These days there is at a lot of emphasis on our leadership behaviors at Celanese, our competencies as leaders and on how to drive value. This made me realize I have a very internal, Celanese-specific view on that. However, recently I had the opportunity to widen my horizon just a little.

My daughter, Annika, with a PhD in Sustainability Entrepreneurship, has founded together with her friend Amy what she terms a “social business.” Their approach is to solve a social issue through entrepreneurial means and therefore make a tangible impact on society while still being able to finance themselves. As I got involved in lots of discussions around business plans, financing models, crowdfunding, and legal and tax considerations with Annika and Amy on their start-up, I also became very interested in the environment they are working in and visited the Social Impact Lab Frankfurt. The Social Impact Lab is a community for social entrepreneurs, social start-ups, coworkers and young people with a German and non-German background. It’s a co-working space where young professionals find the creative environment to further develop their ideas, network and seek professional support on their way of becoming self-employed. The lab’s purpose is to incubate the start-up during the first steps.

As my interest in those ideas and start-ups grew, I asked myself how to connect the Celanese Foundation’s volunteering program with the Social Impact Lab and soon started advertising the idea to do a social day where Celanese colleagues could consult young entrepreneurs at the Social Impact Lab. It didn’t take long until I found 10 colleagues from various functions in our organization who were able to free up their schedules on that day and were willing to join me. With our management skills and job expertise in the fields of human resources, manufacturing, marketing, sales and others we supported three workshop groups focusing on one start-up each. During the sessions we tackled current challenges and jointly developed solutions in support of the below projects:

  • Linguedo supports nurses with a foreign background in finding a position in Germany; it also offers them a free language class
  • The app LuBu (Lunch Buddies) connects people in a certain area for lunches and coffee breaks
  • The  CodeDoor project teaches programing to young refugees aged 13-30, connects them to companies and a teacher-training-program

LuBu team members (left) and Linguedo and CodeDoor teams (right) collaborate with Celanese volunteers at the Social Impact Lab in Frankfurt.

I really enjoyed the workshop, and my personal highlight of the day was the feedback  at the end. The young entrepreneurs gave us the impression that our input led to valuable learnings, especially about networking and connecting to customers and also gave them a new perspective and ideas to manage their challenges – even if we had never heard of their projects before. This social day really opened my horizon in many different ways. First, the time spent that day was so valuable in that our competencies and ideas can count everywhere. Second, it shows us a very creative environment of how to experiment with entrepreneurial ideas. Third, it gave me insight, learnings and new ideas that I can now share back with Annika.