Thank you, 2018 – Welcome, 2019!

Last year, there were many activities in empowering people. Network (epNetwork): The empowering people. Onsites (epOnsites) in Mumbai, India, and in Johannesburg, South Africa, workshops on storytelling in Kenya and Uganda, empowering people. Expert (epExpert) missions in Peru, Colombia and India, group coachings in Uganda, and individual coachings around the world. These are more than enough reasons for the epNetwork team to take a look back.

Interview with Carola Schwank, Sabine Baumeister, David Hofmann, Beate Grotehans, and Ann-Kristin Schmidt

Which event location has been the most exciting one for you?

Sabine: Actually, every place was beautiful. And meeting the epNetwork members in person is always fantastic, no matter where! I wish I could see all the countries, where our cohort comes from! What always strikes me is how proud everybody is of their country. That doesn’t mean they are not critical as well – governments all over the world definitively can improve!

David: Travel-wise it was a quiet year for me. Personally, I really enjoyed attending the MIT Practical Impact Alliance Annual Meeting in Boston. Boston has been one of my favorite cities for years: The old state house, Fenway Park, the small pubs, Charles River and of course the Bostonians – just a great place to be.

Carola: 2018 brought a lot of pancontinental travel for me. First, it was Johannesburg and then Mumbai for two epOnsite trainings. Then I had the opportunity to travel to Nairobi, New York and Brussels for conferences and meetings with partners from our ecosystem. I enjoyed them all – and most of all, the vibrant and exciting atmosphere everywhere left me inspired and motivated even after returning to Germany.

Which learnings did you take away from these events?

Beate: In 2018, we had our first peer learning workshop on the basis of the SAMforSE approach. It was a conducted experiment. We wanted to know how social entrepreneurs would work together on the results of a self-assessment. It was a great experience to see how the entrepreneur tried to support and assist each other in their needs of improvement or their confirmation of success.

David: I learned a lot about finance and the struggles our ecosystem faces. For small social startups, there is abundance of very small grants such as awards. It also feels quite achievable to secure funding for a large-scale project. In between, however, there is a gap. Not profitable enough for business angels, too small for development banks and too high interest rates from commercial banks.

Sabine: The workshops and trainings we host usually have a quite diverse group of participants in regards to size of the enterprise and the sector they are operating in. Some are for-profit, some are non-profit, and some are hybrid. Some are in the market for more than 10 years, others have just started. Usually, diversity in workshops is a huge benefit, but this year, I had the experience that having a too diverse cohort can lead to barriers. It can cause some participants to be bored while others are over challenged. We will try to balance that in 2019.

Carola: It was good to see old friends and meet new network members in Johannesburg and Mumbai. Alongside with the content and learning on relevant business questions, I feel that these gatherings provide a huge benefit on connecting and exchanging with peers, who all struggle the same problems. Feeling familiar within the network seems to be a good basis for open feedback and mutual encouragement. The experience of a common yoga session or simply going for evening walks together through the streets of Johannesburg and Mumbai strengthened the feeling of being a family.

Which topics have occupied you most throughout the year 2018?

Beate: My main topic in 2018 was the development of the self-study workbook for the project “Stories About Us”. The result is a hands-on workbook for social entrepreneurs and social business to develop one’s own enterprise’s story. It provides a lot of practical exercises. The workbook contains wonderful illustrations which makes the content vivid in a charming and lovely way.

Sabine: “Social Finance”! Together with our partner adelphi we developed the toolkit “Social Finance for Social Entrepreneurs” and piloted it with two epOnsite trainings in India and South Africa. And I can say: I learned a lot! I have no background in economics or finance (I studied German and Scandinavian language and literature… A not so clever choice, I would say today… *laugh*), so I sometimes was a little challenged in understanding what adelphi suggested.

David: On the one hand empowering people. Award 2019, and the question of how we can increase the efficiency of our communication and technical infrastructure, on the other hand was the issue of rural development in Latin America. As we have wonderful technologies within our network, how can we make sure they are accessible to the rural population in Latin America?

Carola (Head of epNetwork) and May ElKhattab, who won the Philanthropy Award for ARUP – International Development, at Impact Engineered Conference. Congratulations!

“Stories About Us” is a self-study workbook about storytelling. Developing this book was one of Beate’s main projects in 2018. Check it out here:

This is Beate Grotehans, who left the foundation a few weeks ago, off to new adventures! All the best for your future! – And: We will get a new team member in March 2019.

