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IMG_2068_modified_2.jpgDay 14/28 of our Social Sabbatical journey in Bogotá, Colombia. 12 SAP colleagues forming unique group called Bogotá STARS, further divided into 4  customer teams.
Reflections on the experiences so far from the team Fundación Capital/LittleBigMoney, that is @ZhaoFaye(China), @UlfBrackmann (Germany) & @parkkonen_janne (Finland).
Social Sabbatical – now let’s slice and dice these words a bit. The assignment is very much social especially from two angles: our assignments are with great organizations that are having big social impact in Colombian society, and we surely are social within the 12 SAP colleagues who are privileged to be thrown to this 4 weeks’ challenge. Mentioning challenge actually leads nicely to (re)-defining Sabbatical in this case: it is true that we have sabbatical from our normal day to day jobs and daily routines, however our work here is rather far from sabbatical, quite much to the contrary. This we all expected and are up to the task!
Openness – Bogota STARs arrived on Oct 4 with an open mind and heart and were ready to experience IMG_2045_modified_2.jpgColombia. We experienced the sunshine right after the storm and tried the typical Colombian food. We were warmly welcomed by our clients and they openly shared every business challenge they have been facing. Indeed a great start of the journey!
Colombia is a great country that suffers from lots of unjustified stereotypes. We are impressed by the kindness, openness and cultural variety that Colombia has to offer. Food variety is amazing in Columbia especially with regards to all kinds of fresh fruits and fruit juices. You will find them everywhere and you will even fruits that you have never tasted before.
Integration – Project duration is only four weeks which requires fast integration into the customer team, the team of the Bogota STARS as well as our little SAP project team. We had never imagined that integration between so many cultures can happen as smooth as we had experienced. Being together and surrounded by so many great people makes the Social Sabbatical a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Acceleration (and very, very fast)– this is a good word for describing our first days and week of the IMG_2063_modified_2.jpgassignment with huge amount of learning of the client organizations and their stakeholders, getting to know the 11 other Bogota STAR team members and becoming an effective 3 member customer team.
LittleBigMoney – Our impressive customer. A project within Fundación Capital, LBM is Latin America’s first crowdfunding platform for small and growing businesses with social impact. Managed as a kind of start up by very competent and passionate people. Our tasks very briefly – support with service development for partners, address certain stakeholder management topics as well as provide general ideas and observations, all this keeping in mind sustainability and scalability targets of LBM.
Strategic assignments –  focus for each of our assignments are on achieving longer term strategic benefits for the customer organizations rather than solving or supporting with short term operational issues or hands on charity work. And that is indeed motivating!
Awesome experiences are part of the Social Sabbatical. Being in a new country with so many thing to explore, having a project with lots of IMG_2074_modified_2.jpgchallenges, being together with team members you have never met before but whom you will work together very closely during the assignment and seeing so
many new things is nothing else than – AWESOME
Bogotans’ politeness – it is everywhere you go, at workplace, cafes, supermarkets, you name it. It is really, really nice to get invited to customer’s celebration of “Amor y Amistad” (Love and Friendship) over picnic lunch, or receive little surprise gifts like fruits and snacks. This patient politeness is especially present when someone communicates in Spanish like a three year old (i.e. Janne). Naturally one needs to understand where & when to go and not to go in order to stay experiencing the politeness and not some less favorable sides of any bigger city. We have, of course politely, been informed of those do’s & don’ts that are specific to Bogota.
Bars – Great Bars are available all over the place in Bogota. Small but very special places like the “Bogota Beer Company” in our neighborhood are part of the bar culture as well as places with good food, music and an awesome view over Bogota like the Centrico. These places are great to have very interesting talks with great colleagues from all over the world or simply to just have fun.
Amazon jungle – someone (starting with J…) in our 3-member team just would desire to go to jungle. And persuade the others to join, too. Well, not gonna happen due to time constraints, however he just cannot let it go, the rest 2 of us IMG_2086_modified_2.jpghear about it everyday!
Talent and skills based volunteering – This is not type of voluntary work you can normally imagine because we are actually leveraging our skills, experiences and talent to provide consulting on the strategic development of LittleBigMoney. You can easily help a child or donate money, but what we are doing here is to enable the social entrepreneurship development so that more poor people can get rid of poverty or have a better condition through starting up own business.
Internationality – 12 employees from Australia, China, Germany, India, Ireland, Finland, France, United States and Poland came to Colombia for the social sabbatical program and formed the Bogota STARs. The team nearly represents the world and how international it is!
Coffee – well, this must be mentioned at least once. And surprise, it is good. Just need to remember that when a waitress asks “tinto?” here it means a black coffee not a red wine like in IMG_2116_modified_2.jpgSpain.
Adventure – all in all the Social Sabbatical is a very special adventure. In addition to all assignment related adventures, we were literally facing some real adventures during our weekend trips. A boat ride in a rain storm in Cartagena and a taxi ride to Monserrate in a taxi without handles while the driver is driving like crazy, are just a few of them.
Little things can make people happy
– we did a field visit to see how PSF (an NGO) supported the people in San Cristobal (a southern district in Bogota) to build up gardens in the neighborhood. The smiling faces on the interviewed garden owners deeply impressed us when they talked about how the neighbors started to talk with each other and even shared the

harvest. Just 10 US dollars for a garden but what a great change it brought to the people!
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  1. Alexandra van der Ploeg

    Wonderful write-up of your first 2 weeks in Bogota! Thank you for sharing, Janne, and enjoy the rest of the social sabbatical! And regarding your Amazon trip: just convince the other 11 to do a reunion there:).

    Best, Alex

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