Experteer Spotlight: From Auditor to Impact Maker #GlobalFellow

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

Alejandro Raygoza came to MovingWorlds with an impressive professional background and a passion for both social impact and business innovation. Like so many of us, he was trying to connect the dots between his current career and his dream career at the intersection of business & social good.

Getting from Point A to Point B isn’t always easy, but by joining the MovingWorlds Institute (MWI) Alejandro gained the training, in-the-field experience, and mentorship he needed to reach the next level in his career. The culmination of Alejandro’s MWI Fellowship was his capstone Experteering project in the field, where our Fellows have the opportunity to put what they’ve been learning into practice, apply their strengths to create change, and stretch themselves to grow. For his project, Alejandro partnered with Village Capital, a venture capital firm that finds, trains, and invests in entrepreneurs solving real global problems.

Read on to hear more from Alejandro about the meaningful work he’s doing with Village Capital!

What inspired you to “take the leap” and join the MovingWorlds Institute (MWI)?

I’ve always been a mission-driven person, and for me, seeing that my work leads to improvements (regardless of how small) in somebody’s life is intrinsically motivating. I realized after a few years of experience that I was missing that clear impact link in my work. Although I had a general idea of what I wanted my career to look like, I needed help discovering how to better use my strengths to do meaningful work. I also lacked opportunities in my field of interest to demonstrate the value I can provide.

I learned about the MWI Fellowship from the local Impact Hub job board. I remember that there were three things that really captured me about this program and confirmed my decision to join: First was the strength of the MovingWorlds network and the access to these big players on the social entrepreneurship scene that I couldn’t have accessed on my own. The second thing was the mentorship piece – having a mentor on the career path that I want to pivot into is an invaluable resource for professional development. The third piece was the curriculum. I’ve always been interested in behavioral economics and human-centered design, and when I learned about how the Institute combines reading with industry experts and case-based discussions to explore these same themes, my decision became clear.

What were you doing before joining MWI?

I was working as an Auditor/Program Evaluator for the State of California. This involves going into state departments and agencies and uncovering opportunities for process improvement, generating reports based on those suggestions, and even proposing legislative changes to improve government systems. Some of the cases I’ve worked on did have that clear impact link – an example that comes to mind is the case involving suicide prevention in prisons. That kind of work drives me. In other cases, however, the impact is less direct and less clear, which led me to look externally for opportunities to engage in more personally fulfilling work that contributes to social good.

What did you do during your Experteering trip?

I partnered with Village Capital to design interventions that would increase the accuracy of entrepreneur self-assessments. Village Capital uses an investment-readiness self-assessment tool called VIRAL to help entrepreneurs assess their current business situations and determine the necessary milestones they need to achieve to move to the next level. Given the risky, ever-changing, and ambiguous nature of entrepreneurship, it is no surprise that entrepreneurs tend to be some of the most determined, optimistic and confident people there are. At times, this leads many entrepreneurs to fail to see weaknesses and problems in their businesses and to overestimate their odds for success.

This is why it was important to design the context that would ‘nudge’ entrepreneurs in the desired direction of completing the assessment accurately. Village Capital and I worked together to first frame the design challenge, which is key because knowing the right question to answer can be more important than the answer itself. To fully understand the issue, I took a human-centered design approach to first learn as much as I could about the entrepreneurs, investors, and other stakeholders. I spent the first week of the project in San Francisco attending the Village Capital Entrepreneur Workshop, observing the participants as they would interact normally to gain insight into their motivations and behaviors. After the workshop, I spent another 2 weeks in D.C. with the Village Capital team completing more research and literature review, including structured interviews with clients to understand all perspectives.

entrepreneurship conference
Getting to know entrepreneurs (from Moving Analytics) and their challenges at the Village Capital Conference

I then used the insights gathered during this ‘inspiration’ phase to ideate possible interventions to influence behavior towards our desired outcome of fully completed, accurate self-assessments. Many of these interventions required very small tweaks rather than a huge overhaul, and were based on a combination of behavioral neuroscience, economics, psychology, and sociology. We considered strategies such as:

  • Appealing to people’s social values
  • Appealing to social norms
  • Designing context around decision making to steer behavior
  • Making the undesired behavior costly by establishing consequences
  • Incentivizing the desired behavior by offering rewards
  • Making it easier for individuals to engage in the desired behavior

For example, one intervention we’re testing is “gamifying” the entrepreneur self-assessment process. To encourage people to spend more time on their VIRAL assessment, we made the desired behavior (completing an honest assessment) more attractive, while also making the discouraged behavior (not committing the needed time) more costly by implementing a points system. If an entrepreneur completes the full assessment or carries out any of the other desired behaviors, they would be awarded points which could then be redeemed for things like 1:1 mentoring sessions with investors or Village Capital staff.

