Jochen Berger is a successful entrepreneur and investor in the hosting sector.
For more than 20 years, he has founded, advised, and invested in a variety of companies, including social impact startups.
In 2019, he founded Entrepreneurs for Knowledge GmbH (EFK). EFK is a free, nonprofit service that helps companies advance education by building schools for underprivileged children around the world. In doing so, EFK assists companies with project selection, project management and ongoing monitoring.
Your Entrepreneurs for Knowledge initiative helps companies get involved in school-building projects. Can you describe briefly what this actually means?
Our approach is to invest in education by building schools for underprivileged children around the world. With our Foundation-as-a-Service concept, we offer a kind of total package for companies and private donors: a selection of good, high-impact school projects, as well as project management, long-term monitoring, and support with PR and communications measures. Many people and companies would like to get actively involved, but it can be difficult to find the right project to donate to. EFK simplifies these difficulties and tries to facilitate a direct win-win situation for project donors and school projects worldwide. We have now been able to build or renovate 26 schools through corporate and private donations, giving thousands of children better access to education. Since all administrative costs are covered, we can guarantee that every euro goes directly to the projects - since our motivation is: to give a chance for quality education to as many children as possible.
When you talk to companies, what prevents them from becoming socially responsible as well?
We were able to identify three major barriers in total - a too large, non-transparent selection of aid options, a lack of trust about what will ultimately happen with a donation, and a lack of prioritization or a too-high time commitment within the company. This is exactly where we want to start and make "doing good" as simple and efficient as possible.
Do you see a change in the values of the companies?
Definitely, both the values that are represented internally by the teams and the values that the company wants to show to the outside world. There is more pressure from both employees and society for companies to be socially and environmentally engaged. People are now aspiring to do much more meaningful work, and this raises the big question of "What do we stand for as a company?"
How did you come to find the topic of "school construction" for yourself?
Years ago, I stumbled across an organization in brand eins (a magazine) that was building schools in Myanmar. That was immediately appealing to me, and I started supporting several projects at that time. The topic really grabbed me as well as my family and I wanted to continue doing it on the one hand and on the other hand also enable others to have this experience. A quality school building has a huge impact on the educational opportunities of generations of students and the need for financial support is huge. In addition to this, building a school is also very tangible and allows you to see directly what happens with a donation.
You are a successful entrepreneur - do you think that this spirit is needed to drive charitable projects forward?
To some extent, I would say yes. I have built EFK together with a small team with a background in development cooperation. So we tried to combine the best of two worlds - entrepreneurship and innovation together with a focus on impactful projects and sustainable collaboration with people in different countries around the world. I think that creates a lot of confidence that donations are being used efficiently and wisely.
What would you wish for in the future?
For EFK, I would of course wish that our network continues to grow and that many people recognize the support of school projects as a win-win situation. There are still far too many children who cannot go to school at all - or are taught in half-ruined buildings. When used directly, even small donations can make a big difference.