Continued networks support positive impact
Through its universal design development process, Our Normal provides insights, key learnings and new innovative ideas - unleashing the potential for new market opportunities in the companies they collaborate with.
Jenny Lindström-Beijar, Founder of the Human Rights association Our Normal, joined a global network with more than 3800 entrepreneurs through the lifetime Ashoka Fellowship as the newest Ashoka Fellow in Sweden.
With around 8,000 visitors per month, “Our Normal” association shows the reality of what everyday life looks like for children with disabilities and their families. The platform offers an opportunity for families to connect on a one-to-one basis, and builds a sense of belonging where families share their everyday activities and navigate spaces within their communities.
Our Normal also works with supporting companies - for example in retail, healthcare and tourism - on how they can become more inclusive in their businesses and how to design and offer products, services and experiences that meet the needs of families of children with disabilities.
Jenny’s goal is to grow Our Normal’s reach to a yearly total of 10,000 family profiles and 100,000 unique visitors by 2025, and to expand the numbers of companies and organizations they collaborate with.
Insights into a supportive mentorship dynamic for amplified impact
Recently receiving partial stipend support from IKEA Social Entrepreneurship through the Dela systems change programme, Jenny is now able to work full-time on her innovative idea, encouraging families to make changes within the spaces they live, work, and play while shifting the way we perceive what it means to be “normal”.
Before summer, former CEO of Volvo Car Mobility, Bodil Eriksson, started having mentoring sessions with Jenny as part of her engagement as Ashoka Support Network member. Bodil’s decision to start collaborating with Ashoka was founded on her determination to seek new ways of leveraging her experience of over 30 years in executive management positions.
This month, we gathered Jenny’s and Bodil’s insights to learn from the outcomes of their new collaboration and the practical steps accomplished through their mentoring sessions. Read on to discover new approaches into Our Normal’s development.
Jenny and Bodil’s mentorship dynamic has proven to be a valuable experience for both of them. Jenny indicated that she has appreciated having Bodil as a mentor not only because of her impressive experience working with driving change in large global organizations, but also because of the high level of engagement and the positive energy she shares.
“Bodil is really good at seeing the overall picture and how different parts of the work we do come together. She has offered me many insights on how to think, act and what to focus on first and foremost.” - shares Jenny.
In Bodil’s words:
“It’s been fascinating to see how Jenny’s passion and personal experiences are fuelled through her creation “Our Normal”. Jenny has a great skill set that enables her to take those personal experiences into an organized platform for social change.
Their mentorship sessions have been expanding Our Normal’s impact by focusing on the overall strategy – concepts, offerings, and how it all connects with the social impact Our Normal strives to create; both directly for the families of children with disabilities, as well as the desired systems changes in society.
By being able to focus full-time on the development of Our Normal, Jenny expresses:
“I can see how we as an organization can ramp up both current activity rate while we at the same time have the time and possibility to also plan for the future ahead and some new updated initiatives that we want to launch.”
The next step for Jenny will be to break down this strategic planning into a yearly plan, which seems easier to her now after clarifying the overall strategic focus in their mentoring sessions. Some of the key lessons and insights they both gained from this mentorship dynamic are how to move between visionary/creative work, strategy planning, and actual hands on doing.
“As an entrepreneur you often do all this rather simultaneously, but Bodil has given me key take aways around how to sort out my main focus areas and top prioritizations when time is a limited resource.”, shares Jenny.
When asked for the advice Jenny would share to other entrepreneurs who would like to gain the most out of mentorship relationships, these are:
Be honest and open about challenges you may struggle with at that moment of time: this will give both the entrepreneur and the mentor the right possibilities to really address and explore key issues together.
Bodil also highlights the main aspects of Jenny’s work that she has been inspired by, such as the level of strategic thinking that went into the very first articulation of her vision, her ambition to find a business model that financially can support this vision, and the fantastic progress that Jenny has already made with business partners, driving real change on a larger scale.
“Jenny’s passion and personal experiences fuelled her creation of “Our Normal” with a skillset that enables her to take those personal experiences into an organized platform for social change:
Our Normal is so engaging!”
Before closing, Bodil openly shares one advice for other mentors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem seeking to build an effective mentorship relationship:
“Stick to the approach How can I help instead of pushing your own ideas”
Learn more about the benefits of joining the Ashoka Support Network (ASN), composed of 350+ leaders worldwide in more than 40 countries.
Joining the ASN means being part of Ashoka’s Everyone A Changemaker vision from day one. Leaders within this community are committed to unleashing their own potential as #changemakers while sharing, supporting, and advocating for a world in which everyone can contribute to change in positive ways.
Collectively, the ASN offers the opportunity to be part of a community dedicated to fostering social change. Individually, it gives the chance to reflect on how to make a difference in the world and – ultimately – empower others to act.