International Students Pursuing Social Change
We had a unique opportunity to conduct an interview with two fascinating individuals. They’ve come from two different continents and languages for one and the same purpose – to promote Social Solidarity. Not every day one gets to meet such good and companionate people. It’s been an honor.
The Social Solidarity Hackathon was led by the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Institute for Social Leadership and the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation of the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management. In the event, took part students from SKEMA Business School and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Tell me a little about yourself
Pauline: I’m a French student from SKEMA Business School, studying Business & Strategy (a specialized Masters program). It’s my second year and I’m expected to finish my degree in April. Also, I’m 24 and it’s my first time is Israel.
You’re both interested in Social Solidarity. Why did you choose this particular field?
Pauline: I would say I chose social business because of a trip I made to the US. There I learned how one can reconcile making profit while making a social impact. The Strategy studies help me understand how I can really make this reconciliation between those two seemingly completely separate aspects.
Osnat: I have been a volunteer and a social activist in several places ever since I can remember myself. In recent years, I have been taking a bigger part in managing NGOs which, in most cases, are struggling financially. I chose this field because we need to learn how to manage these kind of organizations in a better way. We have to try and see how we can use the funds we have, in a more efficient way so we can better the field of NGOs.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
Pauline: I hope to have my own company. Actually, I am working on a project; the same one I will present in the Hackathon. The general concept is matching the skills of people, who are interested in volunteering, and the needs of an organization. I want to be an entrepreneur; I want to build something that is meaningful or help a project of others that has a great social impact on people’s lives.
Where would you like to start it?
I think I will start in France, just because of the social network I have there. It is easier to start where you have many connections. However, I think it is something you can replicate in many countries because it is really something that needs to be done locally. You need to understand, in every different culture, why and when people volunteer, in order to make this idea work.
Osnat: I hope to find a job in an NGO in Israel, and later on to move to a managing role. I don’t have a specific field I’m thinking about, probably human right or other strong social cause.
Do you want to stay in Beer-Sheva?
It is a good question. It depends on where I’ll find work and where my girlfriend wants to live.
Do you want to be an entrepreneur?
Not right now. Actually, there are so many entrepreneurs in Israel these days that I think we need to create a platform to combine forces rather than invent something completely new. I see it in the field of LGBT, there are so many different organizations and each one works separately. I believe we should work on more coalition base operation.
Pauline, why did you choose to take part in the delegation to Israel?
Pauline: Because it is a real opportunity for me to actually study social business. I’m excited, about meeting other students from around the world and testing my vision regarding social entrepreneurship. In addition, I think that this trip provide us with a rare opportunity to learn about leadership in a new and extensive way.
Tell me one thing you learned about Israel you didn’t know before?
I leaned that Israel is a very open country, in a sense that every person I’ve met was very open and willing to help, guide, and show around. It’s a kind of environment I like, in Paris, people feel more comfortable in their own environment and routines. That surprised me a lot about Tel-Aviv, we’re going to Jerusalem on Friday, and I’m sure it will surprise me too.
You are in the middle of a conceptual hackathon, tell me about your idea
Osnat: My group has decided to target elderly people. We thought about an internship program for said people. So young companies, like start-ups, could take elderly people and integrate them in some sort of an internship. The company could get experienced workers, with a unique perspective, in a considerably low price; whereas, the elderly could learn new technological advancements and supplement their income. So it could benefit both parties.
Pauline: My idea, I’ve mentioned it before, is about matching the skills of workers, who are looking for personal development and engage them in projects where they can develop those skills and contribute to society.
What was good/bad (easy/difficult) about working in a multicultural environment?
Pauline: Us French, we tend to be more theoretical, and maybe because we’re younger than Israeli students; while Israeli students are more ‘concrete’, whenever we talk ideas, the Israeli would say “what does that mean? How are we going to implement that practically?” It’s a whole different way of approaching a subject and it’s very interesting.
You stumble upon a winning lottery ticket. What do you do with your newly found 10M$?
Pauline: I’d give some to my parents and family. Then I’d invest in something that can be sustainable – make money with the money. The end goal is to invest in my project, or projects like it. I always thought that if I were rich, I would like to help new projects come to life. I hope I’ll get this winning ticket one day.
Osnat: I’ll take some proportion of the money and invest it in the LGBT house, where I volunteer, in Beer-Sheva. Right now we have lot of good programs that are stuck because we don’t have the funding.
We are always thrilled to see students getting involved in projects aimed at contributing to society. Skema students, it was a pleasure and we hope to see you again soon.