What It's Really Like to Work for a Social Enterprise Abroad

by Emily Chiapinelli

I first heard of Heart Cap­i­tal from a friend that had met the com­pany through the Social Enter­prise Institute’s Field Study Pro­gram in Cape Town, South Africa. After look­ing through the web­site I fig­ured it would be a nice way to apply my social entre­pre­neur­ship minor to a prac­ti­cal work­ing expe­ri­ence.  It looked pretty inter­est­ing, and their busi­ness model sounded ideal:  they act as a for-profit social invest­ment firm pro­vid­ing seed cap­i­tal for emerg­ing social entre­pre­neurs, and they have a non-profit branch called Heart that offers con­sul­tancy and accel­er­a­tion ser­vices to help scale the enter­prises in their port­fo­lio.  A com­pany like this, to me, sounded too good to be true, and when I showed up at the office in Cape Town, I real­ized that indeed it was just that. 

Thus far the respon­si­bil­i­ties have con­sisted of pulling together a sys­tem using other social impact mea­sure­ments and met­rics, and plan­ning out the process for imple­men­ta­tion and report­ing.  Through my work I have been able to get into a Skype call with one of the cre­ators of the Acu­men Fund’s report­ing tool, PULSE, and into the office of J-PAL Africa at the Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town. For stu­dents of social entre­pre­neur­ship or really any­body look­ing for an inter­est­ing and engag­ing co-op posi­tion, I highly rec­om­mend the one I cur­rently have.  When I leave in Decem­ber, they will need some­body to fill the posi­tion and to improve and man­age the scor­ing sys­tem that we are set­ting up.  My posi­tion here has exer­cised the knowl­edge I obtained from the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute, as I get to develop and imple­ment an impact mea­sure­ment method­ol­ogy for the port­fo­lio enter­prises to use as an inter­nal report­ing and eval­u­a­tion sys­tem to track and improve their social and envi­ron­men­tal impact.  

Mis­sion aside, the office space is one of the most relaxed and aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing envi­ron­ments I’ve ever worked in.  There is a mini con­cert stage, bean bag chairs, a ham­mock, a foos­ball table, and dec­o­ra­tions hang­ing all over the walls and from the ceil­ing.  The con­fer­ence rooms are township-styled tin shacks, the main one hav­ing a ping-pong table to hold meet­ings around.  The atmos­phere and inter­ac­tions in the office are just as warm; Heart and Heart Cap­i­tal work to cre­ate friendly and open col­lab­o­ra­tion between employ­ees, entre­pre­neurs, and any of the numer­ous other peo­ple that swing by on a daily basis to pro­mote and facil­i­tate social entre­pre­neur­ship and enter­prises with high-growth potential.

For more infor­ma­tion on how to co-op at Heart Cap­i­tal, please con­tact the Inter­na­tional Co-op office.

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