Our site visit for today was at NESsT and met and talked with Peter Varga who is the Senior Manager of the Central and Eastern European division of the organization. NESsT stands for Non-profit Enterprise and Self-sustainability Team which does not support a single cause, but instead helps and supports a variety of organizations with a tantamount cause diversity. They combine venture philanthropy with consulting services and training workshops through their NESsT Venture Fund, Consulting and University services.
This was an interesting organization because unlike the others which we visited, their support of other organizations means that their mission is much different and as such, Peter offered a very different viewpoint in terms of Social Enterprise and the NGO sector. Similarly, we had a guest speaker, Scsaurszki Tamás, who came in to talk to us about 2 weeks back and he was a freelance consultant. It was quite interesting to learn about his work because one of the first thoughts that popped into my mind as we started learning more about the NGO sector was whether or not there were NGO consultants since a lot of the reasons why good ideas go under is because there is so much that these people who have creative ideas don't know about keeping an organization sustainable and moving forward from it just being a hobby.
NESsT and Tamás are similar in that they work with various NGOs in different countries, gaining context and using information to act as a catalyst. With Scsaurszki Tamás, we were introduced to NGO work in the corporate sector and the idea of "Social Economy", which tries to combine social and financial groups. (Think financial institutions in the social community), as well as the area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in terms of corporations, often used for reasons which are not altruistic.
Of course, Tamás only worked with smaller organizations and only in Hungary and Poland. NESsT focuses on organizations in emerging market countries including Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia as well as countries in South America including Chile and Brasil. The organization aims for helping the fresh, young civil society with undeveloped local philanthropy and it divides its venture philanthropy into Financial, Intellectual, and Social divisions. Financial includes multi-year financial support by keeping the organization sustainable and straying away from dependence of donors but through other outlets. Intellectual refers to mentoring, advisory and coaching for social enterprise. NESsT contributes to this through many different mediums, such as workshops as mentioned earlier, but also through conferences and forums, such as the Social Enterprise day they hold annually. Finally, Social refers to networking both among organizations and other parties such as pro-bono advisers.
Peter ran through much of the philosophy, mission and portfolio of the organization and focused a lot on how they choose what organizations to help and how they contribute to the development and expansion (if desired) of those organizations. They try to find organizations which are stable in many aspects such as leadership, structure and management, and of course, have a great idea, generating a commercial product which helps contribute to diversify their portfolio.
It was most interesting to hear from him because many of our other speakers and site visits often showcased people who were passionate in a specific cause, whether its helping disabled or disadvantaged children, or helping a discriminated against minority to integrate and have a higher quality of life in the current society, NESsT and Peter were passionate about helping organizations help others.