Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast.
I’m delighted to be joined by Servane Mouazan, a social entrepreneur and conscious innovation leader.
Janina Neumann (00:34):
Hello Servane. Lovely to have you here.
Servane Mouazan (00:39):
Hello. Thanks for having me.
Janina Neumann (00:41):
Would you like to introduce yourself?
Servane Mouazan (00:44):
Well, I’m Servane. I was born in Brittany, France, a while ago. I’ve been living in several countries, the Netherlands and Brazil, and I’ve been living in London, UK, since 2003, and I’m a passionate social entrepreneur and supporter of social entrepreneurs and social investors. That’s what I do.
Janina Neumann (01:09):
Oh, wow. There’s so much to unpack there already.
Would you like to have a little bit more about your experiences of these different cultures? Like what led you to live in different countries?
Servane Mouazan (01:22):
Wow. So I’m a free spirit. So when I grew up in Brittany, there were not that many opportunities for me in Brittany in the seventies, eighties. But I met great people. However, I was always hungry to travel around, to travel the world because some people in my family had had the opportunity to do that within their professional career and through their curiosity, and they spoke several languages, which was rare at the time in France, in the eighties, right? So, I learned English by myself one year before secondary school, because I was so, so eager to be able to speak with other people from other cultures, and that’s how the journey started. And then I started uni, but I was quickly bored because there were too many people around and I love studying history, but there were too many people around in the university.
Servane Mouazan (02:29):
And so I had this not really healthy environments. Let me get out. I just want to see the world. So I I applied to be a ‘jeune fille au pair’, which is what you do, what you’d use to do back in the days, just take care of a baby, in the Netherlands because I had learned Dutch in the summer, previous summers, I just forgot say. So I just, you know, figured that would be the way for me to escape France and I did. It was the beginning of a big adventure. I registered at university to study Dutch as well, by post back in the days. And that was a bit crazy, especially when I received my first post with a civilisation module all in Dutch. And, you know, having learned Dutch on the summer camp is not the same. So it was just summarises a lot of my adventures throughout my professional career and my life, I just have a go and then see what happens.
Janina Neumann (03:33):
Wow. That’s really cool. And I think, you know, there are certain types of personalities, you know, people who are more risk takers than others. And I think that’s really great how you put yourself out there early on, because also to have that feedback that actually this is going to be okay. And that’s how your confidence builds, I think as well to take more risks.
Servane Mouazan (03:59):
Well there is a bit of a caveat. I’m not sure I was aware of that I was taking risks. So the things I would just maybe very naive or in my subconscious, I couldn’t fail. There was no failing failure option because I hadn’t seen failure. I was just not self-conscious of failing because I had so many little examples around me back in the days. We didn’t have internet. We had little examples. So the only big failure that I had seen very close to me was my parents had divorced. That was quite a shock. And quite quickly, I just realised that I needed to carve a life for myself, you know? And as I grew up I really, really was adamant not to just follow up in the same steps and just to carve a life for myself, exists for myself, but I’m not sure I was conscious of or that it was a conscious risk-taking behaviour because I didn’t know better.
Janina Neumann (05:07):
But I think that also inspires the people that you work with, you know, having that perspective, do you see a lot of people fearing risk in the social entrepreneur space?
Servane Mouazan (05:22):
Well, there’s a thing, I dedicated the last 20 years supporting, essentially, women in the social enterprise ecosystem, wherever it was, not just in the UK, but also in other countries. And one thing is clear is that a lot of time women are labeled as less risk-taking than men and I just refused that because one thing you understand very rapidly is the understanding of risk and the definition of risk and what is it that you include in that space where risk taken is different by gender, but also depending on the community you come from, your age. So the understanding of risk will evolve wherever you are, whoever you are. And so you can’t just say that one people is more risk averse than another. It not correct and it’s not fair because there’s a lot of elements to take into consideration. So you appreciate risk differently depending on where you come from, where you evolve and whether you have to take care of your household, what’s at stake. And therefore risk will have a totally different outputs or profile.
Janina Neumann (06:43):
Yeah, I can definitely agree with that. Just my own experiences of some social entrepreneurs that I know in North Africa, you know, they have a totally different approach and it’s the women who have their own cooperatives, for example, as well. And, you know, they’re managing things, they’re managing their finances, their staff, all on their own and they are just willing to try things as well. You know one of my experiences was that we turned up at an Argan oil co-operative and you know, they never met us before. And it was just really interesting how open they were because we could just be anyone, you know, and it’s really nice to build that friendship with them over the years…
Servane Mouazan (07:31):
Janina Neumann (07:31):
…and to have that trust there as well. I think is really interesting.
