How to be an activist in your life and work with Tessa Wernink

We start this conversation reflecting on the question “where are you from”?

If you are a global citizen, you will be able to relate to Tessa’s response.

Tessa Wernink was born in Hong Kong, moved to the Netherlands when she was 10, and has lived in various other Asian countries over the years. She is a social entrepreneur and business activist, facilitator and podcast maker who is addressing social and environmental issues in business.

We then go on to talk about how a phone can be built and made fairly. And what that means.

Tessa talks about Fairphone, the only European phone today, that she co-founded at the start of her activist journey.

After Fairphone Tessa then started to ask how businesses can be more humane and a force for good.

We talk about the Undercover Activist which she then founded.

How people can be more of an activist in the way they work. How they can accelerate projects around social and environmental issues.

And we learn how you can nurture more of an activist culture at a company, turning from theory and great ideas to action.

We reflect on culture, customs, and change.

And then talk about interesting social businesses around the world ranging from environmentally friendly cars, how to approach death undertaking from a more sustainable and ethical point of view, and then an entrepreneur in Hong Kong that is creating fish from a lab.

Tessa finishes on the concept of active hope. Which is such a great way to finish this episode, and this year’s series of the TIE Unearthed Podcast.

Let’s celebrate action. So grab that favourite beverage or throw on those running shoes, and get inspired with Tessa.

Please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review and subscribe.

00:00:02:05 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving lights around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:01:03:18
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. Hello and welcome to episode 63 of TIE Unearthed and our last episode of the year. Now this episode is coming at an interesting moment. It’s a moment where there’s just so much going on, there’s so much uncertainty facing everyone. Things just feel overwhelming, don’t they? From an energy crisis, political turmoil, economic concerns, geopolitical concerns.

00:01:04:20 – 00:01:32:14
Philippa White
But like many other people out there, I see hope and opportunity in all of this. And Tessa is also one of those people. The thing is, we could do nothing. But we know these issues. They’re not going away. Or we can act. And today, Tessa is going to inspire you to act. Tessa Wernink is a social entrepreneur and business activist.

00:01:32:15 – 00:02:06:06
Philippa White
She’s a facilitator and podcast maker who is addressing social and environmental issues in business. She is on a mission to make organizations more humane and to embolden people to speak up, take action, and create cultures that nurture collective leadership. Her most recent endeavor is The Undercover Activist, which we’re going to be talking about today. It’s a learning hub that provides training to professionals and organizations on what it takes to encourage and master a positive activist mindset.

00:02:06:17 – 00:02:37:18
Philippa White
She guides participants in campaigning, communication and innovation skills that helps them drive change from within. She was co-founder of Fairphone, which is a social enterprise and Europe’s only smartphone producer. By using business as a force for good. Fairphone uses a market approach to inspire consumers and producers to choose for fair working conditions, circular design and the big one long lasting use.

00:02:38:01 – 00:03:04:11
Philippa White
What a concept, right? Role modeling. A new kind of economy is the inspiration for the podcast series that she created called What If We Get It Right, which hosts impact entrepreneurs from around the globe who share stories of success and failure of how they are developing ethical and sustainable business practices. So today we’re going to be talking about all of this and so much more.

00:03:05:00 – 00:03:18:10
Philippa White
So grab your favorite beverage or throw in those running shoes and here’s Tessa and we will see you after this one in January of 2023. Happy holidays.

00:03:18:23 – 00:03:24:24
Philippa White
Yes. It is so wonderful to have you with us on tie on earth today. Thank you for joining us.

00:03:25:09 – 00:03:29:14
Tessa Wernink
Hi, Philippa. Thank you for asking me. Now, looking forward to the conversation.

00:03:29:22 – 00:03:49:09
Philippa White
So my it’s very much in line with so much of what we believe. Obviously, as I mentioned to you just now, before we started recording, we’ve got our event on the 15th of November. By the time this goes out, I’m not sure if the event will have happened, but what you’re doing is perfect and I’m so excited to get more people understanding about it.

00:03:49:12 – 00:04:03:16
Philippa White
So before we get to that, before we get to all the incredible stuff you’ve done or the incredible stuff that you are doing, maybe let’s back up a bit. First of all, I should just say where you are. Because I love it. I talk to people from all over the world. Where are you right now?

00:04:03:21 – 00:04:24:03
Tessa Wernink
I’m currently calling in from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where it’s 23 degrees at the end of October. So it’s really weird. People are still having like food on the terraces outside and stuff like that. So it’s a it’s a beautiful city, but it’s not supposed to be this hot for this long. Yeah. Why is that? Yeah.

00:04:24:10 – 00:04:27:03
Philippa White
And are you from Amsterdam originally?

00:04:27:03 – 00:04:46:20
Tessa Wernink
The question where you’re from is always really hard for me to answer. I guess I would say I am Dutch. My parents are both Dutch nationals, citizens, nationals. But I, I was actually born in Hong Kong, on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. And I spent the first ten years of my life in Asia, mostly in Hong Kong, but also traveling around.

00:04:46:22 – 00:05:04:24
Tessa Wernink
My father wasn’t an expat but needed did find a find work there and my mother, who also grew up actually in Indonesia as a child. So yeah, so we spent a long time there before I moved to the Netherlands. And then when I was after university, I went back to Asia and I met my husband who is British.

00:05:04:24 – 00:05:13:14
Tessa Wernink
So now we live in Amsterdam, so we’re kind of all over the place when it comes to identities. Yeah. So that where you’re from is different.

00:05:14:03 – 00:05:44:07
Philippa White
Well, I can relate to that 100%. I can relate to that. And how cool about the Asian experiences. I lived in Bangkok, Thailand for a while. I finished my degree there and I have to say, having I was born in South Africa, you know, English parents grew up in Canada, but having never been to Asia until that experience of my degree, it was the first time ever because I traveled around Europe, I traveled around Africa, but Asia put life totally on its head.

00:05:45:03 – 00:05:55:17
Philippa White
I mean, it was just extraordinary. I think I realized that don’t assume anything because it’s just probably going to be different.

00:05:55:17 – 00:06:14:24
Tessa Wernink
And there are so many different places in Asia as well, because after university I went to Japan to teach at a Japanese school there and I remember thinking, Oh, but I grew up in Hong Kong, you know, I’ll be fine. But then I arrived in Japan and I just realize it’s such a different culture and it took like a year of culture shock to go, okay, wait, this is completely different.

00:06:14:24 – 00:06:30:13
Tessa Wernink
It reminds me a little bit of the West because it’s modernized. There’s a completely different culture in that sense. And then going to Shanghai after that was like, Oh yeah. So, you know, Asians have just this concept for us of like being different. But in Asia itself, it’s so many different cultures, subtleties.

00:06:30:20 – 00:06:40:16
Philippa White
Amazing. What an experience got. I could just talk to you about this, but anyway, we need to be. But I could easily just understand. But it’s amazing, isn’t it?

00:06:41:03 – 00:06:54:09
Tessa Wernink
Yeah, I definitely think that that’s been such a big part of, like, shaping who I am and how I see the world. That you’ve got this outsider perspective and that there’s no one truth and you can always see things from a different angle. So, yeah, I guess it’s a good place to start.

00:06:54:12 – 00:07:12:08
Philippa White
It is. It is. So maybe you could tell us just a little bit about I mean, obviously where you are from. That’s just given us a really great insight into obviously your upbringing, I suppose. But maybe just what is your background and how did you get to what you’re doing professionally now?

00:07:12:13 – 00:07:37:18
Tessa Wernink
Yeah, so I think, I mean, moving around and exploring is part of my nature. I think after I finished university and so I think I would suspect that job hopping has also been part of who I am. Like exploring through. Yeah. What gives me energy for the first. Like between my twenties until my thirties, I studied English literature and communications and then later on I did a minor in international development.

00:07:38:04 – 00:07:57:24
Tessa Wernink
So I remember thinking, business is just not where I want to be. My father was a self-made businessman. I just thought business is like, you know, it’s there’s nothing inherently good about it. It’s just about earning money. I didn’t really have anything with business itself. And then I moved to Japan after my university degree and I taught English at a Japanese school.

00:07:57:24 – 00:08:29:15
Tessa Wernink
And, well, I think I loved kind of having conversations about all kinds of things and the conversations itself, things where you were talking to each other in the first place. I also felt a little bit confined in the school and I didn’t know where it was going. And then I moved to Shanghai and started working in a big Japanese hotel and it was the place, I think, of business people coming to and fro and also kind of the different cultures and people coming to Shanghai at the time with so much business development around that maybe I think inspired me again.

00:08:29:15 – 00:08:47:01
Tessa Wernink
But I think I do like that fast pace and I do like things happening all the time. And how about if we did have conversations that were where you could have conversations with people where there wasn’t always an agenda, build something together. And I think I started on my entrepreneurial life. They’re trying to set up a business and people would come there.

00:08:47:01 – 00:09:03:18
Tessa Wernink
Then when I left Shanghai, I think after a couple of years, I thought, maybe this isn’t where I want to be and grow and build a family. I moved to the Netherlands and I struggled for a couple of years to find my place and then I met Gus when Apple was the starting of a social and social enterprise.

00:09:03:18 – 00:09:30:12
Tessa Wernink
Fairphone And I think that’s where I really found kind of everything that I experienced come together in a is on the one side. There was a lot of like campaigning and storytelling and education, I guess, around what does it mean to build a phone as well as let’s do it, you know, let’s do some experimentation, see how we can build this thing by coming together and just, you know, taking it one step, one step at a time and seeing whether we could do it differently.

00:09:30:12 – 00:09:51:05
Philippa White
Yeah, and that’s a perfect segue way to actually understanding that about Fairphone, because that was a big part of obviously the start of this journey for you, as you mentioned, for our listeners who don’t know about Fairphone, because I’m aware that anyone who’s in the Netherlands probably does, but the people in Canada and the UK and they might know and the US and Brazil.

00:09:51:14 – 00:09:57:16
Philippa White
So perhaps you can tell us a little bit about Fairphone and the phenomenon that is Fairphone.

00:09:57:18 – 00:10:22:11
Tessa Wernink
The starting point of Fairphone is something that is very much related to international, but it was started as a as a campaign actually by ActionAid, which is a big NGO in the Netherlands. And they said, listen, there’s this whole tragic situation around what they call conflict minerals, which are dug up in the Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo. And they’re in all of our electronics.

00:10:22:11 – 00:10:42:19
Tessa Wernink
And how are we going to make people more aware about where our electronics come from and how it started? Fairphone was really around this issue and it became something bigger Realme’s idea of, Yeah, great. It’s great that we can build awareness around these issues, but then what? You know, then we go to our experts and people know their best that they don’t really have an alternative.

00:10:42:23 – 00:11:00:22
Tessa Wernink
So it started really as a campaign to say, okay, where does it come from? What does it mean? And it turned into something bigger where we said, okay, but if we’re going to really try and change something, what would that mean? How how about if we did build a phone that was made fairly? What would the difference be in how we approached it?

00:11:00:22 – 00:11:17:16
Tessa Wernink
So it started with like looking at where the materials came from, but also looking at how it was made. So the conditions in the factories where it was built and looking at the design of phones, why were they designed for obsolescence that you were trying to reach in your two years to it? In the end, where does it come from?

00:11:17:16 – 00:11:40:02
Tessa Wernink
And that approach, I think, has been really transformational when it comes to like how we set up businesses because it’s a very mystic approach saying we can’t we can’t actually just look at the symptoms or just part of the problem, but we really need to take that kind of systems thinking approach. Okay, it’s all related. Nobody knows how this phone really came together except the phones.

00:11:40:02 – 00:11:52:01
Tessa Wernink
So if we start opening up the phone and rattling and saying interventions, then step by step we can start thinking about how we do want to want it to be designed to feel like the values and the things that we can offer. Wow.

00:11:52:02 – 00:11:59:03
Philippa White
Just sort of interesting. How many people how many people started this? I mean, it was you and you mentioned a name that I didn’t quite catch, actually.

00:11:59:03 – 00:12:13:04
Tessa Wernink
It’s a project that started with it’s an organization called Very Dutch, named in the Netherlands, two years as a campaign. And I joined the founding team when we decided to make it into a social enterprise. And we were there were four of us at the time, plus one apple.

00:12:13:17 – 00:12:16:18
Philippa White
Okay. That’s yeah, that’s the idea. Yeah. Okay.

00:12:17:04 – 00:12:34:11
Tessa Wernink
And some others. I love telling the story of why we started it, but it’s also good to know that it’s the only mobile smartphone in Europe is made in Europe and it still exists today. It’s ten years old and we’ve made four different versions. It’s a modular phone, so hundreds of thousands of people have bought it by now.

00:12:34:11 – 00:12:39:19
Tessa Wernink
And you can replace the parts and make it last longer. So it’s really become this kind of look. This is amazing.

00:12:40:11 – 00:12:43:23
Philippa White
So, I mean, if someone is in the UK, can they buy one?

00:12:43:24 – 00:13:01:08
Tessa Wernink
Yes, they can. Yes. I’m not sure that they shipped to the US. Right. But anywhere in Europe you can buy a Fairphone started with this idea of we are famous and it was a crowdfunded model. So it was very much around people who also use that phone to tell different stories about what they want to raise when it comes to electronics.

00:13:01:08 – 00:13:12:17
Tessa Wernink
So just like I guess the things that you wear and you eat it is part of that bigger movement of understanding where your things are from and as a consumer and being able to make a choice in a way that represents your values.

00:13:12:19 – 00:13:22:21
Philippa White
So this is a journey right? It’s a journey. So started with Fairphone and obviously learned lots, but you decided to continue your journey. So where are you now?

00:13:22:23 – 00:13:53:23
Tessa Wernink
What I learned about friends, how we can make businesses more humane environments, but also like a force for good. While I am incredibly positive about social businesses coming up in the world and being real role models I think to traditional businesses on how business can be done. I think from a systems perspective it’s really important that big corporation and other organizations start to move more foster in different directions to tackle social and environmental issues.

00:13:53:23 – 00:14:29:06
Tessa Wernink
So a couple of years ago, I joined forces with my business partner, Nick Sprinkles, and we set up the undercover activist. And the idea is really how we can help young professionals master a more of an activist mindset in their work. And that means training young professionals to be a bit more activist in the ways that they can be voices of difference and also accelerate their projects around social environmental issues as well as just making a businesses more aware that they need to nurture more of an activist culture.

00:14:29:06 – 00:14:56:10
Tessa Wernink
So how can we make it easier for voices of dissent or to speak up in organizations? Because in the end it’s not about being against something, but it’s about making the final decisions better or being able to bring these values. Because I think businesses have become such a place where we can come in and help our code. So who we really are at the door and then we turn into these people that we maybe don’t recognize and we don’t actually stand up for the things we believe in.

00:14:56:10 – 00:14:58:09
Tessa Wernink
And I think that that’s something we really need.

00:14:58:12 – 00:15:18:06
Philippa White
Today and it’s something that people are looking for right now and people are looking for that. And it’s interesting that you talked about the corporate side, and I’m keen to understand how you do this because, you know, there’s a lot of companies that are keen for people to contribute, to be innovative, to challenge. But the reality of that is it’s hard, right?

00:15:18:06 – 00:15:21:11
Philippa White
Because those are like annoying people that are getting in the way.

00:15:21:16 – 00:15:21:23
Tessa Wernink
Yeah.

00:15:22:10 – 00:15:48:15
Philippa White
The system. But at the same time we know we need to change the system because if we don’t evolve, we won’t survive in so many respects, both from just the planetary kind of environmental point of view, but also businesses need to evolve to survive. That’s just how the nature of business works, right? One thing is working with the change makers themselves to inspire these these individuals and spark them.

00:15:49:00 – 00:15:55:04
Philippa White
But the other side, obviously, like you pointed out, are the companies. So I’m just curious, how do you how do you do that and what does that look like?

00:15:55:06 – 00:16:20:07
Tessa Wernink
We really intentionally, I think, have positioned it as activism and not only entrepreneurship. So I think when it comes to like nurturing this idea with young professionals, it’s about not only being voices of difference and using your influence, but having to disrupt. And I think that disruption, you know, some people are more comfortable with it. Then you can be more moderates or more radical.

00:16:20:07 – 00:16:43:01
Tessa Wernink
But what we need is for you to set the status quo sometimes. Yes. So it’s also sitting with that discomfort and maybe understanding what conflict is and what your response is to conflict. If we start thinking about conflict, not on a personal level, you know, people making it personal that you raise conflicts, then we can start actually looking at what the conflict stands for and how we can take it into decision.

00:16:43:01 – 00:17:05:02
Tessa Wernink
So I think from from the personal level and we really are there more on the work floor, let’s say, for people who want more help with this personal leadership and agency. And we’ve built a whole online course around it. So it’s six modules in which we go from what does activism and business mean, you know? So how can you create a safe space in business?

00:17:05:07 – 00:17:24:21
Tessa Wernink
What are your rights? Because it’s very different in one business to the next, from one country to the next. So really understand where you sit and maybe what who you are. Because depending on who you are, what you look like, raising your voice, there’s different consequences. So to understand that from each other as well, it’s also this journey of like, okay, why am I so angry?

00:17:24:21 – 00:17:49:23
Tessa Wernink
What do I stand for? What is the thing that that is underneath all that anger of that anxiety, you know, what do I actually start embracing, embracing that activism from a positive perspective? And then I was like, How do I connect with others? Go past being lonely and being who is that person who raises the issue in a conversation to kind of know looking maybe on a functional like way to connect with people at work, but on a values level?

00:17:50:00 – 00:18:07:12
Tessa Wernink
And then I think the last thing is really from the systems perspective, I think the intention of businesses is to to merge. So rather than only thinking about how to change things but think about what are the what are the goals that a business has and how can you connect to that so you can build momentum and accelerate your project.

00:18:07:12 – 00:18:26:13
Tessa Wernink
So that, I think, is the way we do it. We run online courses, we do in-house workshops. We did one yesterday for the governments, 50 people who have already organized internally. So it’s great, you know, they’re already coming together on sustainability and they really want to know how to act because I think that’s the last part that I forgot to say.

00:18:26:21 – 00:18:45:11
Tessa Wernink
There’s no activism without action. So all these things like how but how is it going to move from talk to actually doing something? And that can be a small step or a big step, but I have to say it’s loads of fun and it’s really hopeful and inspiring to speak to all those people who want to do something.

00:18:45:15 – 00:18:49:23
Philippa White
And a lot of interest. What would be the age range of the people that you’re working with?

00:18:49:23 – 00:19:12:05
Tessa Wernink
It’s funny, somebody said, Well, what do you mean, young professionals? Yeah, it’s 50 minutes. And I said, Oh, I’m a young at heart, so I’m so sorry. And it’s true. We attract people from all ages. I think it was it was just maybe in that kind of first development of creating a company or a new project, is that product market fit?

00:19:12:06 – 00:19:31:04
Tessa Wernink
But you get that. Everybody goes through I thing we’ve got this thing and we think it’s for young professionals, but actually it’s for everybody who feels like they’ve maybe oppressed that kind of that side of their selves. And we want to connect with a group of people to think about how they could, because that’s the idea the undercover activists become cynical.

00:19:31:04 – 00:19:48:22
Tessa Wernink
You know, it’s like, oh, nothing is changing. And they kind of check out work or they call it quitting maybe or maybe even go for something else. Whereas I think if we if we actually try to kind of embrace it and say, how can we do something with it? Then it’s a really valuable asset for a company to have these motivated people.

00:19:48:22 – 00:19:53:19
Tessa Wernink
So how can we create this culture? And yeah, that’s nurturing it. Can you.

00:19:53:19 – 00:20:01:18
Philippa White
Give us a story of a recent perhaps project or a recent person that has been through it just to bring the experience to life for our.

00:20:01:18 – 00:20:24:12
Tessa Wernink
Listeners? Yeah, we thought we were going to attract lots of business people and we have, but we’ve also attracted people from government agencies as well as health care. And one of the people that really inspired me was a it was a man in his mid thirties who was a gynecologist and he said because some for some reason because I’m black, everybody thinks I’m all about diversity and inclusion.

00:20:24:12 – 00:20:52:08
Tessa Wernink
But actually I want to talk about menopause, you know, I want to talk about women’s rights and why in health care there’s no gender equality on how medicine is made or that when women come into my office, you know, they give advice so many different things than men when it comes to their sexuality or whatever, you know. So I want to make this topic a basis topic, but actually when you study medicine, you’re actively dissuaded to be to be an advocate on anything.

00:20:52:08 – 00:21:15:10
Tessa Wernink
You are there to prevent somebody from getting sick or to help them. So they so he was saying, I’m actually doing it. I want to do it. I want to do more of a PhD on activism in health care. And and he started doing this course and saying there were so many different things that we wanted to speak up on that he found the one thing like the grounds, the foundational things that drives and then started speaking up more about and that’s really cool.

00:21:15:10 – 00:21:17:14
Philippa White
Yeah, I love that.

00:21:18:15 – 00:21:34:00
Tessa Wernink
He’s a member of a political party here in the Netherlands, which is like a Christian union, he said. They find it very difficult to speak to me. They think maybe you should be part of a different political party where you’re when your ideas are more kind of common. But he said, No, no, no, but that I wouldn’t have an impact.

00:21:34:00 – 00:21:43:19
Tessa Wernink
You know, it’s about creating magnificent understanding, I think, of having a different voice. Yeah. So it’s really impressive. So that person stuck with me. But there are lots more stories.

00:21:43:24 – 00:22:02:22
Philippa White
Of course there are. I mean, it’s very similar to the work that we do in the sense that I think it’s a it’s a nexus of helping people unearth their purpose. Right. So it’s helping people unearth what? Okay. What is it that makes you tick? What is it that you feel like you stand for? And then giving them the insights, the kind of piece of the puzzle pieces together.

00:22:02:22 – 00:22:17:00
Philippa White
And then it’s the confidence to then be like, Oh, so I. I can be the driver of change. I can now say, okay, I don’t have to wait for someone else. No, no, you can. That’s the whole point of this. So yeah.

00:22:17:02 – 00:22:47:17
Tessa Wernink
Every job is a climate job. That kind of feeling as well. You know, the people always think of it or they or they’re very self-critical, you know, they say they aren’t. I do eat meat or I do do this, you know, am I an activist? People don’t really identify with this idea of activism yet when you ask them to go to their earliest memory of something that upset them or made them angry and how they acted to to change something that everybody feels really connected with this idea of what’s fair, what do I stand for?

00:22:48:02 – 00:22:56:20
Tessa Wernink
When do I speak up? And that I think it’s yeah, it’s just become something that hasn’t been nurtured in our education system or in our working environments.

00:22:56:24 – 00:23:17:05
Philippa White
You know, the Pink Floyd song, The Wall, you know, we don’t need no education. And that’s what that whole video was about. If you watch the video, I mean, the whole song is about that. And we are kind of made to fit into the system and be kind of cogs in the machine. But actually that’s not what’s going to drive things forward and that’s not what’s going to know.

00:23:17:11 – 00:23:37:05
Philippa White
That’s not how things are going to change. And we need to slowly change this culture. That’s the thing as well. A culture we talk, you know, you like me, we’ve traveled around the world a lot. We love culture. But actually, I don’t know if I love culture. I love different foods. I love different ways of doing things. I love different traditions.

00:23:37:22 – 00:23:48:06
Philippa White
But actually customs and ingrained culture is actually very oppressive and that’s what doesn’t allow things to change, does it? But to change culture, it’s not easy.

00:23:48:08 – 00:24:06:00
Tessa Wernink
It’s funny because when I taught in Japan at that school, I remember these moments where the Japanese teacher would say to the students, Can you explain this custom to test us and say, You know, he’s going to give me the teacher? And they’d be like, What do you mean explain this custom now? They’ve never even seen it. It’s a custom.

00:24:06:00 – 00:24:11:05
Tessa Wernink
And then it’s like, Why do we eat a roll of sushi facing the East on this day? And I was.

00:24:13:18 – 00:24:13:24
Philippa White
What.

00:24:14:11 – 00:24:34:21
Tessa Wernink
Would you do? You know, just remember just this kind of the process in their heads of going, oh, so not everybody does it and why do we do it? And I think the customs are that get dangerous when you think that it’s normalized or something. And I guess we all fall into that trap of thinking that what we do is the normal way of doing something.

00:24:34:22 – 00:24:54:07
Tessa Wernink
So what they say about when women come into an all male environment or business, it’s like it’s not the woman is. It’s just that they didn’t realize what they were doing until someone said, you know, is it what is it? Fish in water. Until they come out of water. They realize that they were in the fish. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

00:24:54:15 – 00:25:17:19
Tessa Wernink
So I think that’s that comes to that. So it’s I think I love the cultural traveling because it can give you so many different perspectives. Is that the quote, the kind of the sea at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the very first time. Oh, always. There are a lot of people leave because they think they’re going to discover all these different cultures.

00:25:17:19 – 00:25:19:21
Tessa Wernink
But actually you realize where you come from.

00:25:20:13 – 00:25:47:05
Philippa White
Totally. Absolutely. And that’s the power, actually, of disrupting comfort zones, isn’t it? Because you disrupt your comfort zone. Then you do start to kind of realize more about actually yourself and absolutely is when you do start to develop that cultural intelligence as well, when you start to understand different worlds, different people, you have a much better understanding of also who you are and where you fit in and the power of diversity.

00:25:47:05 – 00:25:54:12
Philippa White
Right, the power of different people. Can you share insights of what it takes to positively disrupt and lead by example?

00:25:55:17 – 00:26:21:05
Tessa Wernink
I would say, first off, it’s a mindset thing. It’s a growth mindset in a sense that if you going to disrupt or you need to kind of think where you’re going to go after this because you’re going to shake it up, you’re going to maybe fail and start again, but you’re going to definitely learn. And I think that that kind of mindset of whatever it is now, is the future probably worse than what is now over this?

00:26:21:14 – 00:26:47:15
Tessa Wernink
Let’s see where it goes. It takes that courage or maybe sense of what you were saying before is, Oh, I can do something different. You know, I do have that agency, so at least try and maybe I’m taking two big steps is taking things step by step and having the patience to see where they go. Humor, vulnerability, vulnerability, failure and being open, I guess, to learning and courage.

00:26:47:15 – 00:27:10:09
Tessa Wernink
I mean, I think that’s there’s a lot of public opinion that’s being formed around the climate activists that are kind of upsetting the social norms at the moment because they’re sticking themselves to really expensive paintings in different places, you know, and it is disruptive to and from this kind of bizarre idea of like agitate, innovate or orchestrate, I think is there three kind of stages of disruption?

00:27:10:09 – 00:27:31:14
Tessa Wernink
This is agitating for civil disobedience and it takes courage. But I think the next step on like what is the positives, what is the conversation that we’re going to have afterwards, I don’t think that disrupting is enough. And that’s I think what upsets me the most about public opinion is that it’s almost like we don’t want to have that conversation.

00:27:31:22 – 00:27:43:14
Tessa Wernink
So we’re talking about all the other things. We’re talking about how do we defend ourselves from these things? Activist How do we make museums more safe? How do we say it in a different way? But it’s like, okay, but we.

00:27:43:15 – 00:28:01:14
Philippa White
Will not going away. No, you it’s this event that I’m having. What I’m saying when I started off is basically that, you know, there’s just so much going on. It’s very overwhelming for all of us. Right? So I think a lot of people feel a little bit paralyzed. And so there’s kind of two things that you can do.

00:28:01:14 – 00:28:10:02
Philippa White
One is literally nothing and become kind of like an ostrich and just stick your head in the sand and just hope that all of this is just going to go away. That’s not going away.

00:28:12:08 – 00:28:40:19
Tessa Wernink
And I remember my brother saying this, there’s this big poster in the space resources that’s you. And it’s it’s like, is it approved or improves? And I said, when we criticize, let’s try and fix the faults we find. So I think that’s something that is always kind of been for me is like how do you if it’s not about being against something or that something isn’t right, but just this feeling of like, how can we think together about totally what’s good about something and how could it be better?

00:28:41:01 – 00:28:42:09
Tessa Wernink
100%. Yeah.

00:28:42:22 – 00:29:11:12
Philippa White
100%. And that’s a thing it’s like. So then the other option is acting. So then what do we need to do? I see it as three things, which is very in line with what you’re doing as well. One is collaboration because it’s impossible for one person, one country, one sector, one company to solve these issues. So we have to we have to step out of our worlds and learn how to collaborate, which also isn’t very easy because it means that we have to be vulnerable and we have to talk to people that we’re not used to talking to.

00:29:11:18 – 00:29:33:13
Philippa White
And that’s not easy. We need to broaden our horizons because then that’s the only way. Again, stepping out of our silos and seeing the world kind of in a different from a different viewpoint and from different perspective. Einstein has that quote, which I don’t have it all stuck in my head, but it’s like, how do we solve the problems with the same thinking that we had to when we created them?

00:29:33:13 – 00:29:33:24
Tessa Wernink
Yes.

00:29:34:07 – 00:29:45:09
Philippa White
And then the third is it’s creating agency for everyone, realizing that they people need to just feel empowered and know that they can be the change. I think those three things is kind of what makes all of this.

00:29:45:09 – 00:30:09:06
Tessa Wernink
There was there was a strategy. We had a bus from our from Fairphone coined it who said we were strategically naive. And it was really interesting approach. And I noticed that I still find it helps me when you say collaborate and going out and being vulnerable. And so we get to the stage where we’re the experts, you know, and we feel like we need to find the solution or have the solution.

00:30:09:06 – 00:30:26:13
Tessa Wernink
Whereas I notice that if you ask people how they did something, you know that a lot of innovation is already there, but we feel like we’re thinking that we’re holding onto this kind of person that we’re supposed to be. And then when it looks that as having the answer, I guess that leadership goes to this idea of that.

00:30:26:13 – 00:30:30:11
Tessa Wernink
That leadership isn’t necessarily that, you know, all the answers totally.

00:30:30:12 – 00:30:51:05
Philippa White
And you actually are a lot stronger to ask for help. We see this, we see this on all of our projects. And it’s fascinating because we have an intro stage to our program. It’s a six week program and people are connected to big social challenges, linked to some kind of organization. And we work in 24 countries around the world and the programs are based mostly in the global south.

00:30:51:05 – 00:31:12:04
Philippa White
And so individuals who are in banking in New York or banking in London, you know, they have to step out of that and it’s virtual. So, I mean, but they’re working as a team, as a cohort to figure out how to solve this problem in a very short amount of time. So constraints are at the core. You know, you’re having to talk to people who are different to yourself and and you have to be vulnerable because you have literally no idea what the solutions are.

00:31:12:04 – 00:31:23:13
Philippa White
And so in the training we have, we have a preparation process. It’s about two weeks and there’s coaching and there’s training. And we have an anthropologist involved. I mean, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful. And we’ve literally done everything.

00:31:23:16 – 00:31:25:20
Tessa Wernink
It’s so cool and.

00:31:26:07 – 00:31:46:23
Philippa White
And they get it. And, you know, the teams, I mean, they’re highly intelligent people and so keen to get involved. I mean, the energy on these programs is fantastic, but it’s so funny how every single time, every single time they fall into the same traps and we get into about the third week, we have coaching throughout and we get into the third week and it’s the same time every time.

00:31:46:23 – 00:32:00:01
Philippa White
So it’s sort of the third, fourth week and they’re all a bit kind of we still haven’t had that aha moment. We still haven’t had that aha moment. Oh my God. Like we don’t really. Time is running out. Time is running out. We only have two weeks and always the same conversation. I’m like, okay, cool. Have you talked to the locals?

00:32:00:09 – 00:32:13:18
Philippa White
I mean, we talked to other a few times in the coaching and stuff. But anyway, have you talked to the locals? Like have you spoken to the people? Yeah. No, actually we haven’t done that. Yeah. We think to do that. When you do that, I’m like, okay, cool, why don’t you do that? And let’s catch up next week.

00:32:13:18 – 00:32:28:16
Philippa White
And I’m pretty sure and they don’t even want to talk to you the week after. They’re like, Oh my God, it’s almost like it’s almost like a bicycle with training wheels on. And suddenly the training wheels have been like yanked off and they’re like, here we go, we’re gonna down. And it’s so.

00:32:28:16 – 00:32:31:00
Tessa Wernink
Funny because it’s almost.

00:32:31:08 – 00:32:52:02
Philippa White
There. There’s so much involved in that. It’s, it’s almost they want to stay in it in a safe place. They want to have the conversations with the people they’ve already been introduced to from the organization. That’s a safe place. It’s still pushing them because it could be somebody from a Kenyan organization or a malawi organization. But it’s it’s being vulnerable and saying we still don’t really know the answer.

00:32:52:02 – 00:33:10:12
Philippa White
So we’d really like to speak to such and such. And actually. Can we we still haven’t quite figured this out, can we? And it’s almost like they need the permission. It’s almost it’s fascinating. Sometimes you’re being really, really strong to ask for help for people below you. You’re running a team to show vulnerability and say that you don’t know.

00:33:10:13 – 00:33:22:08
Philippa White
And actually you’re looking for people who are on your team to to help you come up with solutions. One, empowering people is the best thing you can do. It’s fantastic for them. And they probably have a lot of the answers like.

00:33:22:13 – 00:33:35:21
Tessa Wernink
And I know education system is about you knowing all the answers and. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No it’s not really collaboration is it. Yeah. Don’t leverage. No. Fascinating. Yeah.

00:33:35:23 – 00:34:00:12
Philippa White
So I love I love the idea of your podcast. Let’s talk about that. It’s called What If We Get It Right? And it’s very much in line actually with what we’ve just been talking about. Your aim is to offer the business world new narratives showcasing how to build for profit businesses that serve planetary and societal needs. You’re keen to start a conversation about how people can lead our world in a new direction and where we might be getting it right.

00:34:00:18 – 00:34:07:20
Philippa White
I was just wonder, can you bring that to life? And maybe you can. I don’t know. What are some stories and lessons that you can share from your podcast?

00:34:07:21 – 00:34:29:01
Tessa Wernink
I mean, it was in a time where I thought, okay, I’ve been let’s fairphone been through quite a difficult period in my life and so I need to start making something again. And for me, stories are like medicine really. They really inspire me. And it was a really good excuse to have in-depth conversations with lots of people that I admire.

00:34:29:03 – 00:34:47:05
Tessa Wernink
And I go together with Impossible actually, which is a planet centric design agency, and they help fairphone all the way at the beginning as well around how can we use our on the software side of the phones? And they’ve been developing this idea around planet centric designs. So we thought, okay, so let’s start this first season around the Sustainable Development Goals.

00:34:47:05 – 00:35:08:01
Tessa Wernink
So we took the 17 goals and I looks for a business for each of these goals, how they embrace this goal and not only that’s what we’re working toward, but what would that mean for our company if indeed we’re looking at gender equality or life hunger? And so the first season is 17 interviews with social entrepreneurs from around the globe.

00:35:08:01 – 00:35:26:07
Tessa Wernink
They are all fascinating in their own ways. But the ones that come up for me are the solar electric vehicle, the Scion, which is sort of Mozart’s you know, this is the guy who started in his garage, like one of those kind of stories that we think is it was never the Silicon Valley kind of model at all.

00:35:26:08 – 00:35:46:22
Tessa Wernink
It was a person who said, okay, we’re going to build. We’re not building this car. Like someone said, to save the planet, but it is to save cars, you know. So if we’re going to be using cars, then they need to be powered in a different way, but they also need to give back. So, you know, the solar panels on them, if they’re charged, they can start giving back into the grid and then be something more than just standing on the streets.

00:35:46:22 – 00:36:02:10
Tessa Wernink
But but also they created a model around how can we share this vehicle, make sure that it’s not just one person, one vehicle. So they thought about this kind of from the simplistic point of view as well. I think another one is a fascinating woman who steps out of business and she became a undertaker.

00:36:03:05 – 00:36:05:04
Philippa White
An undertaker, undertaker.

00:36:05:11 – 00:36:29:02
Tessa Wernink
She said, that is and it was funny because I interviewed her on the first day of lockdown in the Netherlands. So it was that time. It was like, we don’t know what we’re going to expect. And death has become so much more a part of our society. It is really difficult to talk about, she says. On the one hand, the way we bury people and how we deal with it is so far removed from who we are and what we see are people to do that for us.

00:36:29:02 – 00:36:46:12
Tessa Wernink
So how is it? How is it possible that we can do it ourselves? But also, if we bury them far too low underground where nothing there is nothing that where they could dispose of bodies, you know, that the amount of waste that comes into the kind of materials we use when you start approaching this business from a more ethical point.

00:36:46:14 – 00:37:05:20
Tessa Wernink
Wow, I love that. Yeah. And I maybe, I guess is is she a Hong Kong entrepreneur who is creating fish grown in a lab? Because she said in China, there’s no way you’re going to get people to stop eating fish. So how can we create something that is like an alternative to fishing? I’m vegan. I live in the in Hong Kong.

