Catching up with Coen (Class 2007) Can you tell us what you are doing now that can potentially change the world?
I have been working in real estate for the past 20 years. After meeting Al Gore seven years ago, I decided to fully refocus my company on sustainable buildings. Over the past few years, we have built some really amazing and extremely sustainable greenfields developments that have even won us some prizes. My big challenge for the coming years will be retrofitting and how we scale up the process in which we lower the amount of energy that buildings use. In a perfect world we could invest the money we save on energy costs into retrofitting buildings. Many NGOs are struggling with this issue but I think it needs an entrepreneur to build a company to really solve it. I hope my company can be a part of this. 2013 was an amazing year in which we purchased, together with Goldman Sachs, a portfolio of old office buildings with the idea of retrofitting them so that the energy usage will decrease by 50%. We plan to renegotiate the lease terms and when we are finished we think we can sell what will then be sustainable buildings at a nice profit. For 2014, I hope that we can scale this up and add to our portfolio.
What makes you passionate about it?
I believe you can build a company that has a double bottom line. Of course we want to run a profitable business; but equally it is important to solve a global problem. I believe that the biggest issue the world is currently facing is global warming; I am therefore really enthusiastic that we are part of the fight against it. I feel privileged that in addition to working on these amazing projects, I am also invited to talk about the best way to solve this global problem. It’s interesting to see that the World Economic Forum and other organizations are putting their heads together to tackle global issues. It makes life a lot more interesting as an entrepreneur when one can be a part of this process.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
My plans are to move from being a “normal” company to being a social business that is doing its part in the fight against global warming. I hope that 10 years from now people will say: “We beat global warming and it wasn’t governments but the private sector that did the job!”
Catching up with Ewa (Class 2008) Can you tell us what you are doing now that can potentially change the world?
I am currently working on implementing a model for a social market economy in deprived communities in East Africa (Kenya and Ethiopia). My organization (Barka Foundation, founded by my family in Poland in 1989), which has been developing social enterprises and social integration centres for intra-EU migrants, was approached by the African diaspora in Europe to help develop the model to benefit the local people in African communities. The project will be based on the European EQUAL project and will start with study visits of African partners to inspiring solidarity economy projects in Europe. European partners will also visit Africa and we will provide assistance building partnerships for local community development. The purpose is to create local employment and provide jobs, even for those most vulnerable members of the community.
This project goes hand in hand with another venture I am developing: the creation of multicultural centres of social integration for migrants in Europe. The centres are going to provide multidimensional support for third-country nationals and European migrants to better assimilate in the reality of the host country, access to vocational training, language courses, support groups and legal advice, as well as assistance finding work. The centres will be especially attentive to vulnerable migrants struggling to integrate and find employment in Europe. We have already developed this type of centre in Poland, the UK and the Netherlands.
I am so thrilled that the solidarity economy is spreading around the world and that our Polish model has made a significant contribution to it! The social economy is a business model that respects common values, the importance of democracy, social stakeholder participation, and individual and social objectives over gain. It combines the interests of its members with the general interest and uses the majority of its gains in pursuit of the aims of sustainable development.
What makes you passionate about it?
My family and I have been working for the last 25 years to develop the model in Poland. I am proud to say that it has made a great difference to 300 communities. We established a network of over 200 social integration centres and we influenced Polish legislation. We have had a growing interest from regions around the world trying to overcome serious social and economic crises, such as in Greece, Romania or communities torn apart by the earthquake in the east of Japan.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
In 5 to 10 years, I see myself coordinating a network of solidarity economy programmes and a new generation of centres for migrant integration. The journey already started last year when we established the International Network for Innovative Social Entrepreneurship, based in Brussels. The organization is committed to developing human capital through social economy institutions.
Events NOT to miss!
Alongside the traditional Forum events, we have a number of YGL-led events planned for this year which are not to be missed! Please take a note of what’s on offer and if you are interested in attending, do letRosy know:
Emerging Arabia Event, Manama, Bahrain – 5-7 April
This will include passes to the Formula 1 race, meetings with the Formula 1 teams, and a packed programme on burning geo-political issues transforming the Middle East, business and growth opportunities on the new silk road, and social impact initiatives from MENA YGLs.
River Rafting Experience, Utah, USA – 12-16 June
This event, taking place in both Salt Lake City and Moab will explore leadership and the Essentialist Life in memorably scenic settings.
Greenland Expedition on Climate Change, Copenhagen and Greenland – 19-23 June
This excursion offers an unparalleled insight into the current state of climate science, the main drivers and the impact of climate change as well as an opportunity to think deeply about promising solutions. The programme includes helicopter trips to the most active glacier in the Northern Hemisphere, encounters with Inuit that have been adapting to the changing environment for centuries, and workshops with input from leading scientists on the latest findings of climate science and from fellow YGLs on potential solutions.On the way to Greenland, YGLs will also meet some of the most innovative companies worldwide in the areas of clean tech and green energy. If you would like to participate please apply via this survey. For more info, please contact Felicitas von Peter and Jens Martin Skibsted.
YGL Public Leadership Bootcamp, Johannesburg, South Africa – 13-16 July
This Bootcamp will offer YGLs the opportunity to build skills relevant to playing a role in the public sector.
Amazon Discovery Journey, Peru, Amazon Basin – 16-22 October
This journey will provide YGLs with an opportunity to experientially investigate the concepts of resilience and happiness in the heart of the Amazon rain forest.
Table for Two
Take a look at the new short video on T4T summarizing their aims and objectives.
Closing the Gender Gap
Got 3 minutes to apply YGL power to improving the power of business? Research shows that companies with more women on their boards outperform their peers. Despite awareness of the business case, and despite global efforts to encourage businesses to elect more women to their boards, most companies are nowhere near achieving the 30 percent threshold at which boards with female representation begin to outperform their peers. The Closing the Gender Gap initiative seeks to engage all YGLs in taking specific actions to close the gender gap in their spheres of influence. We believe the YGL community is particularly well suited to help close the gap on corporate boards. Please take 3 minutes to respond to this survey to help us develop a resource list of women YGLs who can fill board seats, and companies where YGLs can help to identify women who might be good fits for their boards.
Over the next month we have 3 dialogue webinar’s planned on :
Private Education: Who Profits & At What Price?” – 17 March
Closing the Gender Gap – with Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director, Head of Gender Parity and Human Capital at the Forum – 24th March
Political Entrepreneurship with YGL Mayor Naheed Nenshi – 25th March
Upcoming YGL/Alumni Events 2014
YGL Engadin Ski Marathon & Training.
Press Announcement of the 2014 YGL Class
Alumni Ski Weekend, please contact Cynthia to register.
BT London Event on Fit societies, healthy economies and enduring legacies