Carola Schwank is in charge of the Basic Services Unit/Empowering People Network (EPN) at Siemens Stiftung. Carola and some of her colleagues at the foundation, as well as some of the social entrepreneurs the foundation supports, became engaged in the Practical Impact Alliance at the start of this year and have quickly become valued members of the PIA and D-Lab families. Read on to learn more about Carola, the work of the foundation, and the way PIA is serving as a launching pad for several exciting activities.
1. Why did you choose to join PIA? What value do you anticipate for Siemens Stiftung?
The empowering people. Network (epN) connects inventors and entrepreneurs around the world and is the basis for a variety of online and offline activities within an integrated approach. During the last three years we developed a range of programs and tools to foster specific knowledge, expertise and peer-to-peer exchange about business, technology and implementation issues. The demand is immense and we are convinced that international collaboration can significantly strengthen the impact of single players. MIT D-Lab is one of our favorite partners, not only because Amy Smith is part of our “empowering people. Award” -jury but because it brings together an exciting heterogeneous group that provides a variety of approaches, experiences and applicable learnings.
2. What element of PIA are you most excited to engage in this year?
This is the first year we are engaged, and to be honest, I love several aspects of PIA. There is the exciting opportunity to nominate several members of our epNetwork – social entrepreneurs and inventors of technology for development – to be members of one of the four learning groups. They will be able to meet peers and benefit from new knowledge and collegial advice and I am eager to hear their feedback. I see PIA also as a ground for gathering experiences on new learning approaches that are generally interesting for international networks like ours – Will the online communication and reduction to virtual exchange over months really work and bring concrete impact? Last but not least, the Co-Creation Workshop is sure to be a thrilling highlight of interaction and creativity.
3. Which Siemens Stiftung priorities or projects do you see as most relevant to the PIA network and approach?
We actually run some similar projects that also focus on international networking, capacity building and improving. That is our regional “empowering people. Onsite” training program for social entrepreneurs in specific regions and the empowering people. Workshop, which gathers international participants from our epNetwork as well as organizations in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Furthermore our foundation runs our own operative projects on the ground with a strong focus on our Safe Water Kiosk Program. I am happy that colleagues from both teams were able to join PIA and contribute using their expertise -- and gain new insights at the same time.
About Siemens Stiftung empowering people. Network
As a non-profit corporate foundation, Siemens Stiftung promotes sustainable social development, which is crucially dependent on basic supply, high-quality education, and an understanding of culture. Secure access to basic services is indispensable for people to lead independent and dignified lives. The foundation aims to reduce existential deficits in basic services and strengthen necessary social structures. Its international empowering people. Network brings innovators and social entrepreneurs together and fosters the combination of technical and entrepreneurial concepts. It allows to promote the spread of suitable solutions, maintain a platform for knowledge transfer, and enable networking of development collaboration organizations. Locally-operated projects are run together with partners, implementing innovative as well as proven solutions. Additionally, necessary knowledge is provided to ensure that self-supporting structures can contribute to a permanent improvement in basic services.
Carola Schwank joined Siemens Stiftung in 2009 and is in charge of the Basic Services Unit/ Empowering People Network (EPN). She managed the international competition “empowering people. Award – Technologies for basic needs” in 2012/12 and 2015/16 and built up the international “empowering people. Network” for social entrepreneurs and impact inventors. Focusing on entrepreneurial models of basic supply in Sub-Saharan Africa, she has also been in charge of cooperation projects which combine basic supply, job creation and knowledge transfer. Carola studied German, history, political science and sociology at University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and has over twenty years of professional experience in various fields of communications and social responsibility at the Siemens AG.