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After a 20-year career in journalism, I decided to have a sabbatical year. As many others do, I started by buying a one-way ticket to a distant place, New Zealand in my case, with no other plans. I thought I was taking a brave leap.
Indefinite time spent solo traveling could be a great experience if you have been busy running the rat race. But after connecting with myself more deeply I immediately realized that I wasn’t looking just for a long holiday plan. I didn’t want to rest. Actually, it was just the opposite: I was unsatisfied and restless. What I needed was better work-life balance, or – as I’ve learned along the journey – a better alignment between my work and my values: a career of purpose.
I spent 3 months visiting 6 countries, dozens of cities, ancient ruins, temples of every religion, and natural parks. Yet, I felt the need to go further out of my comfort zone, to be asked tougher questions, and needed to practice new ways to become more flexible and open. I needed to reflect on who I wanted to be, what kind of challenges I was brave enough to take on. And shape my future accordingly. However, that was much more complicated than resigning from my job and traveling.
Serendipity happens. I learned about Amani Institute’s Social Innovation Management Program while I was back in Italy for Christmas. The perfect time to create New Year’s resolutions! The application deadline was only a few days away – as it is now – and the program was going to start in a few weeks. I applied and was selected. A month later, I was in Nairobi, Kenya, to start what turned out to be a life-changing experience.
There were Fellows from all over the world, all different ages with very diverse professional backgrounds. A roster of Faculty who are master practitioners in their field, an apprenticeship in a local organization, everything engineered and curated to learn about social impact in just a few months. But,- even more important to learn how I could have a positive impact on my life and the world, by understanding myself better, making the right choices, and applying the right tools, all while making a living.
What surprised me most during the program was the methodology: learn, apply your learnings on the job, then reflect. There’s no real development if you don’t experience the theory yourself and you don’t reflect on the experience. No marks or grading, nothing to deliver to someone else. Just a commitment towards myself.
This is what gives you the most important insights. Practicing everything during our apprenticeships, developing our social innovation project, and doing intense field trips, we were reflecting on everything: design thinking methodology and non-violent communication, impact measurement tools, how to work in cross-cultural teams, different leadership styles…
The opportunity to reflect on my own perspective was priceless. In a safe environment of people looking for the same transformative experience, but coming from completely different ways of life, I surfaced and acknowledged my biases, my vulnerability, my trigger points, and my strengths.
As an adult this means you have to unlearn a lot: habits, mental shortcuts, the attitudes of “we have always done this” or “I am like this”. And, you have to accept to once again have a beginner’s mindset and feel uncomfortable.
Fast forward 5 years. I was back in a leading media company in Italy, where I was able to get a high- level new role, even creating a new job title that matched my purpose (“Head of Cultural Impact”). I understood when it was the moment to change roles again,because I couldn’t see the alignment between the vision I had for my life and what I was doing on a day-to-day basis. You can call it a failure, but I call it another step in my personal growth. I was ready to kickstart my career as a global consultant. Finally, the career I truly wanted happened. I am working at Amani Institute, now, as the Global Communication Director!
What are the lessons that still stick with me?
1-Strategy is never done: you constantly have to adapt, navigating ambiguity, complexity, and changes in scenarios, just keeping the focus on your vision and sticking to your values. It’s true for your job and your life.
2- You learn the best lessons not from people who know more than you, but from people who know completely different things. Diversity is the best school if you make the effort to listen to diverse voices.
3- We are used to envisioning a career like a straight line, that hopefully always goes up, with no breaking points. The truth is that the most interesting careers are spirals, that go higher and broader incorporating failures and learning, skills and experiences, and most of all people.
4- There’s a huge difference between a network and a community: they are both important and need care. But a community of people who share your values goes far beyond connections. It means support, encouragement, development.
If you are looking for a more meaningful job, or if you want to accelerate your career in the impact sector, gaining the skills, the insights and an ever-growing community of like-minded people, you should consider applying to the Social Innovation Management Program by Amani Institute: 2 months online and a 4-month Immersion Phase in Sao Paulo, Bengaluru or Nairobi.
You can better understand what the experience looks like by asking any of the 490 fellows from 63 countries who have already joined the program in Kenya, India or Brazil (here you can connect directly with many of them), or you can have a sense of the Amani Institute approach through applying by December 31st and joining a free online coaching session.
The final international deadline for applications to the February cohort is January 6th.
“After completing the Social Innovation Management Program, how I saw myself professionally changed. I started questioning how I approached things and placed more importance on values in professional settings.” – Lisa Schulze, 2015 Fellow in Kenya, from Germany. After building a successful hospitality venture, she recently launched a coworking space for people seeking to make an impact in Cologne, Germany.
“Amani Institute taught me that intrapreneurship can exist inside for-profit entities, not only non-profit organizations. Previously, I thought I had to work at an NGO or foundation to make social impact happen. Since I graduated in 2018, I realized that I can make a real difference from inside the company I’m working for. I learned that I could take the positive aspects from the social and private sectors to create change.” – Juliana de Souza Gonçalves, 2017 Fellow in Brazil, Systems Architect at Itaú Bank
“Amani Institute is the best international platform for cost-effective training in social entrepreneurship. With Amani Institute you have learning in action to change the world!” – Jerry White, Nobel Peace Prize Co-Winner for the landmines ban Campaign in 1997