Mark has a Master's in Accounting, but his true call is with MovingWorlds, a social impact organization addressing the global talent gap. Their online platform and community connects people who want to travel and volunteer their expertise directly, or "experteer," with social impact organizations around the world.
What motivated you to quit everything to travel and volunteer?
I was looking to grow my career into a role that made an impact. I knew that global exposure would be beneficial regardless of direction, and figured the only way to really learn how my skills could be used to create an impact was to get real experience. I looked at the Peace Corps, fellowships, and more, but nothing had the right combination of time and skills... so I decided to created my own "fellowship" by traveling and volunteering for a year.
What inspired you to start MovingWorlds? Was there a specific moment that motivated its creation?
It's interesting... it actually took me a long time recognize the market here. In fact, I can't even take credit for it. I was keeping a simple blog documenting my experience and people started asking me for tips how to find free, skills-based volunteering opportunities. But the idea of trying to support a movement came at a serendipitous meeting with my now co-founder, Derk Norde. We connected over our passion to help address the "talent gap", one of the leading barriers to progress, and both saw first-hand how the application of the right skills at the right time could really catalyze the growth of smaller organizations. And that, at any given moments, thousands of people were volunteering their skills overseas, but primarily in manual projects that they were paying to engage in.
How do you define “experteering,” and why is it important to social impact?
Experteering = Volunteering your skills. The "talent gap" has been identified as one of the leading barriers to progress. By Experteering, you can help the right organization access the right skills at the right time to scale, create an impact, and create jobs. As it turns out, lots of people are going abroad to volunteer, but they're working on manual projects and many times even doing more harm than good. By educating people to only engage in locally-driven, skills-based projects we can truly make a difference.
How is the MovingWorlds experience different from the experience at other social impact organizations?
We're a curated marketplace. We find, verify, and prepare organizations from around the world that are looking to host skilled volunteers. We then work like a matching site connecting people that want to go Experteering with these organizations. Since we measure long-term impact of engagements, we also provide Experteering resources, training, and personal support to increase the quality of every match. Different than a set program, you decide what project you want to support, how much time you can give, and when you go... It's like a "choose your own adventure", but backed by a global support team.
What has been the greatest challenge in creating MovingWorlds?
Creating a sustainable impact is what we measure against, and supporting that while we scale is our biggest challenge. Going Experteering is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for a lot of people and we want to ensure that people have a great experience AND create a sustainable impact. So far, everyone that has followed our matching and planning process has become a huge champion, so we're becoming more and more confident in our model. But as we go from 100's of matches to 1,000 's, we're looking to keep innovating to support high-impact matches.
How has starting MovingWorlds changed you personally?
Every week, we here incredible stories of people that are putting their greatest asset - their mind - to work for common good. It's an endless source of inspiration, and powerful reminder that, as Harvey Firestone puts it "You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself".
What advice can you offer to others trying to start their own company?
Realize that your initial idea is probably wrong, but the passion fueling it is your biggest asset. Use a human-centered design and/or Lean Startup approach to validate your ideas and build your business, but keep your mission front and center when encountering difficult decisions. For us, every time we've taken the time to better connect and understand our users, and used that information to make decisions that are in the benefit of our Experteers and Hosting Organizations, not our bottom-line, we've been rewarded.
Samantha is a junior at Columbia University studying Art History & Visual Arts. She is currently interning at CATALYST and Tribeca Film Center.