We talked to Emmanuel Bentejac, the CEO and Cofounder of Wenabi about volunteer opportunities for helping associations and social entrepreneurs and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Emmanuel Bentejac: I think right now is a tough time for everyone but we are trying our best to take care of each other, stay safe, strong, and positive!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Wenabi.
I am Emmanuel Bentejac, CEO and co-founder of Wenabi. I graduated from Sciences Po Bordeaux and worked for eight years in the CSR and sustainable development sector in different companies. Throughout my entire career, I’ve been involved in many associative projects and therefore, I also know this field pretty well. It is from these experiences that I came to understand that the links between associations & companies needed to be strengthened.
But actually, the idea came from a discussion with Thomas Soucaille, my friend and co-founder of Wenabi. He had experimented with volunteering as part of his business but found it very archaic. So with our third co-founder and CTO, Aristide Flandrin, we decided to create a digital platform with makes volunteering easy: that’s how Wenabi was born, in a nutshell.
How does Wenabi innovate?
As a tech for a good start-up, Wenabi combines innovation and societal impact to enable and boost solidarity in all its forms. Since 2017, Wenabi has contributed to the evangelization of the private sector on the matter of employee volunteering. We are witnessing a real transformation in the way people think and in the way CSR commitments are taken into account by involving employees.
We use technology to facilitate the implementation of solidarity programs in companies making these initiatives both impactful and simple to set up. Thanks to Wenabi, from large companies to SME-Startups, any company can launch its platform and mobilize its employees, in just a few steps. For associations, it is a simple and free way to obtain new resources (volunteers, skills, funding). Once again, we are relying on technology to facilitate this work.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
In March 2020, when the French government announced a lockdown, we initially chose to close the platform. But after a few days, there was a huge demand from employees and companies who wanted to take action and do something to help during these difficult times. So we decided to re-open and in April, there was a very sharp increase in the number of employees taking part in solidarity missions. Companies have multiplied solidarity actions through our platform to respond to the pandemic.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Thankfully, we didn’t have to make difficult choices but it was definitely a challenging time for all of us. I think one of the main lessons I’ve learned is how important it is to have a strong and united team working toward a common goal. At Wenabi, we managed to stay together in spite of the distance that separated us and that’s how we all stayed sane and efficient in our work.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
During this crisis, we have developed several functionalities on our platform. Some of them already existed but have been largely improved. For example, we have greatly expanded our range of remote solidarity missions and we have enabled employees to make donations matched by their companies to the associations of their choice directly on the platform.
Concerning our team, everyone has been working remotely, but we have continued our weekly virtual meetings and we have also set up more informal moments online to keep in touch, support each other and stay positive.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Today platforms like ours are multiplying in France, but that’s a good thing. It shows that the demand is there and that big companies are evolving. Wenabi’s work is recognized and appreciated in the social and solidarity economy sector. To stay in the game we strive to always keep our values in mind, keep the needs of associations at the heart of our work, and provide an efficient and demanding product to our clients.
Your final Thoughts?
This crisis has really changed our way of working and our relationships with work. Not only working from home but also the question of meaning and values. Our way of working is changing towards something more impactful and that’s a really good sign. A growing number of companies have understood this and are seeking to move in the right direction.
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