019! With two awards (2013 & 2016) already in the books, we have been able to benefit from a lot of learning experiences and have been able to work a lot more effectively. We saw a lot of wonderful ideas coming in and had a great evaluation team, and just when you think everything is running very smoothly, life hits you hard. Our diligent planning processes were affected by several unexpected personal twists (among them, my little daughter). We had to improvise on the fly and work flexibly from morning to night, but our team responded and all our colleagues took on additional work to support us. This experience was definitely the most rewarding and inspiring this year.

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?

For the first time, we feel confident to support social enterprises in developing countries directly – which means we’ll be able to support epNetwork members a lot more effectively. Therefore, we’ll be working on a call for direct funding for our network members and I’m already more than eager to see what kind of ideas, plans, and concepts they will sent us to compete for this financial support.

David Hoffmann

epNetwork; Social Ventures Support

Jessica Sandler

Working student

Out of all the foundation’s accomplishments this year, what has made you the most proud (personally and/or professionally)?

The project in 2019 that I will remember most fondly is the epAward ceremony in Cairo. In the first year as a working student, I have already had the unique opportunity to support the epNetwork team in planning and implementing this event and to get to know the social entrepreneurs of our network. There were a few moments when the preparations were challenging, but everyone in our team was very helpful and I really enjoyed working together towards this goal. What I like most about the project is that I learned a lot about social entrepreneurship and got to know the people we work with. Their motivation, innovative spirit, and their insights from the network have made the significance of our work clear to me. The positive feedback from the participants and the great time I had with my colleagues in Egypt were the best confirmation of our efforts. This is why I am especially proud of what we achieved in this regard!

If you could identify one stand-out memory from your work in 2019, what would it be? And why is this your choice?

This is definitely my visit to WASHKing in the suburbs of Accra, Ghana. WASHKing was among the winners of epAward 2019 but could not attend the award ceremony, so I was happy to get the chance to visit them during a stay in Ghana. WASHKing developed a sanitation solution fit for urban and peri-urban areas; with their bio digester toilet technology, the team is solving the dirty aspects of regularly emptying septic tanks. Keep up the great work!

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?

I plan to support 5 social enterprises from the epNetwork by way of developing a robust growth path for their business. This will include structure, capacity, and access to finance. Looking forward to exploring that!

Jochen Moninger

Social Ventures Case Management

Sabine Baumeister

epNetwork; Learning & Development; Communications

Out of all the foundation’s accomplishments this year, what has made you the most proud (personally and/or professionally)?
For me personally, 2019 was a challenging year and my work was affected by this. Due to health reasons I was suddenly pulled out of all preparations for the epWorkshop in Cairo and was out and offline for approx. 4 months. So, this question is difficult to answer for me. But, 2020 has 366 new days (yes, it’s a leap year!) and I am confident that next year will have exciting and good things to come!

What is the first project for you and/or your team as we kick off the new year?
We are going to (partly) re-design our projects that are related to learning & development and I am looking forward to share these new ideas with the epNetwork. And there is also a new epOnsite training about “Impact Measurement” in the pipeline. Stay tuned for more on this!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *