Breakfast with the Padrino and other Thoughts on “Impact”

Slater Matzke shares his thoughts on a life of purpose
Slater Matzke (MPA ’16) shares his thoughts on “impact,” the pursuit of purpose, and the future.

Slater Matzke (MIIS MPA ’16) has worked at a leadership level for the past couple of years in the CSIL offices as Partnerships Associate in conjunction with his graduate studies at the Middlebury Institute. In this capacity, he tripled the number of hiring organizations in the CSIL partner network, strengthening our reach around the globe, and cultivating a robust pipeline of career opportunities with small and growing businesses in the impact sector. Slater also contributed to CSIL on a strategic level by producing a 5-year growth strategy for the award-winning Frontier Market Scouts (co-authored by MIIS graduate Joshua Zimmerman). Current FMS Partnerships Associate Christina Lukeman caught up with Mr. Matzke and got on his take on what it means to pursue purpose-driven work, his favorite regional networking opportunities, and secured a few tips for breaking into to the impact sector. 

What is “impact” to you?

SM: There really is no standard definition; impact means different things to different people. The private sector says that all business is impact, but I would [obviously] argue that. For me impact is shifting away from traditional paradigms, looking deeper at qualitative and quantitative systems…it’s not necessarily about how to make the world better, but how to make systems better in order to have a positive impact.

In a sense, impact is efficiency—it is improvement and evaluation of what we’ve been doing and how to improve it. Impact is never stopping – never thinking there is a finish line and always finding ways to build a better mouse trap.

What inspired you pivot into the “impact” sector?

SM: Working in the private sector for 10 years, I was focused on single bottom line return and improvement of the business was seen solely from a financial standpoint. I found myself continually thinking, “We are making money, but why doesn’t this feel as good as everyone said it was supposed to?” I got this feeling that the single bottom line is not the only way to evaluate for success and it was an itch that I wanted to scratch. Simply increasing revenues and maximizing profits is an archaic way of looking at things in the current, multidimensional world, where single actions can have tertiary effects.  As my awareness grew, I started to ask big questions: What does it mean to really help other people? What is public service? What is ‘civics’? [So I left the private sector] to see what “impact” looked like on the grassroots level: I joined Peace Corps and lived in Latin America for three years. After getting a taste of what it meant to make impact at the base of development, I came back to the United States and tied all of my experiences together in an academic overarch through my MPA, focusing on Social Venture Management.

Tell us about your current work? What are you next steps?

Right now my front burner is politics and working on the 2016 Presidential Campaign for Hillary Clinton; this is the most revolutionary election of our lifetime and the most important thing right now that I can get involved with to make a difference.

You worked primarily in partnerships at CSIL, facilitating placements between participating fellows and organizations around the world. What is the biggest value added you see from FMS training and placement?

SM: The training is unparalleled – there is nothing out there that is like FMS, from a training perspective. [You are] getting not only high-level practitioners who are working in the impact sector, but also a diverse group of participants from around the world. The knowledge-sharing that occurs and the unique perspective that everyone brings is like a primordial soup of where great ideas are born.

The FMS fellowship is not an internship—it is real work. Our hiring partner organizations have been vetted by the program as high-impact, early or growth-stage (and often resource-constrained) enterprises with pressing needs. The fellows are given the opportunity to deploy their acquired knowledge gained from the training in order to make these organizations even better and stronger. As an FMS fellow, you are exercising the tremendous service of getting out there and applying your knowledge and skills  to really helping early-stage enterprises using business as a force for good.

What did you learn from working with CSIL?

SM: Working with CSIL is working for a start-up: putting in long hours and pouring everything you have into [the organization] to further the mission of what the Center is, which is to develop programs and conduct research to advance the impact sector. Every hour that you can allocate is to the benefit of the students at the Institute, and the trainees, fellowship candidates, impact investors, and enterprises that connect to our programs. 

What are your top three tips and tools for those looking to start an impact career (and fellows about to start the training)?

1)     Take the time to reflect and take a values-inventory. The term “social impact” is so loaded and charged right now; it’s so sexy and glamorous. A lot of people want to jump into the sector without understanding what it really means, and without knowing where they fit in. The reality is that impact falls on each individual: you need to know where and how you want to make impact in order to do so.

2)     Field experience is huge and there are plenty of ways to get engaged on any level. Use your own local community to develop your tools and make a change. Jump in the sandbox and start playing around wherever you are, and you’ll see yourself start to build castles.

3)     Don’t discount government; you can create impact through the public sector as well. People may or may not realize it, but the largest driver of social impact in the world is government (and they also have the deepest pockets of anyone). There is so much potential with what can be done—do your part to be engaged on a civic level, pay attention on a policy level, and advocate for law makers that share your values.

What are your favorite regional networking opportunities? 

SM: My absolute favorite are the Peace Corps Conferences as they are a great place to learn about development and they share the same values as me (side note: Nor Cal Peace Corps Association has 5k members). SOCAP is a no-brainer—it is like the Olympics of the social impact sector. Further, ANDE is fantastic—all of the heavy-hitters in the impact sector are part of this network and the association is always has networking events in metropolitan impact hubs domestically (think: Washington, D.C. and San Francisco) as well as internationally—great for the FMS crowd.

A few important personal questions to tap into who the real Slater is…

Who has been a guiding force for you?

SM: I was really inspired by a friend of mine named Tim McCollum (who also did the Peace Corps). Tim used his PeaceCorps service to fill a social gap and came up with the chocolate company MADACASSE. I am just more generally inspired by entrepreneurs… raising capital and taking the risk to leave your job…that’s bold.  Often times the profit model is the trickiest part. Your beneficiaries are not able to pay so you have to get very creative in your business models. It’s inspiring to see people getting out there and generating new business, especially when it’s good business.

Tell us something that no one knows about you:

I make strong impressions on people. I met a couple at a coffee shop in Lima, Peru and 2 weeks later I was the godfather “Padrino” to their daughter.”


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