Passion and Love Are Not the Same Thing

By: Daniela Barone Soares


One of the many privileges of my job as chief executive of a leading UK venture philanthropy organization is that I get to meet a lot of people who lead organizations that aim to make life better for those most in need in our society. I admire anyone who devotes their professional career to the cause of helping others, and I am inspired by the drive, energy and passion that so many leaders bring to their organization and cause.

But when I look beyond their great intentions at the real results that their organizations achieve, I find myself wondering whether this word 'passion' is helpful at all.

Instead of passion, I prefer to talk about love. The philosopher Spinoza said that passion happens when external events affect us. We experience the emotion of passion. We enter into a 'passive' state. Love is different. Love is a verb. Love is an act.

To love is to respect and to take responsibility. It is to give support, to problem solve, to communicate. Love necessitates commitment. It requires honesty, tenacity, discipline, and openness to change. We don't have to love. We choose to love.

Love is what best describes what we do at Impetus-PEF - not passion. It is love that deeply understands how hard change is - but pursues it anyway. It is love that says 'enough already' when - in spite of the billions that government spends on education and welfare - 15% of the UK's young people are still leaving school with no qualifications, no prospect of a job, and every chance that when they become parents, their children will repeat the same wretched cycle.

It's only love, as a choice, as an act of will, that propels us to strive for excellence, to search for new solutions to tackle old problems and to lead by example. Only through this love will we ever make a real dent in the toughest challenges that face our societies.

The alternative is too easy: to look at what non-profit organizations do instead of the impact they have. To focus on their running costs - rather than on the results they deliver. To think that non-profits should be run on passion - not on a plan. That, in our view, is the easy way out.

It is our belief that every child born into disadvantage must have the chance to break out, to succeed in education, and to get a job that will let him or her lead an independent life. We know that one of the greatest ways to provide human dignity is to give someone a job. But we also know that many of the most vulnerable young people in our society are simply not equipped for work when they leave school.

That's why we commit to working with our non-profit partners to help them develop a blueprint for high performance to ensure that these young people get the skills, the confidence and the motivation they need to succeed. We help them to define their mission and the type of people they will help; set out the short-, intermediate- and long-term outcomes it will commit to securing for those people; outline the programme design which will deliver these outcomes; and, crucially, determine how it will manage that programme to ensure that every young person makes progress towards these outcomes.

By following this approach, our aim is to help make the difference between a non-profit organization that reliably and consistently produces long-term outcomes for young people - and one that does not. We're accountable to the organizations we support through this process on helping them deliver and they, in turn, are accountable to us to ensure they give every young person on their programs the chance for a radically better life.

That is why we take a rational, disciplined and data-driven approach to what we do. When these young people have been failed so often before, we have to go beyond good intentions and passion to truly understand what actually works. And when we find solutions that do work, we have to be tireless in getting them to scale. That, to us, is love.

These are some of the themes explored and celebrated by UK based social enterprise Pioneers for Change. Their inaugural 6-month Fellowship kicked off on 23 and 24 March, 2015 in London. Pioneers for Change is an initiative of Adessy Associates.

About Daniela Barone Soares
Prior to her appointment as CEO of Impetus-PEF, Daniela served as Chief Executive of Impetus Trust from June 2006.

Much of her career has been in private equity and venture capital, with BancBoston Capital in the US and Europe, Citigroup in Brazil and Goldman Sachs in New York. Prior to joining Impetus Trust, Daniela worked for Save the Children in the UK.

Daniela has a BSc in Economics and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Daniela has long been committed to finding innovative ways to break the cycle of poverty and create opportunities for the economically disadvantaged. In 2008, she featured in the Independent on Sunday's Happy List as one of the top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live.

In November 2013, Daniela was appointed to the UK National Advisory Board, which advises the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce, chairing one of the workstreams. She is a non-executive director of Halma Plc and of Evora S.A., a member of the Business Advisory Council at Saïd Business School at Oxford University and of Insper, a leading Brazilian university and research centre. Daniela also serves on various advisory boards. Daniela was a Founding Trustee of the Education Endowment Foundation, which Impetus-PEF co-manages with the Sutton Trust. She was also in the founding Advisory Board of Big Society Capital.