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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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