Nina Poxleitner, Julian Richter, and Lisa-Maria Sommer-Fein spent two years as teachers in inner city public schools in Vienna working with many students who were from immigrant families.
For each of them, joining Teach for Austria was a digression from more traditional career paths in the world of business. It opened their eyes to the difficulties immigrants faced in adjusting to a new home, language and culture. And it became a stepping stone toward careers that would have a positive impact on other people’s lives.
“Those two years spent teaching those kids taught me that starting off with something and just doing something about it, even as a single person, makes a difference,” says Julian.
Nina says, “Like many in my generation, I was looking for some meaning in my work. I was frustrated in what I was doing. In fact, I had never wanted to be a teacher before. It was more that I saw some impact in that work. And it was one of the best choices I made.”
The three became friends during that time and discovered they shared a desire to help other people. Six years ago, after finishing their teaching stints, they started their first social enterprise. Now they have created four of them, and they’re not done.
“We just started off with the mindset of ‘let’s start something, and maybe we can create an impulse in our society that that grows bigger than what we could do on a one-to-one basis,’” says Julian.
The three started in 2016, during that time’s refugee crisis, by creating MTOP, or More Than One Perspective, a social enterprise that helps skilled refugees enter the Austrian labour market and tries to break down negative stereotypes. MTOP acts somewhat like a labour agency, and companies pay for the service of finding the right employees.
Austrian businesses benefit from the skills and diverse backgrounds of the refugees, and the refugees benefit by getting the coaching and support that helps them find and keep jobs in a new culture.
MTOP was a finalist in the 2017 Social Innovation Tournament, sponsored by the EIB Institute to promote solutions to social and environmental problems.