Understanding privilege as an opportunity

Olivier joined our 2nd Capability Program in Cambodia 6 years ago. Back then, he was part of Swiss Re. He has always been interested in social entrepreneurship, and when his company gave the opportunity to be part of a CAP program, Olivier saw a chance to combine his interest and his civilian service. After the program, he studied social entrepreneurship and founded his own social enterprise.

Olivier (right) with Sokhan Khut, Country Manager for Cambodia


His motivation to join BOOKBRIDGE was complete when he met Carsten: “He is a great person and was able to explain what he wanted to achieve, and I was able to identify with their [BOOKBRIDGE´s] mission.”


Once in the CAP program, he identified a challenge for BOOKBRIDGE: he was worried about the impact of the projects in the country, “to make sure the learning centers work in a sustainable way”. Olivier had a great, open discussion with Carsten back then, and he appreciates how things developed. “I like the approach that BOOKBRIDGE takes care of the learning centers, and you can look at the impact of both the learning centers and the Capability Programs.”


Olivier now works in a social enterprise and recognizes the challenge. “You need to make money, but you also have responsibility for the impact you're creating and keeping track of that. Big challenge!”


He appreciates that Carsten and the BOOKBRIDGE team take feedback seriously, that they are willing to listen, to learn and improve, while also being pragmatic. “When working with non-profits you are always open to criticism," says Olivier. "If you are a CEO of another company, of course you make millions, no one questions that; but if you generate revenue at a non-profit you will get a lot more scrutiny. I've always felt Carsten was willing to listen, and so was everyone in BOOKBRIDGE.”


Olivier considers the learning centers to be the most relevant contribution BOOKBRIDGE has made to the community, citing “the biggest impact, the shared community space, something nice that the kids enjoy, a playground where they can play games and be silly, and be in touch with foreigners”. BOOKBRIDGE, says Olivier, also provides jobs to teachers and to the community.

Children in the learning center of Angtasom, which was founded thanks to the help of Olivier and the team of the 2nd Capability Program.


The Capability Program had a great impact on Olivier. “I wasn't the usual CAP participant who went back home after 2 weeks. I stayed 5 months, so from many perspectives, that was going to leave a bigger mark on me.” Olivier was able to reflect on his life and on his privileges growing up. And after this realization, he made a decision.


“Going from Switzerland to San Francisco to study social entrepreneurship and build my own company… people think it's a crazy thing to do, and it's risky. I did it because I realized what risk is and understood the opportunities given to someone who has privilege.” And the impact is reflected in one sentence – “The biggest eye opener: understanding privilege as an opportunity.”


Looking at the future, Olivier expects BOOKBRIDGE to keep on being a “bridge between people like me and communities”, and to develop successful CAPs that help people understand that privilege is an opportunity, to make the best of it and to create impact. “The world needs more responsible leaders. If you go through the CAP you are able to make a big leap and bring that back into your organization, and that is a great impact.”


For his part, Olivier is pushing ahead with his social enterprise, AtlasGO, a fitness app that aids companies with employee engagement, helps non-profits to fundraise and to create awareness and exercise for causes, so that users (whom he calls “sweaty changemakers”) “also learn something about the cause they're doing it for”.


Olivier sums it up: “What I want is to not forget why I am doing it. It is easy to forget when you have the pressure of investors, of selling and creating revenue… I want to keep that up while staying true to myself, and I'm very grateful for my journey.”


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

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