Maze: Decoding Impact

Written by: Paige Funk

Homeless people lost to our society, children living in extreme poverty, plastic overfilling landfills and oceans… issues facing our society.

“Social Impact” is the act of taking deliberate actions to create a significant change that positively alters a social issue impacting our world.

Today our cohort started our day with a volunteer organization, CAIS, which was established to help people of extreme poverty or those socially excluded.  This group has trainers who lead a team of people they serve to compete in the Homeless World Cup of Street Futball.  We had the opportunity to play soccer with this group of amazing people.  It was fun, insightful, and humbling.  I loved that our cohort and professors jumped right in and played street futball.  While playing, I realized that this sport is a great equalizer; it didn’t matter if you were a Senior Vice President, a volunteer trainer, or a homeless person; all were equal on the field.

Following futball, we visited the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation on its beautiful campus in Lisboa, Portugal, which serves to elevate humanity through Art, Science, Education, and Charity.  The foundation was created in 1956 and has served the people of Portugal ever since.  The foundation identifies significant issues impacting socially excluded groups, solves them in a localized manner, and then works to institutionalize the solution within the public sector.  Some of the foundation’s projects include Art for Inclusion, Hip-Hop for Underprivileged, and Hack for Good.  The foundation currently has three key areas it is working to address:  sustainability, knowledge, and cohesion & social integration.

In 2013, the Calouste Gulbenkian foundation developed a program called Maze, which is a company established to aid entrepreneurs committed to making a social impact as a result of doing business.  Maze assists qualified entrepreneurs with market intelligence, strengthening ventures, and advising on capitalization.  To be eligible, the start-up needs talented teams with solid technical and managerial skills, a unique and innovative product, tech-enabled solutions and a strong and clear business idea with impact potential.

Maze has an acceleration program known as Maze-X and a venture capital company known as Mustard Seed: Maze. Mustard Seed: Maze is an Impact Capital company that serves as an investment group for venture capitalists with the goal of reorienting capital toward impactful incomes. Mustard Seed: Maze wants to use social investments to help solve the most pressing social challenges of our time. They have two endgames: government adoption and corporate adoption. Mustard Seed: Maze is working to have 1.4B (euros) in annual contracts between Portuguese government and impact entrepreneurs and between 250M (euros) and 400M (euros) in annual funding for impact entrepreneurs with private capital.

The cohort enjoyed learning more about the potential of impact investing and the role of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in making lasting, socially impacting changes.