In this interview, we talk to Joel Dickenmann, co-director of Wasser für Wasser, a social enterprise with offices in Lucerne, Switzerland. From its beginnings, WfW has worked together with restaurants and other partners in the surrounding area to help raise awareness around water and to finance water projects in sub-Saharan Africa. It now has more than 250 partners from the gastronomic sector, as well as 140 partners from the private sector through their “WfW-Office”. The current operational radius spans across 18 Swiss cantons. It does so by charging for tap water, then sending these proceeds in full to much needed water projects in developing communities.
Joel discusses the challenges of running a not-for-profit social enterprise in addition to discussing the long path he took to arrive where he is today. He started playing soccer (his sister, Lara, now plays for the Swiss national team) and working on a part-time basis for Credit Suisse. Only a few years later, he graduated with a Master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston, where he laid out the future development of Wasser für Wasser in Switzerland.
In the interview, he talks about what motivated him to move from the banking world to a social enterprise working longer hours on lower pay. On the way, he discusses the differences between the Swiss and American educational system and shares advice, based on a tragic loss, about having the courage of your convictions.