Community | SEWF Events

Every talent deserves an opportunity to shine – Thami Schweichler

by Mirabelle Morah / July 2023

Thami Schweichler has a background in social entrepreneurship and product design. Before founding Makers Unite (the Netherlands), Thami worked on the development of Kibo Africa, a social venture that provides moto-taxi service systems and products in Kenya. We caught up with Thami in this interview to understand how he measures success, his strategies for getting support for his social enterprises as well as how he keeps himself motivated. Thami will also be speaking at this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF23).

From Makers Unite to United Repair Centre and Kibo Africa, what is the story behind your drive to create businesses that help people? 

Every person has a talent and every talent deserves an opportunity to shine. My motivation has always been found in people’s resilience and stories of change. From the innate entrepreneurial drive of Kenyans, to newcomers, overcoming all challenges and restarting their lives in a new country. I feel connected to where I come from – Brazil – where social injustice is extreme. Throughout my youth and early professional years, I’ve always been driven by the purpose of using my work to try and make the world more equal. I also understand that we need bold commercial models of social innovation to sustain impact over time. And this brought me into social entrepreneurship.

United Repair Centre
United Repair Centre

That’s powerful. And what metrics do you use in measuring your social enterprises’ impact and success rate?

At Makers Unite and United Repair Centre, we have frameworks to measure both the environmental and social impact we create. We have over 30 indicators connected to different Sustainable Development Goals at our work.

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On the material side, we connect our production to the ‘hard’ metrics such as kilos of upcycled fabric, or the total number of repaired items. This is later connected to the consequences such as CO2 emission and water savings. Our social impact metrics are based on key performance indicators (KPIs) from the total number of our employees’ welfare, all the way to other ‘soft’ measurements. Those are more abstract, such as our employees’ happiness level and the sense of belonging they feel. We monitor these indicators on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the case. All the insights are consolidated in our impact reports for stakeholders.

What’s a unique approach or strategy you’ve used to encourage more people to see your vision for change and support you?

Every day I am inspired to see how different businesses can pivot their model based on the impact they make. There are two lessons that really helped us in shaping our strategy over time. The first was in setting clear, achievable steps based on our theory of change; understanding how our present actions can lead to systemic change over time. Secondly and connected to this, is the ‘unit economics’ of our impact model. This means that for every unit of impact we measure (such as the number of participants benefiting from our programmes), we also look at how much investment we need in order to achieve our impact goals.

Being a creative changemaker is not easy, so what are some of the things you do outside work that help to re-energise and motivate you?

True, it’s not easy. Being passionate about your purpose and making a living out of it can easily push you beyond your boundaries. We need a lot of persistence and very intense ‘Yang’ energy to grow and evolve. I try working as much as possible on my ‘Ying’ to find balance. Yoga, meditation and being in nature are my groundwork. They help me find the calm and focus needed to perceive and sense the changes and challenges we go through as an organisation. But if I could do only one thing to re-energise myself, it would be to breathe.

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Improving the economy and putting people and the planet first are some of the focuses at this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF23). Come join Thami and thousands of changemakers to find out how you too can be part of those creating better and more sustainable business practices in the Netherlands and across the world.

Mirabelle Morah is the community and communications manager at SEWF