Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, guys! It’s Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist back with the scoop on terrestrial entrepreneurs making a difference on Planet Earth! Today, I’m excited to be joined by Isabelle Swiderski, the founder of Seven25 and Protagoniste Network. Let’s see what she’s doing to have a positive impact.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Isabelle! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?
Isabelle: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! In our world, there are lots of complex problems but also a lot of really motivated, talented folks who want to tackle those problems. My work is focused on finding connections and resources that make it easier for people to develop solutions that make lives better—including their own.
Spiffy: What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Isabelle: One of life’s great questions: What makes us feel belonging and self-worth? I think we all simply want to find our place in the world. When I see people leverage their skill sets to have an impact in the world and a life they enjoy, it keeps me hopeful that we can continue to do better, especially by seeing and supporting each other actively.
Spiffy: How are you and your teams at Seven25 and Protagoniste Network working towards a more equitable world?
Isabelle: Well, I spent a long time pretending that money didn't rule the world. I'm learning that a more constructive approach is to understand how it flows and to create shared value, so that folks who have been systematically marginalized can access resources and support in order to realize their dreams and full potential. I work on building bridges between those who have money to invest and folks who need money to move forward in larger ways.
Spiffy: Very cool! Tell me about a recent milestone by you all. What impact does that make?
Isabelle: We just ran the first cohort of SALTO, our global social entrepreneurship design program. It ran for eight weeks with nine founders from seven different countries. One founder subsequently won a $13,000 prize to support the growth of her social enterprise startup in Peru.
Spiffy: Congrats on that achievement! Tell me about a startup or project you’ve worked with that exemplifies the impact you’re striving to make.
Isabelle: Diana Castadena's project in Peru that I previously mentioned is called El Equipo de Todos. It connects employees of corporations with social impact challenges they can tackle as a group, so that they feel a sense of purpose, achievement, as well as a connection to each other and the overall well-being of their country. It's kind of like a gamified platform to support good citizens. I love how it connects so many components: our life at work, our desire to give back, and our need for belonging. It also merges the power of a corporation's financial means and engagement with the social power and actions of individuals. That's amazing.
Spiffy: Awesome! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Isabelle: Technology, whether as a tool for storytelling or as the main component of an initiative or company, makes this one of the best times to be an entrepreneur. If you're ready to make change in the world, don't wait: talk to others and get it going. We can't wait for someone else to save us.
Spiffy: Thanks again for speaking with me today, Isabelle—it’s been an honor!
Isabelle Swiderski founded her design-for-impact agency Seven25 in 2007 to help values-driven organizations leverage the power of human-centered design and storytelling. Marrying an MBA with an MA in Design, Isabelle taught at Emily Carr University for over a decade. She facilitates systems-change, social justice, and innovation work in partnership with NGOs, universities, governments, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem-builders globally in three languages. (Nominated by Archana Shah. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 10, 2022.)