Interview with Naomi Ryland from The Changer

On Wednesday the 18th of May Aspire joined the first Changer Hangout in Vienna. Naomi Ryland, co-founder of, was here to present the leading organization in Germany in facilitating a social impact career. Now that our first Meet Up #1 is getting closer (Thursday the 23rd of June, save the date in your calendars), it’s time to present our interview with Naomi, in which she tells us her journey FROM ASPIRATION TO ACTION.

Naomi-Ryland

This inspiring story, as many others, starts at university.

“I had the clear goal of a proper career in a bank, as management consultant or something like that. I decided to study German because not many people in the UK speak it and it would give me a competitive advantage. As part of the study program I had to spend a year in Germany, so I chose Berlin. That was really eye-opening for me. I discovered a new world where not everybody was focused in a career path with the direction of just making money, but they had different values and expectations. Back in the UK, I took part in a mentoring program for refugees in Nottingham. There I met a refugee woman from Iraq with the same age as me and I thought that it was only the situation in which we were born what made our lives completely different. I realized, in that kind of injustice, how fortunate I was; I decided that I wanted to use my career to try to overcome that injustice. My priority shifted from being focused about money and success to having a positive social impact.”

That was 2007 and the seed was planted, something was about to happen.

“After finishing my degree program I tried to look for opportunities in my area but it was pretty clueless. I started working in development and fundraising, as it was something easy to get into. I realized that social impact was just a part for a meaningful career, so I started exploring other opportunities to try to figure out what was going to make me happy in my career. That’s how I discovered social entrepreneurship: that had the social impact side of things, but also the business one, also with the possibility of being self-managed.  Researching about it I saw that other people had similar troubles finding a social career that were meaningful and with a social impact. After talking a lot with some friends who had experienced the same problems, we had the first idea of doing something like this when we were still in our masters programs.”

This was in 2011, the ideas were accumulating, and in 2013 they really started taking shape. They were about to take action.

“The push there was realizing that we were not very happy in our jobs and that things were not going to get better if we don’t take that step, but it was also having a network around us of people taking that jump as well. We found support in the Berlin startup ecosystem, with people who had dared to start their own thing, so we had the information; in particular for a funding program that we were eligible for and that was the final step to quit our jobs.”

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The Changer was on. Lots of hard work were still to come, but also lots of successful stories.

And behind the stories that The Changer helped to make possible, we also find this one. And it’s actually its normality -an eye-opening experience, some empathy, teamwork, a bit of expert support and a lot of work- what makes it extraordinary. And most of all: inspiring.

It’s not so hard to find your way from aspiration to action. Organizations like The Changer are there to help. And of course, to learn more about these challenging and beautiful journeys, the Aspire Meetup #1 – From Aspiration to Action.

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