Servane Mouazan (07:37):
Well, there’s a choice. If you don’t grab opportunities, you might stay wherever you are for an eternity. So there is that appetite for taking opportunities where they present themselves and with the time they probably, the women you know, have probably also developed a sense of an insight about who to trust or not, what to expect or not, you know, you build your insights, right? Your intuition. Your intuition is built, amongst others, through the experience that you lived through. The other magic word that you said was co-operative. Now there is something around with gender is that studies show that you know, men and women are born very similar beings, human beings, and then stereotypes and pressure and all sorts of concept of society impose upon them, make them evolve into two rough directions, different directions.
Servane Mouazan (08:46):
So men will tend to become more agentic and women more communal. Through history it’s because as well, women tend to stay more local and so they grabbed the resource where they are, okay? So they will sing, do and share resources and do things together. Now don’t get me wrong. Men also do that, but then when stereotypes are strong, they also have to prove that they are valuable individuals and that they can work and display strength wherever it’s needed. So there’s going to be more agentic kind of profile, more individual, okay? This is not nature. This is nurtured, right? So this is again, stereotypes that have evolved their way and just formative people into becoming like that. And at some point, people perpetrate these things in many cultures.
Janina Neumann (09:47):
That’s really interesting, and I’d just be keen to find out, you know, when you work with women across different cultures, you know, and coach them and basically help them make a social impact, what skills have you developed or do you use to kind of form that bond with them that trust? Just give us an example of a project that you worked on.
Servane Mouazan (10:19):
So I’ve had a company for 20 years called Ogunte, and that’s supported with these women in social enterprises, essentially through accelerators, incubators and locals capacity building formats. I still do the same, but I’ve extended. I’m not just focused on gender and I work more from an an intersectional approach. But the key thing, the key element is to listen. How easy. Well, it sounds easy, but it is not. And the thing is when you create a space where people enable and, and for them to be heard, where they can really develop their thoughts, where they can explore areas in their brain that they’ve never ventured in before the magic happens. The second skill that you can support them with is the skill of imagination. Sometimes people are so repressed by demands day-to-day, daily life demands, that they don’t allow themselves to imagine.
Servane Mouazan (11:27):
It feels like a luxury or sometimes childish. But without imagination, you haven’t got innovation, you know? What is possible? What is? And what if, and why not? These are questions that needs to be asked relentlessly to people when they are in this kind of journey of developing structures that will create social impact. Sometimes they have a mission, imagining the world being like this, being like that. It’s that part in the middle, where sometimes we are more transactional, we do business planning and it’s so boring. Why not inject more imagination at that stage as well? To maybe work with different people, to do user research with more community people, to explore more, to imagine more. Yeah, you don’t have to wait to reach that vision of that, you know, that guiding star at the end, which you rarely reach for obvious reason, it’s hard to, you know, polish the world in a way that is going to be a finished product and everybody’s happy. It’s hard, right? But it’s that part in the middle where we need to inject more listening and more imagination.
Janina Neumann (12:41):
I love that. That’s really powerful. And it also makes me think of you know, in the kind of communication space, when we listen to people, I also find it really interesting to think about intonation, like how you speak, like there are for example, differences if someone is speaking and it’s in English and it’s a second language, their language might have a totally different tone of voice. So sometimes I see conflict even in the UK because I know that’s not their first language and they might go up at the end of the sentence. So someone who’s living in the UK, it might seem like they’re accusing you of something, or they’re like outraged by something. But I think it’s really interesting that that’s not the case. And when you’re trying to listen to someone, I think that’s also something that we need to be aware of is what are the obstacles of, you know, active listening and listening to someone, because we put our own cultural lens on whatever that person said.
Servane Mouazan (13:53):
It’s something really funny in what you say about that intonation that fluctuates in various language. And there’s another layer to that is when people learn to do public speaking, generally they put a lot of efforts in the start of their sentence. So it’s an artificial setup, right? To be able to speak publicly and to be heard when you have an audience in front of you. Now, a lot of people put a lot of effort at the start of their sentence, and then something happens. And generally they vanish by the end of the sentence, there’s no one else on stage. They decrease the tone. Nobody’s there anymore to been seen on stage, they disappeared at the end of the sentence. And everybody’s lending an ear saying, “What did you say at the end of the sentence?” But the thing that should be enhanced should be at the end of the sentence, and now people disappear. And I’ve done the reverse just now.
Janina Neumann (14:54):
Yeah that’s excellent.
