What Does a Chief Empowerment Officer Do?

Alessia Cervone from Euforia wants to help people contribute to society in a positive way - and she wants us to do it with joy.

by Nicole Winchell, April 5, 2017
job as chief empowerment officer

Euforia aims to change the discourse by empowering people to act towards a more social and sustainable future - all while having fun. How do they bring out the inner changemaker within? Read on to find out.

In this interview, Alessia shares her tips for creating a more joyful work environment and speaks of her own transition from student to entrepreneur. 

What was your motivation for starting Euforia and what social problem(s) do you aim to solve?

We started Euforia because we are facing more social, environmental and economic challenges than ever and we are not doing enough to tackle them.

We noticed that people would like to contribute to society in a positive and impactful way (around 70%) and only very few of them actually do (12-15%). Why? Because we live in a pessimistic world, where the main discourse says even if we do something we are not going to solve anything.

We decided that we want to change the discourse. We want more people to act towards a sustainable future and we want to make this fun, dynamic and euphoric! That is why we started to create insightful and powerful learning experiences for people. We help them discover what change-maker they want to be and how to contribute to society.

What does a typical training look like?

There is nothing typical at Euforia. Every day and every training is different, because the people who moderate them vary and add their personal touch to it.

At imp!act (our flagship training for youth empowerment) or “Leading with imp!act (our flagship training in change management and leadership for executives) we enable participants to brainstorm and prototype innovative solutions to a local or global challenge.

Our trainings consist of an intercultural learning and communication simulation that introduces our non-formal methodology of training. We take time to reflect on each person’s values, passions, strengths and the cause they are committed to. It allows participant to find out and clarify what change-maker they want to be. We also facilitate brainstorming sessions to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

After participating in a Euforia training, you claim that “more than 80% of the participants change their behavior”. Can you example how this behavioral change works or what it looks like?

During the training people realise that they can make a difference in their daily lives. Therefore they start to change their behaviour in a way that makes them change-makers.

The 80% include people who have engaged in one or more of the following activities after the training: started their own social venture, changed their consumption habits towards a more sustainable one (e.g. riding a bike instead of a car, eating more sustainable, buying fair trade etc.), decided to look for a career with impact, became social entrepreneurs inside their own organisation/business or started to volunteer for an already existing organisation or cause.

A lot of people decided to join Euforia and stay with us as volunteers, interns, trainees or staff.

You started working full-time right after your studies, how did you handle the transition from student to entrepreneur?

Euforia has been part of my life since 2008, therefore I did not feel the transition too much. I was excited to start working full time and be able to contribute more time and energy to Euforia. I literally finished my thesis on social intrapreneurship the day before I started working in our office in Geneva. I truly enjoyed being a student because of the flexibility I had (sleeping in, study whenever I want etc.).

At Euforia we are so flexible that I do not miss my student life. I still have all the benefits of being a student, while “working”.

At Euforia, you focus heavily on your organizational development. In particular, you have adopted an organizational structure of “circles”. Can you explain how these work and why you see them as beneficial?

We decided to adopt holacracy as an organizational structure two years ago to cope with our fast development. Holacracy organizes different business units into circles. Every circle has its own responsibilities, decisions, power (always consensual), and roles.

The circles are independent and remain closely connected via a structured, but agile meeting system that enables us to be coordinated without a management structure. We all self-manage our circles.

I love working in circles because decisions are taken faster, there is a high level of independence and responsibilities are clear between circles.

What three tips do you have for motivating employees and creating a joyful work environment?

1.    Flexible working hours enable people to work when they are the most efficient and effective. This brings a lot of energy to the organisation.

2.    Organise activities with the entire team. For example, twice a year we have ‘workends’. These are weeks in which we work and engage in fun activities together. Last September we went to the south of France working from the beach for one week. In March, we will go to the mountains to enjoy skiing, working, cooking and partying together.

3.    Have energizers and games during live meetings. They make people smile and laugh, and create a great atmosphere to continue working together in the best way possible.

One of your values is that you “dare to try (and fail).” How much do you think this mentality has contributed to the growth of Euforia?

This value of “daring to try (and fail)” allows us to try things we would not have tried otherwise and makes us the successful organisation we are. It takes away pressure, because we know if something goes wrong nobody will blame us, rather we will be praised as best “oops” of the month. Being able to make mistakes enables us to learn from them.

"It is when you dare to fail that the magic happens."

It takes courage to live this value, and it is not always easy, as society validates failing as bad. At Euforia we say that failing is good. I think this value makes us quite special and I am super happy to live it every day.

What’s next for Euforia? What can we expect to see happening in the coming year?

You never know what will happen next at Euforia. We always try new things. However, as we are starting a new year I can share some insights for 2016.

We want to globally become the best place to work for our volunteers, interns and staff. Currently, we are prototyping a new well-being policy that enables everyone to fully exploit their potential by individually creating their best possible working conditions (e.g. salary, holidays, sabbaticals, social insurance conditions, trainings etc.).

Furthermore, we are planning to scale in 15 more countries this year, in addition to Colombia, Austria, France and Rwanda. We will be in Germany (be prepared: our next imp!act is happening in Berlin from April 13th to 16th), UK and many more countries to come. We are super excited about our scaling strategy and we are always looking for more volunteers who want to spread our imp!act events everywhere in the world.

You should also expect the creation of a smart network of 50 organisations that share our values and that want to create the same impact. We want this to be a network of like-minded organisations that introduce millions to the change-making culture.