Header: Brook Cagle via Unsplash
“You don’t need to be completely prepared for everything, but you should be ready for anything”. This is a common saying among entrepreneurs that should be applied to life in general. Be ready for new challenges, be open to new solutions, be curious about new opportunities. The best tool to get unstuck is to allow yourself to be in the learning space. Here’s the story of Stephanie Haase, from Germany, one of the 572 Amani Institute Fellows of the Social Innovation Management (SIM) program, that gets people from all over the world ready to make a leap in their impact career.
I didn’t quite know what to expect when I applied, and got accepted to, the Amani Institute’s Social Innovation Management program (SIM) in 2015. I was a project manager for an NGO in Kenya and to me, it was the ‘management’ side of the program that seemed most interesting. I often struggled getting my remote team to work together effectively, and, having an unrelated academic background, felt poorly equipped to tackle some of the challenges related to the managerial work. I also felt at a crossroads: after several years in this job, I was ready to either make a career change or take my current job to a new level. Yet I didn’t quite know how to do either. Or decide which one it was going to be.
So I applied and soon started meeting other Fellows from all over the world, to share stories and exchange ideas. This got me excited about getting to know other people who wanted to make a change in the world and go on this journey with them. Looking back at the experience, I can say it was truly life-changing in many aspects. Three of them stand out in particular.
While SIM delivered many things, one was straight-forward. It gave me tools that I could immediately (and continue to) apply in my daily work and improve how I was leading the project and my team. One moment in particular I will always remember. We were going through a personality-preference exercise. We stood in a horseshoe, according to our preferences. I stood on the extreme end and the instructor asked me how I shop. I told him that I plan what I want to cook for the week and write it down on a list. He smiled and said, ‘By where you are standing, I know that already. How do you write this list?’ By arranging the list by where items can be found in the supermarket. Obviously. How else? I looked past the facilitator, straight at the incredulous expression of the Fellow on the opposite side on the horseshoe. She stared at me in utter shock. And I had a lightbulb moment: this is why I had so much trouble working with one of my colleagues. She was like the Fellow opposite me: boxed in and suffocating by my need for detailed timelines, Gantt charts and Excel spreadsheets. Whereas I panicked having to deal with her approach, which seemed disorganized and lacking structure to me. But we both get the shopping done, and food on the table, so to speak. We just both do it on our own way. Understanding this greatly improved my working relationships, and the empathy I have for others who don’t work in a way that is most comfortable to me.
- Applications are open for the next digital edition of the Social Innovation Management (SIM) program, which will run from July 26th to December 21st, 2021. Don’t miss the final deadline on July 5th.
- Apply now!
I had joined the course feeling a bit lost with where I wanted to go in my future. I felt that I had chosen a specific path and had to continue going in that direction. And I didn’t know if I was happy with this. While, initially, the program didn’t help me to decide what I wanted, it did something even more valuable: I learned that I had options. It sounds so simple now, but back then, it was a huge relief to know that, just because I started something, didn’t mean I couldn’t change my mind. It might not be easy and takes a lot of courage, but we are in charge of creating the lives we want to live. This was truly a powerful learning for me.
What also emerged was that there was something I wanted to do but felt I couldn’t for a number of reasons: I wanted to go back to university and get a PhD. Today, I am proud to say that I am a few months away from achieving this; while managing the very Amani Institute program that made this happen.
Something I truly didn’t expect to happen was ‘finding my tribe’: a very diverse group of people from different backgrounds who all have one common goal: to address some of the contemporary challenges in our inequal, unjust and environmentally at risk world. People who will understand who you are, because you share the experience of having gone on this very special journey, even if you did the program in another country or digitally. I once recognized an Amani Institute water bottle next to a guy who was sitting in the waiting room at my dentist’s. I asked him if he was a Fellow. He was and we immediately launched into a deep, meaningful conversation. When I left, the dentist’s assistant commented that we seemed to be very good friends and asked how long we had known each other. All of 15 minutes.
Having this tribe gives me hope for the future of the world. Knowing that there are deeply committed people out there doing their best to create the change we want to see in the world is comforting on the days I feel helpless when looking at statistics of climate change or reading about the systemic oppression of people or wondering how we can leave the next generation with a more just world.
The gift that keeps on giving
The SIM program continues to play a major role in my life. Not just because I spent my days working on it as the Global Program Manager, but I keep coming back to what I learned. It serendipitously connects me with changemakers from all over the globe, allowing me to learn from others and keep on growing. Like just this weekend, when I learned a lot about gender-based violence in South African townships from SIM Fellow Maylis, and the organizations working to make a change there. The Social Innovation Management program continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Applications are open for the next digital edition of the Social Innovation Management (SIM) program, which will run from July 26th to December 21st, 2021. The application deadline is July 5th. Apply now!