Servane Mouazan (14:54):
You’ve got your language, your original language, or the languages you speak. And you just respect kind of a structure of intonation if you can do that. And then there’s the artificial set up when you speak publicly and you want to convey a message. And then on top of that, there’s stress, fear, everything which adds another layer, and it’s very confusing. So you got to cut people some slack and really wait for them to finish their thoughts.
Janina Neumann (15:23):
Yes. Yeah. Definitely let them finish their thoughts. And I also found that in some cultures they like to tell a story and then get to the point, whereas in the UK, we get to the point and then we elaborate on the story. And I think those things are really interesting, especially when we talk about like the social enterprise stage and when people perhaps want to pitch for investment as well. I think that’s interesting the different approaches.
Servane Mouazan (15:53):
Yeah, there’s different different setups and there are trends as well. Let me tell you something as well, that you can very quickly discover in people is that it’s not just a matter of country or nationality or group of country you belong to, or you spend your life in. It’s also a matter of personal preference and the natural inclination. So I’ve read some articles, I don’t know where it was from, a while ago, where someone had a genius conclusion. There are different kind of people in the world, the Askers and the Guessers and it just worked. I’m someone, more of a Guesser. I will tell a lot of fluffy story. I will give a lot of contexts, you know, and then ask.
Servane Mouazan (16:47):
And then if someone was an Asker, for instance, I’ve got some friends who are Nomads, you know, they travel around the world and just stay, you know, leave a message or record something on WhatsApp or any kind of messengers, and they say, “I’m in London next week. Can I crash three days at your place?” And I’m like, [deep inhalation]. What’s the story before? Because it’s a little bit brutal and they are French as well, you know, they travel around the block, but they are Askers. So you will have different trends, and my same friend might be super irritated when I’m about to ask something and I’ll put a whole lot of story. “Just get to the point woman”, she said. “Let me finish my story”, I give a context because I like it. I like to give the bells and whistles and all that stuff. And that can create some tensions in some people. So, you know, let alone between nations or cultures or countries, but within different personalities. You’ll have different styles. The more you’re aware of that, the more sometimes you reduce your story or you add a little bit of, “Thank you. Please. Why not? Maybe. If that’s okay with you?”, if you are just an Asker. Just be aware.
Janina Neumann (18:09):
That’s really interesting. And I’m going to definitely look into that more as well when we finish. That’s really good. So you kind of touched on a little bit there, you know, about the different subcultures that there are. Would you like to expand on how you’ve seen that in the social enterprise space as well athrough the work that you’ve done?
Servane Mouazan (18:31):
Yes. One group I definitely belong to and I’ve noticed a few people belong to, is this Consilient group. Now, I love that word, consilient. C-O-N-S-I-L-I-E-N-T. Consilient. These are people who just merge different disciplines to make social impact happen. So they’re not afraid of adding tech for good and arts and psychology and music, business skills, just to serve people the best they do. They don’t sleep much, probably, they’re interested in everything that moves. And that’s definitely, there’s a group in there. I met a Brazilian man a long time ago, who was at the beginning of my story as well, my social entrepreneurship story journey. And he was such a person. His name was Marcelo Yuka, and he was a drummer by profession, but at university, he had studied journalism and he was also a writer, poet. He was the lyricist of his band. You have a band that did very well back in the days in Brazil, they were called O Rappa.
Servane Mouazan (19:51):
Suddenly he got shot and was left paralysed and in a wheelchair for the remaining of his life, he passed away sadly two years ago, but that didn’t stop him and he started to learn, he couldn’t drum for obvious reason anymore, sadly couldn’t surf anymore. So we had to replace all these kind of creative skills with other creative skills. So he learnt to programme machines and then he was also someone who was very involved and catalysed people to get on with things and to create social projects in the communities. So he would, for instance, visit prisons and, and discuss and instead of doing lectures, there will be a forum where people could discuss and exchange and not only with each other and with the excuse being there as a well known musician, who understood their background, he was actually being shot by one of them.
Servane Mouazan (20:55):
He didn’t see them obviously in the prison he went into and the prison programme that he created, but some of them had been in the same situation as the perpetrator of a crime. So that blew their mind. And he could create the excuse of bringing arts or literature or computer skills into the most remote places that were not having these privilege, and just to create opportunities, curiosity, interest. And I see a lot of social entrepreneurs doing that kind of work. They really merge disciplines to make their service have an impact. And that’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. And then you got the more traditional approach where people stick to one sector and they evolve in that. Which is great too, you know, each to their own. But that’s a different kind of mindset. Yeah, that’s a different kind of mindset.
