Meet Jan Svensson, who joined AIESEC Gothenburg (1988-1991) during his business management studies at the Gothenburg school of business in Sweden. During his various roles with AIESEC, he raised internships, provided training to local AIESEC committees as part of the national training team, and served in AIESEC Soviet Union.
After his journey in AIESEC, he became part of Mikrofonden Väst (the Micro-fund West) in providing support to different social organizations. In this interview given via e-mail by AAI team member Ankit Khandelwal, he talks about his lessons from AIESEC, his association with Mikrofonden Väst (the Micro-fund West), and his thoughts for young AIESECers. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Q: Would you elaborate more about the term ‘social economy’?
A social economy is the third sector after the private (business) and public sectors (government). It includes organizations such as cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and charities.
Q: What is the main difference between ‘for profit’ organizations and ‘non-profit’ organizations in the context of Mikrofondenväst?
For profit means to transfer profits to the owner. Non-profit means not to transfer profits to the owner.
Q: In your view, what is the role of non-profit organizations in changing society?
Our role is to empower the people who try to solve the problems and challenges of society by themselves.
Q: How and when did you come up with the concept for Mikrofondenväst?
Back in 2007, people and cooperatives in the west of Sweden saw the need for supporting NGOs and cooperatives with guarantees when they needed loans.
Q: It is clearly not easy to start something like this. What kind of difficulties have you faced? How did you overcome them? Can you share any situations where your AIESEC experience proved valuable?
The main challenge was to find enough financing to run the operation. There was a clear need, and support from NGOs and cooperatives was strong (they were also the owners). One way that the AIESEC experience helped was that in AIESEC, you meet people from all over the world and realize that at a fundamental level, all people are the same with the same values. I have learned to treat everyone I meet with respect. When cooperatives search for finance, I meet them without prejudice.
Q: Let’s say that I need to start something related to the social economy in your region, and I come to you for help. What kind of help will I get from Mikrofondenväst?
Mikrofonden Väst offers financial support by offering guarantees if you need a bank loan for your cooperative. We also offer investments in cooperatives, give advice in financial matters, as well as help to set up crowd-funding campaigns.
Q: How do you measure the impact of your programs?
We follow up with all clients/customers, and we are developing measurement tools for social impact. One method we currently use is SROI: Social Return On Investments.
Q: Do you also collaborate with other organizations to increase the outreach of your programs?
Yes, and this is a very important point. We collaborate with banks, social banks, local cooperative development centers, the region, municipality, etc.
Q: Your organization includes many people who are helping you as volunteers. Volunteering may sometimes be difficult and can be demotivating. How do you keep your entire team, and maybe sometimes yourself, motivated?
Seeing the result of our activities keeps us motivated: the guarantees and investment help we provide, seeing cooperatives and the NGO expand, employing more people to do even more good.
Q: What kind of role do you see for Mikrofondenväst in the larger context of the growth of the society?
In order for the social economy to expand and do good, it also needs financial support, and we offer that. A bigger social economy means more people are included in the society.
Q: What help do you expect from AIESEC/AIESEC alumni?
International and global leadership inspiration.
Q: Are you satisfied with the journey so far creating social impact? What are your future plans for the organization?
We are a small organization and want to do more, but we know it takes time. Our future plans are to collaborate with larger actors in Europe who want to focus on the west of Sweden.
Q: Any message that you want to share with AIESEC as well as today’s youth in order to realize progress and achieve their dreams?
If you want to do something, start small. Always have fun, and build a team around you—it is not fun to be alone. Be persistent as it always takes longer than you think to build something. Treat all people with respect, always!
About Mikrofonden Väst
Mikrofonden Väst (the Micro-fund West) provides capital and expertise to businesses in the social economy in the west of Sweden. The fund is financed by public, private, and social economy organizations providing finance to NGOs with guarantees and venture capital. The focus is on cooperatives, non-profit organizations, and social enterprises to make a social impact.
Their website: www.mikrofondenvast.se