Other changes included reordering questions, updating language, and building in social hooks to help the entrepreneurs go through tasks they all need to do, and limiting the number of times an entrepreneur could take the assessment.

Although the on-site portion of my trip is over, I am still supporting Village Capital as a virtual Experteer until the project is completed.

What was the highlight of your Experteering trip?

It’s hard to choose just one highlight, but overall I’d have to say it was the hands-on experience. I was lucky to join such a great team and appreciated the amount of autonomy and ownership I was trusted with. In my previous work, I had the opportunity to contribute to similar projects, but this situation was different because I was able to lead the project. The combination of curriculum-based learning and experiential learning to put what I’d learned into practice really helped me to build my confidence as a leader, and now I also have concrete experience and results to add to my resume.

Yvan & Madhuri (CareAcademy).HEIC
Entrepreneurs from CareAcademy at the Village Capital Conference

What was the highlight of your entire MWI experience?

Something that immediately comes to mind is how incredible it was to go through this experience with my cohort. When I met the other Experteers in the cohort during the in-person kick-off, it felt like I was “home”, that these were my people. I had “found my tribe.” Being around such intellectually stimulating people with similar goals and commitments to self-improvement created a really inspiring environment, and Anna, Cole, and Mark (MovingWorlds Staff) did a great job of facilitating all of the exercises and interactive learning.

MWI Cohort
Alejandro (white shirt, back row) with his MWI Cohort at the D.C. Kickoff

What was one thing you wish you knew before joining MWI?

One thing that I wish I knew was that we are given way more supplemental material than one person could possibly read or complete, and that it’s ok to curate the options and only dig in further to those materials which interest you the most. In the first few weeks, I was trying to do everything that was made available to us, and found myself getting stressed about the mounting pile of articles to read, videos to watch, etc.

Luckily I raised this concern with Cole (Director of MWI), who assured me by explaining that the reason we were getting so many resources wasn’t to simply add work to our plate, but rather to give us options for different learning styles, and to have a rich library of content for the future. This allowed us to curate the learning for ourselves based on what we were most interested in/ had the time to balance with our other responsibilities. Looking back, I would’ve liked to know that up-front so that I could have done a better job of being more strategic vs. spreading myself too thin by trying to do it all. [Editor’s note: duly noted, Alejandro – thanks for the feedback!]

What advice do you have for people who are considering applying to MWI?

Be intentional and engaged — you’ll get out of this process as much as you’re willing to put into it. Take advantage of the tons of resources and supplemental materials available to you, and be intentional about prioritizing them to customize your experience so that you can dive deeper into things that interest you. One of the things that helped me get the most out of my experience was taking the impetus to project manage the process forward, particularly in talking to potential host organizations.

What advice do you have for people considering Experteering?

My advice would be to take the time to compile a specific vision for what you want to get out of the experteering process, ask questions, and take accountability for moving the process forward. I feel like I got lucky in that I had a clear vision of what I wanted from the start, but even if you aren’t sure of your goal going into the program, use the resources and staff/cohort support available to you to get clear on that before you start talking to organizations. A good place to start is considering what type of organization you’re interested in by considering factors such as their business model, industry, location, Sustainable Development Goal focus, etc. Be sure to ask a LOT of questions when you’re scoping the project, as well, and be prepared for those scoping calls. Don’t be afraid to be up-front and transparent about your expectations as well. This is your chance to get the information you need to decide if the organization fits with what you’re looking for, and to pitch yourself to the organization.

I’d also like to mention that the matching process moves at different speeds for different people, so try to be patient. In my case, many people in my cohort got matched before I did, which at first made me nervous. I’m glad I trusted the process, though, and held out for the right project that matched my vision. The matching team did a great job in supporting me and helping me find my match, particularly given how specific my criteria were. I appreciated that the matching team explored all on and off-platform options, sourcing an opportunity that was a great fit and that I wouldn’t have had access to without this program.

Thanks again to Alejandro for sharing his inspiring story! If you’re considering taking your own “leap,” joining a cohort of like-minded professionals is an invaluable way to find your tribe. Apply here to join our next Institute cohort in January 2019 in Mexico City!