The Power of Having the Right People Around You

September 3, 2014



 This post was written by Siegfried Rossmuller, from Austria, an alumni of our Certificate in Social Innovation Management program in 2012. In the post, Siegfried writes about the journey that prompted him to come to Amani Institute. This blog was first posted on Siegfried’s own blog, and can be read there as well. 

In November 2012 (which seems to be ages ago from today’s perspective), I found myself getting ready to leave my comfortable job at a big international company. My project has come to an end and there seemed to be no chance within the company to find another one or other options to continue to work together. This fact alone felt a bit strange, as I was and still are, international mobile – but, hey, there I was, no job to look forward and lots of ideas and a strong feeling of being unsatisfied with my life, with the purpose of my work and the outcome I saw through it…it was soo much more about figures and results then people!

The first reaction – it´s the usual midlife-crisis, it will go away and I kept looking for the next “Normal” job. But I tell you something, I spent hours online and researching and reading about potential jobs and companies and organizations and job descriptions. And the more I read them, the more disappointed I got. I simply couldn´t see me doing this kind of job for the next weeks, month and not to mention, years……that´s not to gonna happen…..

But, what then? Over the timeand though my studies of environmental and social topics, I would describe me as sensitive for this kind of issues. And there I was, suddenly no job and the whole world open to explore it, to find my meaning in it!

Freaking scary – I can tell you! It means, I had to make huge decisions!

But I was sure about it, I don´t want to go back to a simple corporate job, it has to be something different. And with this mindset, I applied for a CEO postion at an NGO in India. Never been to India before, never filled the role of a CEO – hey, it’s worth a try and it costs only time and some mails. A few skype calls, an interview at the Heathrow airport and a long flight from Zurich to Mumbai a couple of weeks later I found myself in exact this position, taking on the responsibility for a huge transition project, trying to bring some business and management skills to the table and help transfer it into a working, operating and financial sustainable project. What shall I say…it didn´t work out the way it was planned, I had moments where I hated what I had to do, where I questioned my mind and why in the first place I had decided to make it? What kept me going was the simple knowledge that I will learn a lot from this experience and as soon as I´m through it, will look back and can say, I did it, I made it and I had my positive impact. And looking back at it today, I was applying I concept, who´s name I should learn a bit later in Nairobi;-)



And – without, I wouldn´t write this entry today! Why? Because I found out about The Amani Institute and its Post-Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation Management Program in Nairobi three weeks before I left Mumbai. Which I wouldn´t have read if I had quite the whole Indian experience earlier. At the last week of my stay in India, it got decided, I will move to Nairobi for 5 month to join this program.

Here starts the beauty of being surrounded by the right people!

Arriving in Nairobi, I suddenly found myself in a group of equal minded people from almost all over the world, coming from diverse backgrounds and ages where we could talk about systemic changes, about root causes of issues and financial sustainability for the purpose of social business with a clear social impact! Suddenly, there it was the world full of meaning and purpose, next to my doorstep! Of course, we needed the usual time and procedure to get into an open and trustful group – but we were pretty fast with it! Almost no tension or fights during 5 month on this intense level is a big accomplishment, I would say!

I suddenly could get emotional in front of the whole group without feeling weird and strange. Suddenly it was ok to dream big and talk about it. We were there for each other, we supported each other in our projects and ideas in workshops, meetings, assignments or peer-to-peer coaching’s – whatever it needed to go forward, it seemed to be available. A big part in this atmosphere and creating this kind of space goes of course to the team of the Amani Institute as they seemingly easy found ways, tools and methods to create this space for us, where we could  be ourselves, explore options and ideas and develop our projects and ourself to a kind of next level version. They went more than the extra mile for us….

I found myself kind of constantly challenged to learn, to understand, to reflect and to grow further and further. Of course, there were moments, where I thought about what’s going on here and why do I need to this again (especially the usual “ice-breaker” and being patient where my personal challenge :-)).

All came together to a huge finale, when we had our closing trip at the coast of Kenya, at the beautiful beach of Watamu. During the last weeks of the program, the whole ideas and topics around the pollution of the oceans and what harm it causes on the whole eco-system came back through an article posted on Facebook.

That was the moment, when my mind was….”it’s time to get out of this bubble of great growth and working together, the huge issues are still out there, waiting for us…” but didn´t know, how to access and deal with it, it was simply “cooking” inside, waiting for the right moment to come out…..

And that moment came in form of one of the last exercises we did, when it comes to name the vision and target we want to work on and to name the biggest 3 challenges – to be represented by my colleagues. I know, I felt, that is the chance to test myself and my big idea of getting the oceans cleaned! So, I made the step and shared the idea with them!! In another group, I would have got eyes rolling, shaking heads and some other comments as “why you are again changing your idea –again? It´s now the 6th different version of your vision and goal over the course of 5 month” – that’s what I would have got, I assume. But not there, not with my group of people and this kind of support we had grown over the last 5 month.

Here I was and got the full support, the full energy and input they could possibly give me!!! And, let me tell you, they made me belief in it!! In a way, I never experienced before!!

This was the ultimate proof for me, I made the right decision to come to Nairobi, I met exact the right bunch of equal minded people there to get this kind of kick in the butt, to get my internal barriers broken down and to get the full energy boost from them to give myself the permission to belief, to work on it, to simply get started to work on my big dream by starting working on the first, little baby steps!!

That’s why I´m more than ever convinced, that with the right bunch of people around you, supporting you and helping you, everything is possible.


Applications are now open for the Amani Institute’s 2015 Certificate in Social Innovation Management program! Click here to read more and apply

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