Always nice to see epN-members! David (center) met Elliot Avila and Adriana Garties from Imara Tech (Tanzania) at the Annual Meeting of the PIA (Practical Impact Alliance) by MIT in Boston.

David socializing with PIA (Practical Impact Alliance) members in Boston. Here you see him (left) amongst Michael Moscherosch (J&J), Taylor Cruz (Pact), Jean Capili & Keith Dokho from WorldVision and others…

In memory of Moses Musaazi, Founder of Technology for Tomorrow in Uganda, passed away in 2018 and we miss him a lot.

CEval conducted the first external in-depth evaluation of our work. Such a frank and objective look at the impact of all our activities matters a lot. Have a look here:

You want to know who writes the epUpdate that is delivered to your mailbox once a month? That’s her. Welcome Ann-Kristin Schmidt! She joined us in summer 2018 as an intern and replaced Alexandra Resch, who some of you had the pleasure to get to know in person last year in Amsterdam. Good luck for your new adventures, Alexandra!

Tradition: We always do a team selfie! This is the team that hosted the epOnsite in India, November 2018.

Things that you can’t see here: During that meal, Sabine was “invited” to eat oxtail stew “the real way”, with her hands. Instead of pictures showing how that went, we rather show laughing workshop participants! 🙂

Throwback to filming our trailer for empowering people. Award 2019. Watch the full video here:

Told you so: We love team selfies! Have a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year! Carola, Sabine, David, and Ann-Kristin (who was not in the office when we took the picure…)

What were the biggest challenges for you this year and how did you react to them?

Carola: Our team wants to further develop the epNetwork approach under the headline “epNetwork2020”. This is an ongoing process that takes a lot of creativity and energy. Finding appropriate new network members through our epAward 2019 is one of the measures to not only redefine our own approach but also reform the community of network members itself. Challenging tasks!

David: The biggest challenges were internal, how can we improve our internal structure and mindset to collaborate better while becoming more agile and flexible. I think it’s still work in progress…

Sabine: Managing the network, really knowing the network members, about their needs, their challenges, their current status. We established internal key accounts and we hope that this will contribute to a better network management.

And what were your greatest successes in 2018?

Ann-Kristin: I have just joined empowering people. Network in September 2018, as a working student – and I couldn’t be happier, thanks to my colleagues who gave me a very warm welcome. If you receive our monthly epUpdate: I am the one sending it to you. Clicking on the “send”-button knowing that almost 4,000 subscribers would receive my mail was exciting and another great success this year!

Sabine: Having so many “brothers and sisters from another mother” in all places over the world. 🙂

David: In November 2017 we worked with the local population of Conejo, Colombia, on the idea of a water kiosk in their town to provide them with clean water. Now it’s a reality. Besides, I can finally write Spanish emails without having to use Google Translate all the time!

Carola: Not to forget – we had the first external in-depth evaluation of our work carried out! Such a frank and objective look at the impact of all our activities matters a lot. It helps us to retail and adapt our offerings to the demands of our network members. We have learned a lot from the results that we have published in spring. The overall analysis says that we definitely did further the interests of our network members – that is really encouraging for the whole epN team!

Which experience or encounter of this year will you still remember in 10 years?

Sabine: It’s not an encounter that I had specifically this year, but I want to take a minute to remember my first encounter with Moses Musaazi from “Technology for Tomorrow” in Uganda. This was approximately eight years ago and we met in his office in Kampala. This was my first time in an African country, which was already overwhelming, and suddenly I was talking with an African Professor about sanitary hygiene, about different cultural contexts and methods. I have met Moses so many times since then. He was a wonderful person, a great entrepreneur, encouraging women. A charismatic storyteller, a dedicated member of the empowering people. Network. He died a few months ago and we miss him.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Ann-Kristin: I am very much looking forward to learn more about Siemens Stiftung, epNetwork and its members – I hope I will meet some of them. A highlight will be the empowering people. Award ceremony, of course! I am excited to see which creative solutions will be awarded and to get to know the social entrepreneurs behind them.

Sabine: Working on new workshops and trainings, meeting epNetwork members and welcoming the new cohort at the award ceremony of empowering people. Award 2019.

David: A lot! Mostly to meet all our networks members again, I haven’t met too many in 2018 and I’m eager to hear how their organizations have evolved and how they are doing.

Carola: Seeing the winners of the epAward in summer 2019 and welcoming them all to our network will definitely be the most exciting experience in the new year! I really hope that they will come from all parts of the world and that they will show a lot of social impact potential through their technologies and businesses!

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