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.
Out of a desire to dive deeply into impact organizations, Kaat recently started her own organization Social Impact Projects. With this organization, Kaat offers services as a fractional business developer for exciting social enterprises e.g. Rising You, Cokido and Studio AMA. Aside from this ‘rolling up the sleeves’, Kaat also investigates scaling strategies and is happy to disseminate them by giving keynotes and workshops. Her mantra: ‘growing your impact is much more than scaling up’ can be discovered in her recent book ‘Leaving a Legacy’. Next to this, Kaat is a mother, a lecturer and an overactive volunteer as board member for several impact organizations.
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! 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.