VA10 Stories: 10 years of Path Dependency

17 August 2022/Event

10 years of Path Dependency and the Beauty of It

Research is what after all brought all of us together to VA. Thus, I would like to present to you some insights and preliminary conclusions of one research that I have been doing for some time. I am also planning to continue this research for at least a few decades… It is called Raimonda’s case study analysis. Some of the key questions of this research are “How did I get here?! Why am I continuing this particular professional path? Why am I currently at this particular point of it?”

Let’s start with the description of the context and the dependent variable. Most of my current professional interests, plans, and visions revolve around the field of social economy. I sincerely believe that we are standing at the tipping point of the social economy sector’s rapid and fundamental transformation. 

First, during the last years this sector stepped forward and definitely proved that it is crucial while reacting to the huge societal problems and crises. Second, (and this part is even more interesting to me) I would bet that after a decade this sector will be fundamentally different: much more modern, forward-looking, and stronger. NGOs repeating that “I do some good deeds so please support me” sounds a bit outdated. Right now, we already expect entrepreneurship, financial sustainability, and a business-like mindset from our social economy actors. Shortly, some kind of combination of cold minds and warm hearts.

So back to the questions. Why am I here? Why do I invest most of my working time and efforts trying to contribute at least a bit to the development of NGOs, social businesses, social finance market and social impact measurement in Lithuania? The hypothesis is that there is a strong relationship between my years spent in VA and my current focus on the social economy. The method that seems suitable to test this hypothesis is process tracing.

So, let’s take a few steps back. Just right after the third birthday of Visionary I started my internship there. On the very first day of the internship, my main task was to carry the boxes to the new office. I did not become a professional mover. But the task that I started on my second day was really important to me. Together with Audronė we were doing interviews and developing the case studies of the good practice examples contributing to the implementation of the Lithuania 2030 strategy. After 7 years I still remember the content of these case studies! And most of them were related to the social economy.

Even though I did not understand that at that time, right now I see that one particular interview with the director of one Lithuanian NGO was mind-expanding and had a strong influence on my professional choices and even on my attitude towards life in general. During the interview, while describing the strategy of that NGO, the director told me: “You know, it is not enough for the organisation to be a good guy with a warm heart and to know that you are solving social challenges. You need to be entrepreneurial, professional, and have a cold mind to persuade others and do it successfully”. Already sounds like some kind of support to my hypothesis, right? But not enough yet – just a straw in the wind.

During my years at VA step by step, I was diving deeper and deeper into what we describe as “social topics”. I had the opportunity to explore the topics of corporate social responsibility, social innovations, gender equality, integration of the unemployed into the labour market, active aging, etc. To be honest, I am not sure how and why it happened. It was probably a simple path-dependency, like many things in our lives.

The last tipping point for me that determined my professional focus definitely was a social impact investment study that we implemented back in 2020. After the last presentation of this study for the European Parliament, I was already thinking “Hmm, I guess this could be my topic”. Before this study, I did not have a single idea what kind of bird the social impact investment was. However, last week I listened to the presentation of European Investment Bank on the development of social finance mechanisms including social impact bonds in Lithuania. I was so grateful for knowing what these terms meant!

To conclude, most of the evidence about my time spent at VA supports the hypothesis: it is very unlikely that I would be interested in the social economy or would work with this topic if 7 years ago I had helped some different company to move the boxes to their new office, and if VA had not become my first real job. 

These conclusions have two practical implications. The first one is to pay attention to the fact that millions of different events or decisions shape our paths as well as the paths of others every day. So be conscious about it, notice the beauty of it, and do not forget to enjoy the walk itself. I wish you to have the most scenic routes!

The second practical implication is to say thank you for shaping my professional path that I am happy to walk and explore. I feel simply lucky that I had the opportunity to work at VA – the organisation where everyone is encouraged and supported while walking their unique paths and finding “their topics” that may vary from digitalization, artificial intelligence, gender equality to space (literally). I could also not be more grateful for having had the opportunity to work with and to learn from the most professional and talented people each of whom has that great combo of cold minds and warm hearts. Best of luck in walking your path as a team and further shaping the paths of others.

– Raimonda Mackevičiūtė

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