Impulsa Foundation: A Story of Pro Bono Consulting, by Mercedes Segura (Lic&MBA ‘90)
This is a story about Pro Bono Consultants who worked for the Impulsa Foundation, told from the perspective of the foundation’s staff and the volunteers themselves. It forms part of a collection of stories written by Esade Alumni Social alumni. Mercedes Segura (Lic&MBA ‘90) interviews Alejandra Manau, Executive Director of the Impulsa Foundation, and Tania Nadal (LIS MAD ‘20) and Julio Alonso (Lic&MBA ‘86), pro bono consultants who worked on the project.
Advancing towards a fairer and more cohesive society
The organisation was founded in 2015. They are young. They have awarded scholarships to students for six years now. Their work involves developing a regional network of young people and their families, companies, mentors, organisations, educational centres and institutions. They provide guidance to talented young people who find themselves in difficult economic circumstances, offer them scholarships for vocational training and give them everything they need to achieve a fulfilling future: from practical resources such as a computer to personal work sessions and, later on, employment advice. In addition, they encourage young people to get involved in the community by volunteering for social entities. Impulsa is an investment with social and economic returns. As its website states, the foundation aims to advance towards a fairer and more cohesive society.
To learn first-hand about the work done by our pro bono consultants, I spoke with Impulsa’s executive director, Alejandra Manau, and two Esade Alumni Pro Bono Consultants working for the foundation: Tania Nadal, an ambassador for Sabadell Impulsa, and Julio Alonso.
What was most striking was the rapid and effective growth of momentum, indicating great energy in motion, with a drive to make a difference and a team of talented people eager to build a better world. This momentum rubs off on the consultants collaborating on the project – or anyone else who comes along, including me.
A second surprise was the numbers, which speak for themselves. They have awarded 156 scholarships this year and plan to increase this figure to 220 next year – i.e. 41% more. The absolute figures are limited by their budget, but the percentage growth is dizzying. The recipients of these scholarships are young people from families with an average annual income of €3,999 per family member – and this is in Spain, not some remote country in the southern hemisphere. These are people with significant needs who live right here among us. Without these scholarships, studying would be totally unthinkable for these young people; in the best-case scenario, they would only be able to aspire to low-skilled jobs offering scarce possibilities for personal and professional growth. Another exciting figure is the success rate. In Spain as a whole, 50% of vocational training students complete their studies, whereas Impulsa’s success rate is 90%. They are proud that both the selection of the scholarship recipients and the follow-up by Impulsa mentors are so accurate and professional. Better yet, 70% of the scholarship recipients find a job in their field in under six months. What’s more, after working for a while, some of them decide to continue their education by pursuing a higher degree. None of these young people would have studied or continued their education without the foundation’s help.
They are able to do so thanks to a strong engine of people with initiative, drive and an iron will to ensure equal opportunities. Their method comprises six areas of action designed to guarantee that various cases of need are covered: vocational training, mentoring, opportunities, entrepreneurship, social volunteering and life (for basic needs).
The drive and talent of the Impulsa team comprise the main force behind an organisation growing at dizzying speed
Consultancy project: rethinking the Impulsa Foundation
Impulsa sought the help of Esade Alumni Social with a quadruple challenge:
● Review all the components of the foundation’s strategy: mission, vision and values.
● Analyse growth at the regional level and gauge it properly.
● Digitalisation process.
● Guide for the governance of the foundation.
This was a very ambitious and wide-ranging project that required a lot of dedication. But from the very first meetings, Alejandra and her team were struck by the professionalism and motivation of the Esade consultants. They started with twelve volunteers – later eight – who from the outset “were organised and set an agenda that they respected, and that encouraged us to follow them”, commented Alejandra. The consultants noted that they work very well as a team; despite their diversity of age and experience, they complement each other, respect each other and enjoy working together.
My intention is not to describe the project in great detail. Alejandra tells me they are very happy with the first part of the project, the review of the foundation’s strategy. As for the digitalisation portion of the project, they already see that this phase will be very useful to them, as the advice and proposals they have received are concrete and perfectly actionable. The issues tackled include designing an intranet so that students and mentors can access information or proposals to improve the efficiency of their use of digital tools. “Looks good, doesn’t it?” I say with a laugh. Her reply: “Yes, yes, it’s looking good.”
Experience: the energy that multiplies
My intention is to highlight not only the tasks performed but also the mark left by the consultants and the multiplier effect they have wherever they plant their seed. What amazes me the most about what I have discovered from talking to them is the number of tangible and intangible collateral benefits that this project will have at various levels. The multiplier effect of a job well done and interaction among skilled people, motivated by a just cause, makes for something magical and unique.
On the one hand, you have the consultants, with their desire to change things and ask pertinent questions, which has a motivational effect on the client. Alejandra excitedly tells me that, in response to Esade’s simple request “Give us a SWOT”, she held a very enriching meeting with her team, where they engaged in an unprecedented internal reflection process. On the other hand, I discovered that the team’s SWOT activated the trustees, who at first had not been entirely solicitous of our consultants. The team’s reactions to a proposal from Esade prompted the trustees to get involved and share their vision.
The multiplier effect of a job well done and interaction among skilled people makes for something magical
The relationship between consultants and client was so good and fluid that, over the course of the project, other unfinished business came up that the consultants were able to help with, such as the registration of the Impulsa trademark.
As for the internal operation of the consulting team, Tania and Julio confessed that even the two of them – the most senior members of the team, both experienced enough to successfully perform this sort of consulting work – have learned things from their younger teammates, especially with regard to digital tools. Once again, the multiplier effect. The client is not the only one who learns.
These are just some of the tangible examples I have been able to uncover during my brief interaction with the two teams. What fascinates me most is the human impulse, the generosity, the kindness, the openness, the willingness to change things and improve society. Alejandra puts it bluntly. “They listen to us affectionately,” she said, referring to the tone of the consultants. She recalls meetings at 7.00 pm, exhausted after a long day’s work… But then she would see the consultants, a breath of fresh air, eager to help – and the hour would fly by. “It is very motivating that they – external people – see all the sense in the world in our project.”
In our phone conversation, Tania and Julio exuded all their energy and capacity for action. I admire their humility, the enthusiasm with which they tell me everything they have learned and how much this work motivates them. Tania is an ambassador for Impulsa in Sabadell. She acknowledges that working from the outside has given her a very different vision of the foundation. Julio, a social consultant at Stone Soup Consulting, expressed how gratifying it is to do what you know how to do, because you are convinced that you can help – and, moreover, to do it with a team that you connect with.
All this, without ever having met in person! Let’s not forget that this project has taken place in the middle of the pandemic, so they have never met face to face. All of the work has been done via online meetings. This, of course, is a source of frustrations, such as not being able to meet the young scholarship recipients. Julio compared this, regretfully, to his previous projects: “The first year, I was assigned to Obert Rialles in Santa Coloma de Gramanet. Working with children was a unique experience. Since then, I’ve come back every year. In the three years I’ve been doing this, I’ve always visited the organisations and talked to the children,” he explained.
Writing these lines, I remember why I wanted to become a pro bono consultant in the first place. The enthusiasm of Tania and Julio, all the energy I feel when I listen to them, all that talent in action, that desire to contribute – that’s the impetus that dives the consultants, the foundation’s team, the trustees, the scholarship recipients, their families… and even the author of this humble text. It is an impetus that generates so much more than the consulting project itself. The human relationships of the consultants with each other, and with the foundation, generate new yearnings, new hopes, new dreams.
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