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  • Writer's pictureNeža Krek



Chantal Inen is an award-winning social entrepreneur, theatre artist, and presenter. She founded The Punchy Pack 11 years ago and received multiple awards for her work, one of which is the top 50 talents of 2018 of the Dutch Financial Times. Next to running her company she correctly performed Mata Hari. She and her team developed a program called Partnership Academy, where corporate leaders and young teams receive workshops, coaching, and lectures from industry leaders to create social and sustainable micro revolutions.

They transform international challenges with water, food, climate, sanitation, and health care into viable business opportunities. I've been working with Chantal Inen and her team for several years as a facilitator. And I've been always fascinated by her resilience, creativity, and commitment to making an impact through the Partnership Academy. I consider her a very effective entrepreneurial educator, but she calls herself something else.

So I was very happy to have a chat with her to see what we can learn for the future of adult education from a savvy business owner with a big heart.

Neža Krek: If you go back to the time that you studied, what were the things that you thought could be done differently?

Chantal Inen: I would love to see a different type of education for myself and the people around me. I realized this when I was already in secondary school. During class, I was always moving. I'm a dancer and I like to move around. My teacher always said that I couldn't concentrate and that I should sit still in my chair. But I just couldn't do that for 8 hours. I wish that I would have had the opportunity to explore more of my creativity like painting, drawing, and dancing. To have the body, mind, and soul incorporated.

Neža Krek: You're working with people who come out of their education straight into the corporate world. What do you see that's not working and serving our future?

Chantal Inen: In general, we see the same education through secondary school, high school, university, and so on. We all get the same kind of schooling and we are also used to that. We are not reflecting on what makes us happy or moving. We do not learn who we are or about our values.

After my studies, I did an internship at a big company and I started to adapt myself to a certain culture. It's always good to be able to adapt, but also to know who you are. For me, it would be nice to see more authenticity. We adapt to the way people behave, thought processes, and working processes which makes us think the same way. This doesn't contribute to diversity and creativity.

This frustrates me because I think people have a lot of potential to create and move when they feel what their drivers are. Our potential stays hidden in the shadows. If we as a society want to move forward, we will need a lot of this authenticity.

Neža Krek: Was that something that you were pursuing? Because you started your company straight off the bat. What was the thing that drove you to do this?

Chantal Inen: I think my drive was based on something I longed for, but also some frustration. I studied International Business at the University of Maastricht and Amsterdam. I wanted to be creative, and if I want to do something and have an idea - I do it.

During one internship I learned that implementing things takes a lot of time. You have to ask what people think of it, get approval, a budget, and all these types of things. That frustrated me. And I thought “I am from an entrepreneurial family, I don't have a lot to lose, let's do it.” I wanted to create an impact on society because I saw how nature was doing. I wanted to make a change in sustainability. Later on, it became broader with a more social aspect.

My biggest drive is that I come from a very multicultural background with a lot of stories from my parents and grandparents. All about strong people who managed to break barriers and oppression. Equality is very important to me. Equality between people and also between people and nature. I wanted to create a positive impact.

Neža Krek: How did you start? Why? Why involve the Ministry of Internal Affairs? Why get corporations to work with you, not just NGOs? Why all of this diversity?

Chantal Inen: It started with this drive and the idea that I wanted to make a change. I saw that a lot of people worked in companies that wanted to be more of meaning. I wanted to do something about that. I had a clear idea of what I wanted, I started doing more research, reading about these topics, and talking to people. I started to pick up the phone and search on Linkedin for people that I already knew from my studies.

Then I also organized these brainstorms at home, where I asked my friends to come over for pizza night and invited them to brainstorm with me. That made me go one step further. I already had a bit of a network but needed more people to join me. I found this great professor of theatre from the Rotterdam School of Management. I already had read some cool articles about him and wanted to meet him because he was really into sustainability and partnerships. So I asked myself: “how do I connect with him?”

