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"The program drastically improved my courage"

Originally from South Africa, Marnus works for SwissRe in the UK. Always having been enthusiastic about the idea of social entrepreneurship, Marnus became co-founder of a social enterprise in our 14th Capability Program. This experience helped him to get to a new level in his professional environment.

Marnus presenting the business plan during the Capability Program.

Marnus, tell us 3 facts that people should know about you!

  • I really enjoy travelling, but more so, trying to immerse myself in a culture and learn about what is important to the people of that culture.

  • I prefer experiences above things and strive to live a simpler life (although it's not always as easy).

  • I used to be in a punk/metal band when I was younger :)

Why did you decide to participate in the Capability Program?

In 2017, I spent a lot of time thinking about what "legacy" we leave to the next generations. Having kids is one way to leave a legacy and carry over some of your own thoughts, dreams and ideals. My wife and I aren't planning to have kids any time soon, so that left me thinking about what I will leave behind after I'm gone.

Around that time, a friend bought me a book by Mohammad Yunus called Social Business. In this book, Mohammad Yunus describes a new type of capitalism, where we not only consider monetary returns but also social returns when looking at business. The concept of a Social Business or Social Enterprise stuck with me, and I was looking desperately for somewhere where I can test this idea or get involved with something similar.

Then, in 2018, my employer sent out an invitation to get involved with the BOOKBRIDGE Capability Program to do exactly this: develop and launch a social business in Mongolia. I jumped at the opportunity to learn something new with the hope of also applying my skills to contribute to society, even if just a little in a faraway place!

Marnus (center background) celebrating the opening of the learning center with the local community.

What do you remember as a highlight of the program?

It's difficult to pinpoint one moment of the program that stands out above all the rest. I think what was most memorable, is the journey that we as a team went through, and how each of us developed as a person and a professional.

By the third module, I couldn't believe that our group met for the first time only a few months before. Everyone knew exactly where they fit in, what their role is and how to utilize the strengths presented in the rest of the team.

What impact has BOOKBRIDGE had on your private and professional life?

I think the area the Capability Program developed me most is around leadership and confidence in my abilities.

The one leadership skill that I would say has drastically improved is my courage. In everyday life, whether work or personal, we are put in situations where we need to demonstrate courage. At work, it often manifests where you need to voice the unpopular opinion or put the organisation/ team ahead of your own ambitions, like admitting when you have made a mistake.

Since I have been able to demonstrate this key leadership skill, my manager started trusting me more in leading projects or conversations and taking over his responsibilities and authority when he is on holiday.

Apart from having the trust of your manager, leadership also requires trust from your teammates; that same courage I spoke about before also shows our human aspects, which is the only way to build that trust with your peers.

During the program, Marnus (second from left, last row) improved his leadership skills.

What happened with your original plan of “leaving a legacy”? Did the program have any impact in this respect?

YES! I believe in the power of social enterprises more than ever now. I also decided to put my money where my mouth is and invest in BOOKBRIDGE’s Social Business Fund with the hope of expanding the reach of its projects. Although I don’t have active projects that I'm involved with at the moment, I am helping my wife with her projects, which involve creating an online platform for people to do good deeds and help each other.

I really enjoy seeing how these types of projects can make a difference in people's lives; the benefit really starts with the project owners/ participants and then extends beyond the customers/ beneficiaries to also the families of those who receive support. I'm super excited to see where I can get more involved with my community and use the skills that I have to make a positive contribution.

Thank you Marnus for sharing your experience and your learnings with us. We are proud that you are part of our BOOKBRIDGE Family!


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