180 Degrees Consulting: Making a Positive Difference

Are you passionate about social enterprises and non-profit organisations? Are you interested in sustainable development consulting and want to get some experience? Are you interested in volunteering for worthwhile causes? If you answered yes to any, or all of these questions, then why not consider volunteering for 180 Degrees Consulting. 

180 Degrees Consulting is the world’s largest consultancy for social enterprises and non-profits. First established at Sydney University in Australia there are now over 80 branches located across universities in 31 countries including in the Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East and the Americas. According to its website 180 Degrees Consulting consultants have supported over 1,622 social conscious organisations across the world. Over US$50 million worth of consulting services have been provided to these organisations. Everything that is done by the consultants, and the support provided by the management teamed, is aimed at maximising long-term social impact. 

Between October 2015 and March 2016 the author was directly involved in a consultancy project through the Berlin branch of 180 Degrees Consulting. Working as part of a team of 5 (with one person selected as the Team Leader) our team was responsible for helping a Berlin based start-up, social enterprise called Wefugees. Wefugees is an online platform designed to support the effective integration of refugees into Berlin and German society. Users of the platform are able to post questions about adapting to life in Berlin and Germany – for example how best to open a bank account or register or to learn about relevant government support services – and have them answered by others who know the answers or can provide advice. The challenge for the team was to provide recommendations on how best Wefugees could ensure its mid to long term sustainability.

Each consulting team works to support a different social enterprise, start-up or non-profit that has requested the support of 180 Degrees Consulting. Speaking about the experience of working together as part of a team with people she previously did not know, fellow team member, Mayra Buschle says “our team approached the task with curiosity and with a strong will to perform good team work. This was not always easy. At some point, we started questioning if we had chosen the right path and we had struggles to find consent within our team and to openly communicate some times.” Each of these organisations, which can come from a huge variety of different sectors, will be facing different challenges and issues and will have different needs. They could be a start-up or an established organisation, they could be operating in the field of health or they could be working to support refugees and they could have 5 staff or they could have 100. Some will be locally focused while others might have a national or international footprint. Says Sebastian Wormsbächer, another former Berlin based 180 Degrees Consulting consultant, “we helped NAHrhaft e.V, a young Berlin based NGO, to improve their organisational model. With the help of our research and interviews with stakeholders of similar organisations, the NGO could improve their mode of operation. At the same time 180 Degrees Consulting improved my knowledge about the legal system of NGOs and the German law.”

With limited funds and resources Wefugees was unable to afford the services and fees of other large scale development focused consultancies. Other organisations and people often do not realise the potential that student consultants have and what they can develop and recommend while working as part of a diverse team. Yet, they are highly intelligent, possess many valuable skills, have diverse backgrounds and approaches and they are often willing to volunteer and support initiatives they feel are worthwhile. Additionally, their capabilities are often untapped and just require the right opportunity. 

On why she would highly recommend 180 Degrees Consulting to other non-profits and social enterprises who would also struggle to pay for the services of ‘established’ consultancies Buschle says that for her, it is because she “helped create value and change” and that despite not being sure of the value of her work at times “it was a rewarding experience.” To learn more, and to get involved, check the 180 Degrees website and find the branch nearest to your home or university (even if you are not a student you may still be eligible to apply). If there is no direct branch in your home, city or university you can also consider contacting the 180 DC International Executive team and making enquiries about starting the latest 180 DC branch. For as Buschle sums up, 180 Degrees Consulting, “is about creating impact both with an organisation and within yourself”.