I sent him a couple of emails and he didn't react as he was very busy. I saw that he was opening a workshop where you could subscribe and join. So I did that. During the workshop, I introduced myself and gave him my card. This is one of the examples where I just reached out to people who liked my idea, which was: to have companies create socio-ecological impact projects together with knowledge institutions and governments and NGOs, and then have different generations in the organizations and especially focused on young professionals have them using their creativity to think about solutions with support from higher up.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs joined because they liked the idea. And more partners followed. Now I've been working with like hundreds of young professionals, but also more senior leveled people in companies. Creating all these effects projects. It was a long journey.

It started with one event and now I build a whole Academy, which is eight months with different workshops, coaching experts, and some great events. Here I use different methods that I learned myself when I did my studies. After business school, I also studied at theatre school and I did transformational yoga.

Neža Krek: So why partnerships? Why are the partnerships the core of what your work is revolving? What is the quality of partnerships that you find so important for the future and the impact that you want to create in this world?

Chantal Inen: There are so many issues in society that we cannot solve alone, as one organization or one person. It can be initiated by one organization or person, but we have to work together because we need different kinds of expertise. As humans, we believe we can solve anything and that we rule the world. But I think we can be a little bit more open towards other people and organizations who have certain kinds of knowledge that can help us to create new solutions.

I see organizations as a group of people who have a passion. I would say for their work, or the topics they're working on. If you bring that together, then we will try to create the best solutions. It also gives us an idea of this interdependence, which we often tend to forget about.

Neža Krek: Do you have an A favorite impact case, so that the listeners can understand?

Impact cases are projects that groups of people in corporations create to improve a process or bring a new product into the market within what that company is already doing.

Chantal Inen: There's a project from last year with an insurance company. They saw that 600.000 children in The Netherlands lack dental care. They don't go to the dentist because they believe it costs money. This is usually in certain areas in The Netherlands where parents are not aware that they can go to the dentist and that it's free for their children as well.

Together with a group of young professionals and with the support of the more senior level, they went into these neighborhoods and started talking to all these children. That's how we found out what the problem was. The insurance company started to work with the municipality of Amsterdam and some dentist organizations to start educating children to take care of their teeth and to go to the dentist.

They started to work with product development companies like Philips since they provide people with good toothbrushes. That's a great example of how you can work together with different organizations. The municipality of Amsterdam helped them to reach out to different schools, Philips was providing them with the right toothbrushes and the dentist took care of the good education. This was great for the insurance company because if children take good care of their teeth there are fewer insurance costs in the long term.

Neža Krek: Can you tell me what are the didactics behind your work?

Chantal Inen: I have three pillars.

  1. The first one is how I see people.

I see people that want to create a positive change and who want to be of meaning. See their potential, talents, and qualities together with their drive.

2. The second pillar is based on input from nature.

To be inspired by nature and to use creativity, be inspired by theatre. To be inspired and to reflect. That helps to feel your body. If you look at art, for example, it works around nature. You might not have the answers yet but it guides you to find the answers yourself.

3. The third pillar is to like doing.

We give everyone certain assignments. They go out and create micro revolutions. Reaching out to people and asking for help. And step by step do these things that are slightly different than what you are used to.

I also have a couple of mentors, and one said “it's to broaden your comfort zone. So it's not stepping out of your comfort zone, but broadening your comfort zone.” I really like that.

Neža Krek: I was always somewhat against this, “you need to go out of your comfort zone” because I believe that there are so many people who think that that's what they need to do. And then they burn out. There's nothing wrong with comfort, as long as you are always looking for growth.

Chantal Inen: Exactly, and maybe not even you. You might not even be looking for growth. You are just trying because you feel like that's what you need to do. You are making steps. The intention is the starting point.

In the end, I am very result minded, because I want to make this change. I want to make an impact. But it starts with the intention.

When I'm working with this group, the power is not so much the language and the theory, it's more about, I think who I am. And the message I want to get across through dialogues. We dance with the groups, we share stories with the groups. Who we are and what we care about. We also talk about the process of creating my company. I think it's a big part to share your own story and not just try to sell something.

Neža Krek: You have been a businesswoman for over 11 years, what is the biggest lesson that entrepreneurship brought to you?

Chantal Inen:

That you don't have to have all the answers. I have my drive and I go from there. In uncertain phases, you explore and then need to have trust and faith that you can do it.

