A little over five years ago, Ivo took what seemed like a small step in his career. While planning a vacation from work, he decided to try Experteering and volunteer his skills in Colombia to support more equitable education (we featured his story four years ago here). This small experience had a profound impact, and inspired Ivo to use more of his professional career to support social impact. After working on a few more independent consulting projects, he ultimately decided to launch his own social enterprise, Social Investments Amsterdam.
After working on his own for a while, he started to realize there were more nuances to the organizations, systems, and frameworks used to create change. He reflected that after establishing the legal entity, “I was going a bit in circles trying to figure out what to do next. I realized that I was going to need guidance to navigate next steps.” Eager to be more effective, he returned to MovingWorlds, this time applying and being accepted into the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship. Continue reading to see how Ivo’s Global Fellowship experience helped him gain perspective on himself, the social impact landscape, and next steps in his career!
A shift in perspective
For his capstone social impact project during the MovingWorlds Institute Fellowship, Ivo partnered with Impact Hub Amsterdam to help develop connections between its members and outside resources. Ivo shared, “Because the project wasn’t finance related, it was totally different from the kind of work I was used to doing. I had the chance to apply these concepts I was learning in the Fellowship, like systems mapping and partnership development, in a real-world context. Stepping outside of my comfort zone made me realize how many other areas I could add value besides just finance, and the ability to experiment and test tactics reaffirmed this growth mindset of ‘even if it doesn’t work, that’s ok, we can learn from it and try something else.’”
The other Fellows in his cohort also played a big role in helping Ivo shift his perspective (like Heather, whose story was featured on our blog and in Career Contessa.) He reflected, “Being part of a cohort to share experiences and get support helps a lot. You can see that everyone is going through the same thing: ‘failing forward’ and navigating the frustrations but also epiphanies that come when things don’t work out as originally planned.” For Ivo, one such frustration was realizing that other social enterprises were basically already doing what he wanted to do with Social Investments Amsterdam. But by the end of the project, he saw the benefit of being able to do that feasibility testing, sharing that, “I realized that social entrepreneurship isn’t about if you fail, but when – and that a failed experiment is a valuable learning rather than some kind of personal failure. Anytime you try something new, it’s unrealistic to expect it to turn out perfectly the first time around. And that’s ok. You don’t give up – you iterate, test something else, get feedback, adjust it, and do it again until you scale. Going through this process helped with developing the right mindset to apply to my own social enterprise.”
A clearer path forward
In addition to helping Ivo gain perspective on the social impact landscape, the Fellowship also helped Ivo learn more about himself. He shared, “Another key benefit was understanding my own personal strengths and weaknesses more clearly, which gave me insight into the areas I needed to develop. Without the Fellowship experience, it’s likely I would have given up on Social Investments Amsterdam and come to the conclusion that I’m not cut out for social entrepreneurship.”
But Ivo isn’t giving up, and continues to refine the tools and roadmap needed to grow Social Investments Amsterdam to scale. In the meantime, he’s supplementing his income with work that gets him closer to that goal: “Now, I have a much better perspective on what skills I have, the gaps I need to fill, and how to go about getting that experience while still building my own company on the side.”
He took on a role as part-time finance manager at an established and growing social enterprise, Crosswise Works, to help him do just that. “The work I’m doing with CrossWise maps really well to the skills I’m working to build in two areas in particular. I have the finance skills, but needed more experience translating those concepts into layman’s terms for clients who don’t have that background. At CrossWise, I’m learning how to develop a ‘shared language’ to communicate those ideas to colleagues on the Operations side and clients from the social enterprise sector. The second area is learning how to build and operate in a small team – so far, I’ve been working alone on Social Investments Amsterdam. At CrossWise, I’m working with a diverse team, and gaining insights that will help me build my own team one day.”
Lessons we can learn from Ivo
All too often, we see people set out with a grand plan, only to become discouraged when things don’t go exactly according to plan. The reality is, nothing ever goes according to plan, and the ability to “fail forward” is what helps us learn from our experiences. Doing that alongside a community of other committed and socially-minded professionals is sometimes all we need to build the confidence to take the next step. There are also a couple other important lessons that we’ve learned in watching Ivo grow as a social entrepreneur, and as a person.
A little humility goes a long way. Ivo’s commitment to networking, learning, and trialing partnerships for the sake of a cause bigger than himself has enabled him to keep learning and build trust with important connections.
Looking at every new experience not as a destination, but as another step along the way has enabled Ivo to keep learning about what creates a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose, while developing the skills and confidence to take the next step. Nearly five years ago, Ivo shared this about his individual experience that still rings true today: “There is never one solution that works for all people, and being open to receiving feedback is critical to ensure you find a solution that works for the people you are supporting – and yourself.”
No matter where you are in your career journey, the MovingWorlds Institute Global Fellowship can help you build the mindset and experience to reach your goals. Learn more and apply to an upcoming virtual cohort here.