Log 01: LH426

January 12, 2015

Log [n.]: Personal reflection

When I left Hamburg, Germany, in July 2014, I had taken all possible measures I could think of to make sure I was set for success. Organization, discipline, SMART goals – all in order to make sure that I would not fail. I had lists and spreadsheets for different sections of my life to make sure I got a paid job in no time and the H1B visa. I was going to be an independent strong 21st century women (read Amazon!) who would take the US in a storm.

Fast forward 5 months and I am writing this on the plane back to Germany,  no job, no visa. When I first had to admit that my professional superhero scenario was not going to come true, I was mortified. I had failed. And you know what? It didn’t matter. I didn’t even care all that much. It occurred to me that the only one who was beating herself up over this supposed “failure” was myself. It dawned on me that I had set the wrong kind of goals, that I have been striving to return to the system as quickly as possible. Social security number, pay taxes, and – God forbid – make sure my LinkedIn profile showed an employer under “current position”. Now don’t get me wrong, I still look forward to having a US social security number  and I think it is important to pay taxes. But I realized that I was focused on ticking those boxes rather than creating my own. I had had this idea for a project of my own which would later turn into Social Venturers. I have been putting it off for a year now. The first six months I didn’t have time to work on it because I was full-time employed in Germany, the second six months I couldn’t possibly devote any time to it as I clearly needed to find a full-time job first. Which in turn would have pulled me away from this project again. I had created this perfect little vicious cycle which would never allow me to just try it out and see what happens. And so the Social Venturer was born – after a year of contemplating, not daring, and finding excuses.

By Dominik Schroeder

By Dominik Schroeder

Of course it wasn’t all this black and white. The idea needed some time to mature. I needed time to mature and convince myself that I can do it. Also, I have managed to get some freelance work with my old company and of course you never really go back to square one, you are wiser and more experienced than you were the first time around.

As I am writing this, the plan is to go back to Europe to find professionals who devote their careers to supporting entrepreneurs with a social mission, and learn what it means to be good at it. There is plenty of buzz around social entrepreneurs, they are being studied, awarded and hyped – and that is ok in its own right. What we don’t hear so much about, however, are the support organizations behind these individuals – all the incubators and accelerators, summer schools, university programs, even angel investors that search for this talent around the world to nurture it. There is an entire industry of professionals that devote their careers to training and educating, mentoring, coaching and financing start-up entrepreneurs with a social mission. These are the people I want to meet, talk to, and learn from.

I joined the Managing Directors conference of the Global Accelerator Network in New York in October 2014 thanks to one of the contacts I had made during my first weeks in the States. The MD’s came together in New York for three days to discuss their common challenges, their individual challenges, good and best practices, industry trends, you name it. I was baffled to see how openly every leader spoke about what was really going on in the space and how they respond to these pressures. While these were supporter from the conventional start-up space, one thing holds true:

When it comes to supporting start-up entrepreneurs – social or not – a dialogue about how we as an industry can best address their needs and nurture their talent is tremendously helpful in designing better programs and creating higher social impact. I am setting out to find fellow Social Venturers and listen to their ideas, opinions, concerns and forecasts for the social entrepreneurship scene. I want to gain and share insights into their career paths as individuals and their work within their organization.

Global Accelerator Network Conference in New York, October 2014

Global Accelerator Network Conference in New York, October 2014

Why all that? I want us to start talking about good practices, valuable lessons and common challenges encountered when designing and implementing support programs for social entrepreneurs. I want us to start learning together, sharing our experiences and deciding how we can move this industry forward as a whole.

The plan is to document this journey and the Social Venturers I meet to learn and share these learnings.

Update May 17

One week until the website goes live. Looking back, I can tell that the first four months (almost exactly!) have been a great experience in giving it my best shot because I have stopped making excuses. Even though my freelance work keeps me busier than I want a lot of the time, and the funding is still nowhere in sight, I have worked on Social Venturers as my first priority. Confronting the person who wrote these earlier lines meaning to check in with myself about what I have achieved. I am currently visiting country number 5 to talk to the 23rd and 24th support organization. I am not as nervous as I thought I would be. That said, I still have a week to go, I don’t know what I don’t know about the launch of a website yet.

All in all, I can say that I am chuffed to see how many people I have met and how much I have learned from the over the past four months. Now it’s time to roll it out and see what you all think.

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