Janina Neumann (22:03):
Yeah, that’s really cool. And for those who are listening, you know, who are thinking about becoming a social entrepreneur and feel like they can resonate with what you said and also feel like they could bring a lot of different disciplines to the table.
What advice would you give them to get started?
Servane Mouazan (22:26):
Well, before I give them any advice, I like to listen to their story, what motivates them, what their drivers are. Why? What is the background story? You don’t just become a social entrepreneur. Part of you, is already, has that kind of energy to solve stuff psychologically, sometimes a dangerous trait to be willing to fix stuff. You can see a shrink for that. It’s great to tame the fixing thing, because otherwise you might become very frustrated along the way. And then once that torture of being willing to fixing things, just channeled, then you understand how to create alliance with other people in order to not to do this on your own. And so for that, you need to meet people, to network, to hear stories. Don’t go only with your view of the world.
Servane Mouazan (23:25):
Your view of the world is important, and you have to collect stories from other people who might have had a different experience around the same topic. So collect various stories, which is great because it’s absolutely the topic of your podcast and what you do is to really make sure that people collide and learn from each other, and optimise their differences, but for that, you need to network and listen, be curious, and then go back into your lab and pull up your imaginations fiber, and then get the magic started.
Janina Neumann (24:02):
Ah, that’s excellent.
And if people would like to find out more about what you do and perhaps also work with you, how would they do that?
Servane Mouazan (24:13):
Well, they can find me on social media. They put my first name and last name plus .co.uk (https://servanemouazan.co.uk). They’ll read a bit more about what I do, what I think, and how I connect with people and just start a conversation online, on social media, that’s the best way. And then I can connect with other people that might be relevant for them, or we can start, you know, a coaching journey, a discovery I call that. Or they can also, for instance, if they want to have a chat with me, that’s okay. And then if they want to explore their social impact career, they can take a course. We’ve got a self-paced online course, eight modules. It’s called ‘Ignite Your Social Impact Career’. Packed with fun exercise, which you can do in your own own space. That also involves some interaction with people in the world. So that’s magic. So you set up, you really practice immediately from the get-go what you should do, which is listening, networking, connecting, literally get yourself a drawing board. I’m not joking. Get yourself a drawing board and start to draw.
Janina Neumann (25:26):
That’s excellent. Wow. It seems like the cultures have had quite an impact on your life and how you’ve grown your businesses from that as well.
I’d just be curious to know, is there a particular story in the social innovation space that really stuck with you throughout all these years?
Servane Mouazan (25:53):
Yeah, so we set up a while ago the first incubation programme for women in social enterprise, and that was in London and then in Manchester, and we invited well, they had to apply, women from all the different spots on the spectrum of social entrepreneurs. We had a very wide definition. And some people who had also never incorporated before, and who had just practiced a bit of community work, but not had any legal format at all whatsoever, and they got invited. And along side, there were people that had more for-profit businesses, social businesses, others were already CICs. And so what was interesting, we had story from someone, for instance, who was was overweight and had built our own confidence by taking swimming lessons.
Servane Mouazan (26:54):
And this had transformed her. And she was willing just to spread that throughout the world. First starting in London, and then in the UK. And that was fantastic because she had no business knowledge whatsoever. And she just had that proximity with other people who were listening to her and learning from her as well. And she’s just went on into developing her community action, and later on incorporated gradually into the relevant format that was available at the time. But just that little story like that, to me, when you create a space where people wouldn’t have met in other circumstances, because of, you know, time, life, prejudice, stereotypes, when you put them in the same space, there’s so much learning going on. And so I’ve got a gazillion of stories of people who just went through this incubator but also people who just by one conversation went on to travel or to change their view of the world, and all of this is on the website.
Janina Neumann (28:06):
Well, excellent. Or the listeners can get in touch with you directly…
Servane Mouazan (28:10):
Janina Neumann (28:10):
…to find out about these stories, because it’s really fascinating listening to you. And also I love that story that you shared, because especially perhaps now when there’s a lot of external pressure, or we might feel like it’s too hard to do anything right now, I think it’s really good to remember that actually you can’t sometimes always see the change yourself. You see it in other people because of the way, the things that you’ve created as well around you and building that ecosystem. And sometimes it just needs for someone to actually say to you, “Actually, you made something really good happen”. You might not recognise it, but you need to get started in order to actually see that change happen. Servane it’s been lovely to talk to you. I really enjoyed it, and thank you so much for your time, and please do get in touch with Servane. All the links will be in the episode notes.
Servane Mouazan (29:09):
Thank you. Thank you, Janina.
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