Neža Krek: Yesterday, I finished a six-month course with teachers and students from Wageningen University. Somebody said something that reminded me of your story of micro revolutions. She said: “I thought that everything needs to be big and humongous, everything needs to be reverberating so that people will follow.

”But through this course, I realized that I can just do small steps here and there. If it's going to have a red thread, then at the end it will be my micro revolution.”

That's what got me thinking.

You're helping these people develop. So can you tell us a bit more about the concept?

Chantal Inen: I call them micro revolutions from macro resolutions. And you can call them partnership or impact projects. Micro revolutions are a nice theorem because it's a small group of people creating a movement. The idea is to start small, but you can think big. It starts with a drive and knowing that you what your values are and what's important to you.

Micro revolution is a starting point. From there you engage people, talk, and do research. From there it will grow. It's not only nice on paper, but something you start building from the start. When you start talking to people you are already creating something. In the end, the idea becomes a project with financial sustainability with a social and ecological impact.

Neža Krek: You work with all of these involving young professionals, managers, and people from organizations, very high up in hierarchies, and also in flat organizations. What's the impact that you see your work brings to the world?

Chantal Inen: What I see is that they are more connected to others and that they have more courage to try new things. Also really act to get things done and create a movement. When I was preparing for this interview I was thinking: “Isn't this what education is for? For people to create, to change and move in any way.” I have the feeling that that's beyond what we want to create if you want to be of meaning. It's beautiful to see all the different generations in these organizations as well.

We also talk about more social and ecological impacts. I would love to share two more examples of impact cases. Both are with Albert Heijn. We eat a lot of avocados in The Netherlands. It's increasing because we want more and more avocados. The supply chain and the people who produce it could be more sustainable. Some producers are in very rural areas in South Africa. What Albert Heijn did was connect them to their supply chain. It was nice for them because they could sell more avocados. At the same time, they also produced more sustainably. They became more aware of the connection with the soil and how to threat it. They also helped with education programs for their children.

This is an inspiration for a lot of supermarkets and supply chains.

Neža Krek: If you look at all the people that went through the program, what do you think they've learned?

Chantal Inen: I think what I've learned is where to find drive and spark. Even though they sometimes have the feeling of now knowing. But they keep moving on. The drive and energy are the sources.

Neža Krek: They learn how to navigate uncertainty. That's a skill they will need for life because our world is more and more uncertain. And that anxiety that people have about uncertainty can be then dealt with if they have this skill.

Chantal Inen: There are always people who want to help and can support you. We are always there for them throughout the program.

Neža Krek: You said that you don't call yourself an educator, but you call yourself different things. I see you're very much as an educator. But it's from a very different perspective because I saw that you had something that frustrated you. Through learning and relearning, recalibrating mindsets you help people to create something different. That's one of the hopes for the future of education in general. We are striving to do so through education and help children and young adults prepare for the world. However, the reality is very far from that. So thank you for your contribution.

If listeners feel inspired, what should they take a look at?

Chantal Inen: On my LinkedIn! It shows different websites and also more information about the academy.

Neža Krek: Awesome. What would you love people to reach out for?

Chantal Inen: I always look for people who resonate with what I do, and who work in big organizations. Because that's the department I work with to set up these great micro revolutions. If you have any ideas, or if you feel like you resonate, reach out!

Neža Krek: Do you have any resources or books that you think people and education should check out to be able to create their own micro revolutions?

Chantal Inen: Of course, there are all these interesting people that I love to say in books and podcasts, etc. But what is interesting is to make the things that are maybe subconscious. For example, you go to a bookshop, just take an hour, and stroll along the older bookshelves. You just see this cool book and make a picture of it. Maybe there's one that you want to buy. Let's say you make 20 pictures of the books that you find interesting.

On a subconscious level, your mind starts to create these connections. And also will tell you why you find this interesting. From there, you can do some Google. So instead of outside in, I recommend starting with what's already inside you. You can do it as well with magazines or newspapers. Just get a stack and start to circle titles or articles that you find interesting or even images.

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