I first met Kaat at a conference in London in 2015. She immediately invited me to swing by her organization Sociale Innovatiefabriek – Social Innovation Factory – on my first European trip for Social Venturers. An invite I happily accepted. Six weeks later I was in Brussels, interviewing Kaat for the first time, meeting her colleagues and experiencing their work first hand.
Kaat recently took a role as social impact manager at Konekt, a social enterprise that wants to turn the world inclusive. Konekt pioneers with projects and services that enable people with disabilities to be part of society just like anyone else; to have the same options for developing their talents and dreams at school, in the job market and in leisure. As Social Impact Manager, Kaat is part of the Executive Team and is responsible for the overall business model, scaling strategies and impact assessment. Kaat felt attracted to this high-impact social enterprise that dares to use disruption for system change.
Same energy, new routine.
“I’ve worked in small teams for 20 years. At Konekt, I’m joining a management team of 45, so it’s a professional transition for sure.” And as if being a mother of two who works full-time wasn’t enough, Kaat lectures at a university college in Brussels, works as a freelancer, sits on the board of an ecological improvement initiative, is part of the parents’ association at her son’s school, and volunteers.
I don’t like being slowed down. I like progress and moving things forward!
In short, she’s a powerhouse. And it rubs off. I have never left a conversation with Kaat uninspired. On the contrary, she makes you feel like rolling up your sleeves to move mountains in the name of social change. “I don’t like being slowed down. It gets hard when people question things endlessly and become philosophical. I like progress and moving things forward! If you run an organization that is mainly based on networking, you need to be optimistic and have a great spirit, be able to see opportunities for others. When looking for my successor, it became clear that we needed someone who loves to combine a lot of things. You simply can’t do this unless you have a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
The not-so-sexy side of running an impact-driven organization
As director, I often felt a little schizophrenic. I was representing Social Innovation Factory externally. I proudly stood for all the fantastic work our team and entrepreneurs were doing every day. But I also had a lot of the boring stuff on my plate. When I came back to the office, reports, cashflow, grants, and contracts were waiting on my desk. I don’t think many people on the outside understand just how much of that goes into keeping an organization up and running.”
What I need is a freak-out moment every now and then.
Who are your people?
“I have a group of peers who recognize my position and understand what it’s like to have a lot of responsibility and live through these challenges. Every now and then, I would meet my colleague in the bathroom and scream. A freak-out moment can be so healthy and liberating! I also have a mentor who truly challenges me. The Global Social Entrepreneurship Network – GSEN – used to bring people with the same experiences together. Everyone in the network was managing an accelerator or incubator and we could share a lot of experiences. In such circles the truth is that it shouldn’t be easy. The level of conversations should be high; after all, we’re not beginners.”
Powerhouse and cheerleader. Advocate. Executer.