A fruitful partnership – An Interview with Lisa-Katharina Guggenmos, from MAN Truck & Bus, about her experience of leading the MAN Impact Accelerator with Yunus Social Business
Yunus Social Business’s ‘Social Business Accelerators’ help corporates connect to exciting social entrepreneurs and engage their employees in unique mentoring experiences for social change. Today, we interview Lisa-Katharina Guggnemos, Senior Digital Strategy Expert & program Lead from MAN Truck & Bus who shares her success of creating successful projects along with uncommon allies like Yunus Social Business. Lisa’s dream is to make the MAN Impact Accelerator not only one of MAN’s most meaningful projects, but also an ecosystem of innovation culture and ideation for the company.
The MAN Impact Accelerator program is a result of a fruitful partnership between MAN Truck & Bus and Yunus Social Business. To start with, we’d love to hear about why MAN decided to co-create an impact Accelerator?
YSB has always had a clear position: Creating sustainable social change is the number one responsibility of corporates. And we as MAN couldn’t agree more. Working on and in the MAN Impact Accelerator program helped us realize that as a global economic player we do not only have the duty, but also the call to bring scalable social impact to the world. YSB helped us defining our USP towards social businesses and using our resources and skills in a way that enables those companies on their path towards scaling. Together with YSB we’ve built a sustainable mentoring program for startups to live up to their purpose. As a team we’ve identified not only the right MAN mentors to work with the startups but also built a strong brand around our program that helps us spread our word and involve a broad network of partner companies in fulfilling our mission.
In what way does YSB and MAN complement each other? What benefits does this collaboration bring to the table?
Combining our industry expertise with YSB’s purpose-driven work seemed like a natural fit. Given our long history of inventing transport solutions we know how to build and scale businesses with and beyond MAN. Over the years we have gathered the most talented professionals in the transport industry and are extremely happy to be able to share our knowledge with both YSB and the Accelerator startups now. The YSB team on the other hand brings longtime experience in building and scaling social businesses to the table. They know how to build a product and brand around a clear purpose and how to convince clients and investors that social businesses are worth believing in. Reflecting on two amazing Accelerator batches this combination of our industry expertise with the YSB impact perspective in a mentoring program proofs to be the perfect fit.
The MAN Impact Accelerator is more than just an accelerator - beyond helping social businesses scale their social impact, the program engages MAN employees with unique mentoring experiences in order to experience the innovative power of social business within their industry. So far, what are the changes you have seen?
The biggest beauty about the Accelerator program is that it brings immediate change. Besides the tremendous progress our startups already made in finding solutions to their most pressing growth challenges, our mentors have naturally become our biggest program and brand ambassadors. That is how the Accelerator team has grown by twelve new members within only four months and our voice has become louder. We’re now present not only with the 36.000 employees of MAN world-wide but also have managed to grow our network with external innovation partners tremendously. What I personally am especially proud of is that the most innovative companies in the world, e.g. Google, Amazon and Uber, have decided to come work with us because they were convinced by our vision of scaling social impact by mentoring the best impact businesses in transport and logistics. Only with the help of a clear vision and our completely new take on corporate social responsibility, we’ve managed to become a role-model for corporates in creating and scaling sustainable social impact.
What changes is the accelerator program doing at MAN in terms of “changing mindsets”?
The program brings together professionals from various different cultural and economic backgrounds to fulfill a common mission while working their ways through four widely different ecosystems together. This broad variance of ecosystems, professionals and their perspectives and personalities, has a very positive effect on our company culture: it makes us open our minds to all kinds of new stories around the world and the transport and logistics ecosystem.
Also, we find one of the most striking variables in professional and personal happiness – and therefore a strong company culture - to be knowing what the purpose and impact of one’s own work is. Our mentors, together with the startups, take a whole day right at the beginning of a program batch to reflect on their purpose. This strengthens not only the founders but also the involved MAN team to know that they’ve chosen the right employer to work with. That to me seems like the perfect fuel to a healthy company culture!
Another change factor lies in the experience of true entrepreneurial spirit. Whereas a corporate career provides stability and clarity, a founder career requires full flexibility and constant adjustments to major strategic changes. This clash of (company) cultures is a healthy experience of its own for both parties and helps the mentors rediscover their own entrepreneurial spirit.
Another simple but important component for mindset change is experiencing new ways of working: with the startups we naturally slide into agile work models, “zero hierarchy” approaches and the use of new collaboration tools. Whereas within your given corporate structures these methods and tools sometimes seem hard to implement, in the Accelerator they come into practice very naturally.
How does YSB bring strategic advantages to help the social businesses grow their impact?
Whereas MAN brings in more than 260 years of transport and mobility expertise to complement the startups, YSB provides a solid strategic framework for creating sustainable growth for social businesses. Our Accelerator is structured around specific growth fields and helps the startups not only to unveil their hidden challenges but also tackle them with the help of extremely experienced mentors. YSB provides our startups with access to a wide mentor network with some of the most successful social entrepreneurs of the world to learn from. Besides their strong connections towards social entrepreneurs YSB as a social investor has extremely valuable insights and access to the social impact investment scene world-wide and knows which investors our social businesses should work with.
Visit our Corporate Innovation website to find out more about how we help socially responsible companies and corporations realise their vision of social innovation through social business. We have worked with various corporations to build corporate social businesses or collaborate with social entrepreneurs to solve social problems in a large-scale way.