WHAT A YEAR! 2017 with the empowering people. Network team
2017 is almost over and for the empowering people. Network team it was a quite exciting one. In this post Carola Schwank, Sabine Baumeister, David Hoffmann, Beate Grotehans and Alexandra Resch from the epNetwork team share their personal highlights and give insights into an eventful and joyful empowering people. Network year.
You had many different events in 2017: The epOnsites in India, Ghana and Johannesburg, storytelling workshops in Ghana, Uganda and India and the empowering people. Workshop on organizational development in Amsterdam. Which event location has been the most exciting one for you?
Carola: It is quite hard for me to choose the most exciting location because they were all great. Johannesburg and Mumbai are pulsing cities with incredible vibrancy and economic atmosphere. Amsterdam instead is traditional and innovative at the same time and you can feel developmental spirit behind every corner. For me the most exciting thing has been that everywhere I went I had the chance to meet enthusiastic people from our epNetwork.
David: Location-wise, the epOnsite in Accra, Ghana was the most interesting place for me. I haven’t been there before and I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of African spirit and Caribbean flair. I just enjoyed hearing the off-beat-laden music around every corner as well as the laid-back spirit of the people.
Sabine: For me it was really great to meet so many epNetwork members in Europe. But the most exciting place for me was Mumbai! I’ve never been to India before and I never imagined it to be so hospitable and colourful – plus: the world’s best food!
Which learnings could you take away from these events?
Sabine: Organizational development is the topic that we are currently occupying and there were so many great impulses at the events that I could take home with me. It was wonderful to see how the network members had ‘aha’ moments, grew together and connected with each other. There is no better motivator.
Carola: I agree with Sabine. Encounters with our network members are very enriching, because it is essential for our support work to be aware of the specific challenges and individual needs of our members. For example, if we do not know their internal organizational structures well enough, it is impossible for us to design suitable workshop concepts and formats for them. But next to that it was a lot of fun realizing that Tai Chi and Yoga are totally compatible with social entrepreneurs! Close your eyes – breathe in – feel the ground. (laugh)
David: I really have to say that organizational development is a fascinating topic. The more I worked on it for the epNetwork members, the more I realized how much more we can improve on our own organization. We all never stop learning.
Which topics have occupied you most throughout the year 2017?
Carola: There is definitely only one answer for me: Our first external evaluation process. Our board decided on evaluating the complete empowering people. Network in the beginning of the year and we followed up with own research on the framework and an appropriate external partner. The first preview on the evaluation report has been really encouraging. Basic results will be published in early 2018.
Beate: I spent most of my time on the storytelling project. After each workshop the team and I worked on optimizing the storytelling tool.
Sabine: Organizational development! Working with our partners on different approaches, developing the toolbox and organizing suitable workshops and epOnsites – these were my main tasks this year.
David: In my case, I spent a lot of time on further developing the epExpert Service program and on optimizing the processes behind the idea. In contrast to our workshops this is a continuously running project.
What were the biggest challenges for you this year and how did you react to them?
Carola: Next to that it is indispensable keeping track of the single Network organizations, of their business development, changes in the team and much more. Since the launch of the Network in 2014 we tracked all changes in a simple word document that lastly comprised hundreds of pages. We definitely needed a more comfortable tool – and Sabine found it!
Sabine: Yes, this was one of my personal success stories (laugh). The network is very heterogeneous. It is virtually impossible to tailor workshop content to fit all participants. For me it was sometimes very challenging to plan workshops and trainings for different countries, continents and cultures. That was a headache for me sometimes and I have to find a solution for that in the future. But with the wonderful partners at home and on site, everything has always worked out well.
David: A big challenge was certainly to stay organized. The amount of projects had been quite big this year and with all the work in different locations and different vacation plans it was sometimes quite challenging to communicate and make sure all our work is aligned towards the same goals. However, I really enjoy this diversity that we have in our team.
And what were your greatest successes in 2017?
David: Definitely the epExpert Mission of Jeremy Moore to the Compadre Team in Lima, Peru. Jeremy supported the small start-up for two weeks with his extensive knowledge on coffee and the business behind it. It may seem like a small achievement, but it was the third expert mission within the epExpert Service and to me it felt as if this was the real start of the program.
Carola: For me it was a super exciting experience to not only lend Awards but to get the chance accepting an Award on behalf of Siemens Stiftung and the epNetwork! Our long year partner Engineering for Change honored our work with the Corporate Philanthropy Advancing SDG Award. The Award Ceremony took place in New York and was amazing.
Sabine: The empowering people. Workshop in Amsterdam in November. In the run-up I almost freaked out because of all the logistics, the details and hiccups. There were some moments of doubt in the preparation of the content and agenda. But as soon as I saw how the group harmonized and saw their eyes sparkling, I calmed down. These moments make me really, really happy, satisfied and proud.
Which experience or encounter of this year will you still remember in 10 years?
David: I travelled to Colombia in November and had the chance to work with the local population for a week in a joint project with MIT’s D-Lab and World Vision. This was an incredible experience that will definitely last in my memory.
Carola: Meeting the impressive goddess Ganesha in Mumbai during our epOnsite training last August.
Sabine: For me too! Ganesha! We should declare Ganesha the patron saint of the epNetwork (laugh). But all in all it is not one special event I will remember, but many different experiences that had to do with overcoming perceptions and stereotypes, my observations about life in other countries, about hospitality, religion, family, traffic, climate, poverty, wealth and much, much more. It may sound a bit cheesy, but nevertheless: As foreign as we may be to each other at times – we become so close to each other as soon as we start communicating. I feel much honored to experience all of this.
What are you looking forward to in 2018?
Sabine: 2018 will be exciting! We have great plans. I hope that the epNetwork members will stay with us and I also hope to see how network members start working together on shared projects.
David: And I am looking forward to hear the stories of our experts in the field. Currently there is an industrial designer volunteering in India and an engineer in Colombia. I can’t wait to receive the first results of their work. In general, I am just excited to see how all epNetwork organizations will develop.
Carola: I can only agree with that. 2018 is going to be an exciting year and I would like to wish every social entrepreneur enough motivation, inspiration, energy and faith to make their vision come true! We promise to do the same with our vision of an empowering people. Network 2020!