From business intelligence to social enterprise — via Rio

Or, how I ended up as a Social Enterprise Consultant with no prior experience in social enterprise.


My professional background could be described as niche. I’ve spent the last four years working as a corporate investigator for clients involved in high-profile international disputes, uncovering evidence of fraud or hidden offshore assets. It’s been exciting, intellectually challenging work that has thrown me into weird and wonderful situations all over the world and provided a fascinating insight into the darker side of international commerce.

Looking back, my twenty year-old self had some big ideas about what she wanted to do with her career. Working in Moscow during the year abroad of my languages degree gave me an entertaining crash course in how business works in “challenging” markets. I returned determined to figure out how business could be used to bring people together and to fight rather than facilitate corruption and inequality.

It turned out that working in London it’s a lot easier to focus on more short-term goals (i.e. the weekend…), but last year I started to panic as it dawned on me that life choices were no longer abstract debating topics for the pub; they were happening now, and they were somehow happening to me rather than being made by me.

Somewhere along the way my real ambition and values had become buried under the desire to do a good job, secure another pay rise, take on more responsibility. I was climbing up a ladder that I felt belonged to someone else — belonged, in fact, to a bygone, pre-crisis era of listening to the school careers advisor, hoping to get a mortgage and looking forward to a pension.

When I read my own thoughts being expressed online by other people on sites like Escape the City, I found the nerve to jump off the ladder. I handed in my notice to head to Brazil this summer with _SocialStarters and I haven’t felt this engaged, inspired and excited about the future since I came back from Russia believing that it was possible to Change The World. Except this time I have some more experience and skills that give me a better chance of getting somewhere.

Social enterprise seems a good place to start for someone like me, who’s always felt stuck between the “drop-outs” and the “sell-outs”. Although I’m not satisfied working in a purely profit-driven environment, I’ve been impressed by the drive for quality, results and innovation that profit inspires. What are the different ways in which we can apply this mindset to tackling social problems? That’s what I’m hoping to find out in Rio…

Originally posted on the _SocialStarters blog
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