Daniela Soares | The Impetus Trust


I am one of these people who, if change doesn’t happen often enough, make it happen

The more inner stability one has, the better one’s ability to cope with change, which is not only inevitable, but often, escapes our control.  I believe change is good – it exposes and challenges our comfort zones, inviting us to grow.

I try to keep a vision of success in my head, and however challenging or hard the process is, I “keep my eyes on the prize”, which in my case is helping more poor people to work their way out of disadvantage. Change is much easier when you believe passionately in what you are trying to achieve.

When I was working in private equity (which some people perceive to be a very male dominated industry), passion did not play as big a role in my working practices as it does now.

Still, I held the same values I now hold: do your job well, do it with integrity and do it with respect for others. To have clarity about one’s inner values helps to deal with external change, as you are ‘standing on solid ground’. Now, having been in the charitable sector for nearly seven years, I have come to see how powerful passion and vision can be in inspiring and driving change, and I encourage everyone to deploy them more often.

What change do you bring about and how are you doing it?

I am one of these people who, if change doesn’t happen often enough, make it happen. One of the biggest changes I have made was to leave a successful career in private equity to fulfill my vision.  My vision is of a world free from injustice.  I believe the social sector has a major part to play in achieving this vision, hence my total dedication to this area, personally and professionally.

The non-profit sector is worth US$1 trillion globally – and yet the social change we see happening seems proportionately low. My aim is to help the sector work better, to give the sector the right conditions to operate the social change and impact we all would like to see happening. In order to do that, the sector needs funding, expertise and voice. We need all the stakeholders collaborating and pulling in the same direction. And this is what The Impetus Trust is all about.

With that aim, at Impetus a lot has changed since I became Chief Executive: in order to achieve greater impact, we changed the composition of the team, changed strategy to focus more specifically on providing support for critical interventions aiming to break the vicious cycle of social and economic disadvantage, and changed the Board.  We also significantly grew the number of charities we support in our portfolio, from 5 to 19 and are on course to triple the number of charities we are actively working with over the next 3 years. Most importantly, we are now helping over 250,000 people every year to break the cycle of poverty that has often existed in their families for generations. And we do that efficiently and effectively: for each £1 we have donated to charities, the charities have received nearly £5 of value through co-funding and pro bono support.

During my tenure, Impetus has gone from £1.2m in income to c.£3.9m this year. We have received numerous awards, including the ‘Oscar’ of the charity world in the UK: the Times Charity Award. I also was selected by the Independent on Sunday’s “Happy List” as one of the 100 people who make Britain a better place to live.

My secrets for making change happen are:

I) Courage. Life is short. Live boldly and live according to your values.

II) Model the behaviour you want from others.

III) Paint the picture of what success will look like, over and over; this will inspire others when the change process gets tough.

IV) Recognise success constantly. Both big and little. Change can be hard, and people need encouragement all along the journey.

V) Find mentors. I have two mentors now, helping me with different aspects of my work. They encourage me to improve my style and working practices, and support me to implement change.

What networks work best for you?

I find my Harvard Business School network extremely useful. Most of us have known each other since quite early in our careers, and are happy to support each other.

Which female social innovator would you particularly recommend our readers to look at/be inspired from?

I have always been very inspired by Zilda Arns, who was the founder of a charity called Pastoral da Criança

Mrs Arns was the founder and president of "Pastoral da Criança", an organisation that empowers (mainly) women to go door to door, travelling to some of the remotest areas in Brazil and other South American countries to fight malnutrition and infant mortality. Mrs Arns was short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, as her initiative achieved a 50% reduction in infant mortality rates. Her organisation, Pastoral is present in 42,000 Brazilian communities, with 260,000 trained volunteers attending to 1.8 million children under the age of six every year. In those communities, the infant mortality rate is 11 per 1,000 births; in Brazil overall it is 22.5. Sadly, she was killed in the Haiti earthquake. I wrote a article for the Guardian about her and why she impresses me. http://www.guardianpublic.co.uk/impetus-succession-planning-voluntary-sector


Daniela Soares is the Chief Executive of the Impetus Trust


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