Nora van der Linden was one of the first Social Venturers I ever interviewed and from the moment we met, I appreciated her straightforwardness and no-bs attitude. Nora is based in Amsterdam, NL, where she works as co-director of Kennisland. Think of Kennisland as a think tank that researches and designs social progress with partners across the Netherlands and beyond. Nora develops new approaches, strategies and interventions for complex social problems, always trying to achieve better outcomes for people who are less seen and heard in society. Problems connected to urban innovation, education and inequality are of particular concern to her.
One quick look on their website gives you an immediate sense for the variety and depth of projects that the Kennisland team is working on. No really, check out their website! Do it now, we’ll wait.
In her role, Nora balances her responsibilities as a co-director (Kimon Moerbeek acting as the other half) with those of working on projects in the field.
Switching back and forth requires me to balance my priorities very carefully.
“On the director level, I make strategic decisions and am very involved in planning for the big picture of the organization. When I work in projects with the team, however, I slip back into my role of advisor. Switching back and forth requires me to balance my priorities very carefully. I work hard to keep the balls in the air at all times.”
Talking about balance, Nora is also mother to a young son. “I get up around 6.30 a.m. and try to get ready before he wakes up. We leave the house around 8 and I drop him at daycare on my way to work. From 9 a.m. onward, I spend a lot of time in meetings, sometimes in Utrecht, The Hague or Brussels. I leave work around 5 p.m. to pick up my kid. If my partner is at home (he’s abroad frequently) or I have the help of my nanny, it can happen that I don’t leave work until 7.30. With a 9 to 5 workday, there’s a lot that doesn’t get done. I make up for it on nights and weekends.”
Anyone out there?
“I try to play tennis or soccer but it’s hard to make the time. The other day, I sat in a bookstore, had coffee and read. It doesn’t happen as often as I would like, but it helps me relax and take a break.
I am also lucky to be part of a dinner series with women who run similar organizations in the impact space. It feels good to know there are people out there who struggle with similar issues. As working moms, in particular, we share the same issues personally and professionally. I enjoy surrounding myself with women who are smart, funny and inspiring.” Sign me up!
Needles in a haystack
A topic that we spent quite a bit of time on is that of growing your team and finding not only the right talent but also mindset to support the organization.
“Hiring, to me, is very personal. I want to work with people who are trustworthy, who like to collaborate with others and who the rest of the team enjoys working with. As a team, we are nice, but also critical and we like to challenge each other. You can’t plan for this, it has to be who you are. That’s why it’s very personal.”
Nora van der Linden
Straightforward leader. Field-worker. Team builder.