Hernán and I meet at the Peace Innovation Lab, actually in the same session about “Crowds for Good” in which I also met Cecilia. We kept in touch and finally meet at Dada Falafel on Oranienburger Str. I always find it amazing how much you can learn from people, if you just sit down and listen a bit. The second thing I find amazing is the amount of awesome things people are doing. Hernan has a social science background and has done a lot of research on different things, which let him to a PhD in the end, but he also has done all kinds of projects dealing with social and environmental issues.


He is originally from the basque country and as he has a strong drive for collaboration and fair business, it is quite natural that quite some of his work is about the Mondragon co-operatives. If you don’t know Mondragon and you are interested in co-operatives, this group of co-operatives is probably the prototype of an extremely successful approach!

Hernán has also done a lot of work around measuring social impact. As this is something I also sort of have a hidden hunch for (no real experience though) it naturally let us to a quite interesting conversation on how to measure impact, specifically the sustainable long term impact. It is quite a pity that a lot of funding is provided based on half-baked information, short term targets and none or just vanity metrics. Another thing we discussed and agreed on being quite unfortunate, is the high cost of admitting failure in the social sector. If you can not prove how successful your project was, you have no chance to get continued funding. This leads to organizations having a strong incentive to always highlight how successful their projects have been and never talk about the issues they experienced. As the information about the failures and learnings never get shared, other organization can not benefit and do the same mistakes again.

After so much heavy talk, we went for a small walk to the sort of hidden coffee shop/booth in the park area in between the Humboldt University Medical Campus buildings. Environment changed, but talk was still quite serious I guess, as we talked about the difficult moral choice you get into if you work in social and environmental issues, but get corporate funding. Hernán has worked for several organizations facing this funding dilemma. If companies who do some bad things, give you some money to do a good thing and you know they will not stop doing the bad things too, it is not quite tricky. If nobody takes the money for the good thing, it might not be done at all or done poorly, but if you take it, you basically get cross financed by exploitation based incomes. As usually, life is not easy…

It was quite a nice and insightful meeting for sure. Lots of things I learned or just never really thought about that much!

My personal half-baked truth from this meeting:

“Our compass-less life is full of so many difficult choices…. If you run the wrong way it might take forever to reach somewhere, but if you don’t start walking, you surely will never reach anywhere neither”


You can get in touch with Hernán here:


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