Exchange Matters / February 27, 2018

Creating the “Impact Journey”: What the IVLP Means to My Work in Social Innovation and Change

By Sophie Lamprou, winner of the 2018 IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change. Photo credit: A.E. Landes Photography

Each year at the National Meeting, the Global Ties Network recognizes an alumnus or alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) for their achievements in driving social change through innovation as a result of their experience in the program. More than 100 applications were submitted for the Global Ties U.S. 2018 IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change and reviewed to select the winner: Sophie Lamprou, founder of Impact Hub Athens in Greece.

“Sophie is doing outstanding work in Greece bringing together more than 40 hubs of social innovation in different fields,” said Vicente López-Ibor Mayor, president of Via-Circulo Jefferson, a Global Ties U.S. International Member organization and award sponsor. “Her work is an expression of expertise, competence, and incredible commitment to society. We are very proud to have her among us,” he added.

Below, Sophie reflects on the impact of her IVLP experience and what the award means to her.

I remember how excited I was for this learning journey [on the IVLP], but also afraid. Would I get along with my fellow participants? What will the dynamic be like? How do I cope with spending a month away from home? How can I make the best of this?

Our work at Impact Hub, my organization in Athens, Greece, is to make positive change in society by developing sustainable solutions and learning from successful people and initiatives around the world. How can we raise awareness about the impact of social entrepreneurship? What are the necessary ingredients to make sustainable social businesses cultivate conscious entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and everyday consumers?

During my visit to the United States [through the IVLP], we visited social businesses that focus on education and capacity building. From a bakery in Kansas that trains and employs veterans; a restaurant in Seattle that employs the homeless; a cafe in DC that serves as a community space for activists; and a family in Vermont mentoring new Americans—these visits informed us on how we can implement similar structures and principles, become sustainable and independent, and what the expectations and limits are.

Sophie (left) engages in a conversation on stage with Stacy White, Director of the Office of International Visitors at the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.


Each night on the bus with my 13 other companions, we shared what surprised us, what annoyed us, what opened our eyes. I developed a huge love for these people sharing this experience with me: a Mexican girl teaching technological skills to women; a genius Portuguese guy developing tools for social entrepreneurs; a free-spirited Romanian traveling for a year around the world with just a laptop; a Swiss girl with a passion to empower youth and women; an Omani guy who wanted to set up a social business investment fund; a young political activist from Turkey; a Haitian girl running a recycling factory; two caring chaperons who would guide us smoothly. All of them were extraordinary.

The IVLP also gave me an insight into the incentives for corporations, the public, educational institutions, civil society, and entrepreneurs to join the impact journey. I spoke to people in positions that I would otherwise not have been able to. It opened my eyes to the importance of social enterprises and their inclusion in the national economic strategy for Greece. In fall 2017, Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece, visited Impact Hub Athens to talk with Greek social enterprises and announce funding for a social economy.

This award is a part of this experience, and I am grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Athens, who believed in our work in Greece, and to Global Ties U.S. who welcomed and took care of us in the U.S. Impact does not happen in isolation; all of this is a result of the hard work by fellow Impact Hubbers in Athens.

In the end, [the IVLP] is an opening to the wider world, an experience with the new and emerging, as well as the mature practices of innovation, citizen engagement, and active community.

See more of Sophie’s work at Impact Hub Athens.

Learn more about the Global Ties U.S. IVLP Alumni Award for Social Innovation and Change.