In Interviews with Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise

Who is Ewa Konczal?

Ewa’s work focusses on impact investment and social entrepreneurship in Central and Eastern Europe, now also expanding further to Eastern Partnership region and Russia. Ewa works as the Manager for Central and Eastern Europe at the European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA). She has been working at EVPA for 7 years. In addition to her major engagement with EVPA, Ewa is a Chairwoman of the first Polish venture philanthropy fund Valores which offers tailored support to social entrepreneurs in Poland. She is also a co-founder of the Magic Mountain Foundation, working with disadvantaged people and those with social problems through outdoor activities such as natural horsemanship and mountaineering. Before joining EVPA,  Ewa worked at Ashoka for 14 years where, among other activities, she has co-founded the Academy of Social Innovators, and the Social Business Accelerator program. The latter has been running for nearly 10 years, now with the Polish Private Equity & Venture Capital Association in Poland.

What brought her to work in the social enterprise sector?

During her time as an economics student, Ewa was a member of the international students’ association AIESEC. Her work with AIESEC was a formative experience enabling Ewa to broaden her perspectives and understanding of the world. This experience inspired her to pursue a career that will make a positive difference in the world.

“This was the time when I started to think that I should not be working in traditional business but in an area where one can really make a difference in addressing social challenges.”

The traineeships she undertook through this association further motivated her to become a global changemaker. She worked in Egypt and India which strengthen her confidence to focus her career on creating positive impact. Ewa perceives herself as a comparatively privileged member of society, having an opportunityto pursue her interests, ability to travel and work abroad. Through her work, she felt obliged to help the less fortunate and give back to the global community.

What does she do?

Ewa’s work focusses around several core concepts which include resources, skills and competences. Through providing better, more accessible financial and non-financial resources, she works to create an environment where people with good ideas are supported to turn them into reality. Hence, Ewa focusses on providing the resources necessary to set-up and scale-up social enterprises and other impact driven organisations. She passionately believes in building sustainable businesses with impact which drives her work in impact investment and venture philanthropy.

Ewa also notes that there is always more that can be done at a broader policy level. She says that infrastructure development goes hand-in-hand with the development of all enterprises and business, in general. This investment, however, relies on governmental and supranational actors beyond the scope of the social economy sector. Ewa identifies the central importance of sharing knowledge and remarks that there is a need to improve communication within the social economy sector.

“In Europe, [the ecosystem] is still quite fragmented. I would love to see that there is more space for collaboration.”

She calls for collective setting of priorities amongst the stakeholders in the social economy sector.

What keeps her motivated?

Ewa takes real pleasure in hearing the stories from the people she has had an impact on. These individual accounts are what she considers her greatest accomplishment. She recognises and appreciates ‘the chain reaction’ positive impact can create.

“It is like a snowball effect. Through myself and my actions, other people got inspired and became the changemakers who are now making a difference on a much larger scale or with deeper impact.”

Ewa wants to continue bringing more resources to the social economy sector but she also sees a need for a change in the business mindset. As she says: “all entrepreneurship should be social entrepreneurship.” All individuals and organisations should recognise and embrace our collective responsibility to actively address social and environmental challenges. Everybody should contribute towards achieving the SDGs and building a more sustainable future.

What is Ewa’s advice to aspiring impact-practitioners?

When asked for some wise words of advice, Ewa simply said “Go for it!” She is confident that finding likeminded people and creating a professional network is a key to success. “Find allies, find people who will help you to get what you want. Do not worry about the ones who are trying to stop you. If you want to achieve something, be authentic, be honest and go for it!”

This interview is part of the Top 100 Women in Social Enterprise Initiative. Find out more about the initiative HERE.

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