Fondation Botnar runs a Young Professionals Program that aims at enabling young professionals under the age of 35 to introduce new perspectives, innovation, and expertise to their fields of work. The program lasts for two years, one year spent with Fondation Botnar in Basel, and up to one year with a partner or related organisation in a low- and middle-income country. In this blog, you’ll meet Fondation Botnar’s first cohort of Young Professionals, Namrata and Daniela. We ask them about their work and their passions before they take off to spend one year in the field.
Hello Namrata and Daniela! Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Namrata: I’m originally from India where I studied sociology and design to craft a career working at the intersection of research, design and development. I love collecting postcards, photographing abandoned bathtubs and I once built a 3D printer from scratch!
Daniela: I was born and raised in Switzerland, but in the last ten years I have also lived in China, Germany, the UK, and Nepal. I studied business administration and decided to start a career in impact investing on a trip to Togo a couple of years ago.
What are your roles at Fondation Botnar?
Namrata: As a Program Manager for Capacity Strengthening & Systems Change, I have been supporting grants in low- and middle- income countries to strengthen what we refer to as system enablers – city mayors, journalists, and young changemakers. I am proud to have led efforts to build the foundation of a soon-to-be-developed cross-cutting capacity strengthening platform for Fondation Botnar grantees, where grantees can learn from, exchange, and connect with one another.
Daniela: As a Venture Philanthropy Portfolio Manager at Fondation Botnar, I have worked with colleagues on the development of the venture philanthropy strategy and investment thesis of the foundation. I have also supported the selection of partners with whom we will build our first portfolio of companies in Latin America and Africa. Venture philanthropy is a new field not only for Fondation Botnar but also for the global investment industry. Developing this area of work at the foundation has been extremely exciting and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.
What are you passionate about?
Daniela: Well, where do I start? I am truly passionate about impact investing. Having worked in a microfinance initiative in Togo for several years, I frequently talked to entrepreneurs and listened to their stories. In these, I realised that there are many talented entrepreneurs, but most of them have little or no access to financing. I am also passionate about innovative technologies (especially CleanTech, EdTech, HealthTech and FinTech) and about fighting climate change. The beauty of working in the investment industry is that it is a wonderful way to combine these things.
Namrata: If I had to sum it up in one word, I care deeply about representation. I studied sociology and design, and my work has focused on employing user-centred research to the design of products, programs, and policies in emerging economy contexts. While there may be limitations, it’s an approach I find immensely valuable to close the gap between those who make decisions and those who are most affected by the decisions that are made – whether governments and citizens, technology companies and end-users or donors and grantees.
What change would you like to see for young people?
Daniela: When I turn 67 – assuming my generation will retire at that age – I would like to live in a world where every young person has the opportunity to discover and develop their own, unique talents and pursue what they are passionate about. Today, young people in large parts of the world hardly enjoy such opportunities and instead face fundamental challenges: they may not have access to good education, clean water, or electricity, they may not be able to find a job or have to deal with serious health issues. I think that stable economic systems with companies that create jobs and provide access to vital products and services can significantly contribute to the kind of reality that I would love to see for all young people in this world.
Namrata: A few years ago, while working for the state government of Haryana, India, I met two teenage girls at a school in a remote village. We spoke about their experience at school and their aspirations for higher education. Perhaps they found it helpful to talk to me, but I came away with the realisation that even though we had a lot in common, any advice I could offer them would be far from sufficient. I believe it’s important for young people everywhere to have access to opportunities and mentorship, but I think it’s even more important for young people to see, hear, and learn from people who might have had the same life experiences as them, and who might have crafted creative ways of making their own dreams come true.
Where are you going for your next assignment and what are you most excited about?
Namrata: I’ll be moving to Nairobi, Kenya to join UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme as a Programme Development Consultant. At UN-Habitat, I’ll be supporting the Human Rights and Social Inclusion Unit and the Innovation Unit on various programs related to the wellbeing of young people in urban environments. I’m most excited about working at the intersection of innovation and youth participation to support city governments around the world.
Daniela: I just joined AfricInvest, a leading private equity firm in Africa, at its headquarters in Tunis. To me, this is a unique opportunity that I had dreamed of for a long time. I am very much looking forward to gaining experience in venture capital and private equity investments on the African continent.
What are you up to when you don’t work for Fondation Botnar?
Namrata: Perhaps the most exciting activity I’ve been engaged in outside of the foundation has been to travel through Switzerland. Originally from India, I moved to Switzerland just as COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. With restrictions making travel difficult, my husband and I chose to turn inwards and made it a goal to visit each of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. It’s been an absolute joy to receive recommendations and share progress with my colleagues at Fondation Botnar. This past July, we finished our goal with a wonderful weekend in Zurich. When I’m not traveling, I’m in my modest home studio making pots, which I’m preparing to fire and exhibit in the coming weeks. On a more academic note, I am also a graduate student in Public Policy and Management at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
Daniela: I love spending time with my family and friends – whether it’s camping on vacation, hiking in the mountains, or having an after-work drink at my favorite bar in Bern, being with my loved ones makes me happy. I am currently also busy studying for the CFA exams – I passed the first level exam in May this year and I’m now taking on the second level.
Thank you, Daniela and Namrata! If our readers want to know more about you, how do they connect with you?