3 months in, we sat with Euclid Network’s new Executive Director Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes to ask her more about her leadership style, her first steps at Euclid and what her plans are for the coming months.
Suzanne, how have the past 3 months been for you?
It has been an amazing journey. I have had the opportunity to meet many of our members and other key stakeholders in the social enterprise and civil society sector from across Europe. These first months I really wanted to take the time to meet and listen to the people working closely together with Euclid Network. Their input will help me and the team to excel on the strategy of Euclid Network. What strikes me every time I meet a new organisation is how driven and welcoming they are. The team and my predecessor, Stephen Barnett, have built the essential foundations for the organisation to scale-up. Now we are ready to enhance our impact on the social enterprise ecosystem in the whole of Europe and beyond.
You have worked in different parts of the world, what did it teach you?
The years abroad have taught me two important lessons; first of all, every market has its own specificities but also, sometimes surprisingly, similarities. What struck me in Africa for example is that Nigeria is very strong on mobile banking. In Europe we can learn a lot from that. Vice versa Nigerian entrepreneurs can learn from European entrepreneurs’ approach to business models. A second lesson is that it is really important to collaborate and work in network structures. We are living in a rapidly changing world in which we have to share our knowledge.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say my style is collaborative, optimistic but realistic and result driven. As a Dutch, I would say I can also be direct! Though I try to keep in mind who I am talking to.
So, with new leadership at Euclid, should members expect any changes?
We have recently renewed our mission to empower social enterprises to transform the European economy by becoming a structural partner of the European Commission on access to social finance through their EaSI programme. This partnership is not only key to Euclid, it is extremely valuable for our current and future members. We will also drive forward our ambitious programmes to connect even more social entrepreneurs through our SEEDplus project (Erasmus for social entrepreneurs) and to develop the social enterprise ecosystem in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood.
Our mission is to see every country with a strong network of social enterprises at national level, which in turn we can support at European level. One of the things we would like to do on the short-term is intensify our presence in Central and Eastern Europe. We’re very proud to already count strong partners and members in the Western Balkans and Turkey.
Why do European networks matter?
Access to finance and access to skills are the two key topics for any organisation. For small community-based enterprises but also for social enterprises that are looking to expand. Generally, we sense a need for social enterprises to scale-up. European networks such as Euclid facilitate cross-border learning through e.g. peer exchanges and international events.
My general rule of thumb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. The social enterprise and social finance market in Europe is growing and becoming increasingly complex. Sharing knowledge and network will bring us far.
Do you see Euclid Network going beyond Europe?
There are still a lot of challenges in the social finance and social innovation sector in Europe. The ecosystem in some countries is maturing, but in others a lot remains to be done. It’s interesting to look at best practices within Europe. What works in one country may not work in others. Equally important is to learn from our peers in other continents, to keep an eye open on what is happening in the rest of the world. We are currently running two innovative programmes outside Europe, in Russia and the Middle East.
What will you be focusing on in the coming months?
Euclid Network’s track record as a pioneer in supporting the development of the social enterprise finance market is very impressive. Its work today is more relevant than ever, and the relocation to The Hague provides Euclid Network with enormous opportunities for further growth. The focus will be on accelerating support for social entrepreneurs and civil society leaders to create profitable businesses with impact. Their success will continue to drive us.
In the short term, we are working closely together as a team to have a smooth transition to The Hague. By next spring Euclid Network will be up and running in the Netherlands.