00:37:06:04 – 00:37:27:00
Tessa Wernink
That’s really uncommon. But I’m going to start creating alternative to fishing the oceans. And the funny thing is, she’s so amazing. She’s managed to do so many trials and it’s not even legal yet to sell her products. And yet she’s taking all that risk and investing in something. Wow. Gosh, it’s a fascinating it’s been a it was a fascinating journey.

00:37:27:00 – 00:37:34:14
Tessa Wernink
But the second season was actually last year. It was a it was a more niche, but it was about social entrepreneurs in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

00:37:34:14 – 00:37:36:02
Philippa White
Yes, I saw that. Yeah, that.

00:37:36:02 – 00:38:06:16
Tessa Wernink
Was like four seasons, really, of like how social entrepreneurs are taking more control about building up their economies and doing peacebuilding because they say that decades of like INGOs, with all their good intentions, nothing’s changing. So how do we start creating our own businesses and our own economic value? And the third one, I’m not sure it’s either going to be something about what is what when we, get it wrong, because I think failures in business are also really important to share with each other, or it’s going to be more about activism in a business context.

00:38:06:16 – 00:38:08:14
Tessa Wernink
So really looking at entrepreneurs.

00:38:08:23 – 00:38:17:24
Philippa White
Very cool. Yeah. Keep me posted. Now we are coming to the end of the podcast. I’m going to ask you just a couple more questions. What keeps you up at night? But then what also gives you hope?

00:38:18:04 – 00:38:48:12
Tessa Wernink
I actually sleep really well. I mean, that doesn’t mean that I’ve got a whole long list of worries and things that I feel really upset about. And I think my antidote has been just not to get too sucked up into the news, because it’s just really depressing. I started reading this magazines like a year ago, positive news, and I realized that actually surrounding yourself with positive stories is so much more engaging and empowering than going through trading.

00:38:48:12 – 00:39:09:04
Tessa Wernink
So the negative news and the things that I’m hopeful about, and I’ve been digging into Joanna Macey’s concept of active hope, which for me is the my mum will say, you know, if I’m on this generation, there was always something to worry about. First it was a Cold War, that it was the ozone layer. Things are going to be fine, you know, and I’m just like that, you know, it’s you know, you can hope so.

00:39:09:12 – 00:39:37:20
Tessa Wernink
But we do need to do something. So this idea of active hope, I have said I think this climate activists want them themselves. But in 2019, I felt like we were riding a wave of like, okay, we’re going to start really stepping out and coming out as businesses and employees to really tackle these issues. And then when the pandemic happened, it was I felt my hope was, well, this is going to so, you know, this is going to make us aware of like not flying and so but it just feels like it’s coming back full force.

00:39:37:20 – 00:39:56:24
Tessa Wernink
We are economic activity driven. So I’m I’m hopeful, especially when I speak to my children about all these different voices that coming up that they think it’s courageous as to happen so that this whole new generation sees this as normal, that we need to fight these issues and engage with them, that we can’t we can no longer not do it.

00:39:56:24 – 00:40:06:06
Tessa Wernink
So it’s not a choice that exactly. But that generation is becoming bigger than the previous ones. And this it’s.

00:40:07:08 – 00:40:13:05
Philippa White
Such a great way to start finishing this off. Now, is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners?

00:40:13:11 – 00:40:39:15
Tessa Wernink
The subtitle or to the undercover activist is activism is love made visible? And I think what I would like to say is when we see the climate activists or when we see what’s happening around us to maybe understand what it triggers, and also that our reactive behavior is maybe to to react to awkwardness or like a fear or their anger, because I think that it comes across as being very angry.

00:40:39:15 – 00:40:58:20
Tessa Wernink
But I think that there’s a lot of terror underlies what is happening, like how white people act, and that if we can go one step deeper into listening. So what is it that you care know? What are you what are you trying to say or how are you trying to make it better than? The conversations could be different, a different flavor and a different social phenomenon.

00:40:58:20 – 00:41:21:06
Tessa Wernink
So I think that’s going to transform it from that kind of suppressed anger to kind of, okay, where do we conversation? Conversation? There’s no monopoly on the truth at the moment. So complex. And it’s not like that. I think the young generation has all the answers. I think that in fact, everybody in positions in businesses, everybody has something to bring into the conversation.

00:41:21:09 – 00:41:23:15
Tessa Wernink
So how can we kind of start seeing both that’s.

00:41:24:17 – 00:41:29:13
Philippa White
So important and so many things in politics, so many.

00:41:29:13 – 00:41:30:13
Tessa Wernink
Things with.

00:41:31:05 – 00:41:47:17
Philippa White
Oh, I could talk to you forever. I think we do need to wrap this up, but I really appreciate your time and thank you for helping us get your story out. I know this is going to inspire a lot of people. I’m working on something with them and I know that a lot of people from there listen to these podcasts.

00:41:47:17 – 00:41:55:02
Philippa White
So Christine Kirsty, I know that they’re going to be listening to this and I know that they’re going to be very excited to know more. We just need to continue the conversation.

00:41:55:02 – 00:42:06:09
Tessa Wernink
So thank you for the platform. And also I guess it’s for the curiosity because it always helps me think when people ask me questions I don’t know the answers to yet. So thank you.

00:42:06:17 – 00:42:09:02
Philippa White
And until next time.

00:42:09:19 – 00:42:10:17
Tessa Wernink
Yeah, bye.

00:42:11:00 – 00:42:11:09
Philippa White
Bye.

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