How Frankfurt School helps me build sustainable business models
Sustainable World Academy / 18 December, 2019
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Business Solutions Expert at KBC Bank
Herman De Greve is a Business Solutions Expert at KBC Bank and has a passion for nature based solutions to poverty and climate change. Since 2018, he has been enrolled in Frankfurt School's Development e-Campus to further his expertise in Development & Climate Finance.

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In my opinion, the e-learning courses offered by Frankfurt School are complementary with my current job in Business Banking, my former experience in Community Development and my previous education. During our successive travels to the Philippines, I could also immediately use the insights from the courses in field research about the role Microfinance can play in supporting smallholder farmers in becoming more climate resilient and in the support of small local development projects.

My current focus of interest is how we are able to finance ecosystem-based solutions that address poverty and agricultural production in a changing climate. My experiences in the Philippines taught me that MFIs can play a major role in this endeavour and that the necessary climate adaptation investments can lead to structural changes in smallholder production systems, moving towards agroforestry, regenerative agricultural and permaculture practices.

With the growing interest in natural solutions, NGOs that plant trees, as part of their development project, gain a lot of attention but the majority still work on donations. Here, we need to develop financially sustainable social business models to scale up and broaden these efforts.

I hope that with the studies at Frankfurt School, I will be able to engage more structurally in these challenges. You might wonder what fuels my dedication to make the most of the opportunity Frankfurt School offers. Well, when I graduated cum laude with a Master in Political Sciences with field research on Participatory Development in the South Indian state of Kerala, it was my dream to further my academic career in Development Politics. Unfortunately, life came in between and due to several health incidents which brought my life to halt, I was unable to pursue my passion further. Also, confronted with lack of financial resources, I started working in fundraising for NGOs and later switched to Community Development in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in my home town. Meanwhile, I followed courses on development, continued my self-study and pursued academic positions in which time after time I came out far in the selection but never got selected.

Hungry for more…

After a serious traffic accident, I had to restart again, this time in the financial sector, where I work today as a Business Solutions Expert. It was during the first trip with my partner to the Philippines, her mother country, when the spark of passion ignited again. The confrontation of our friends living in the slums, the widespread poverty and inequality as well as the constant threat of typhoons moved me to take steps. Back home, I continued pursuing new courses on open learning platforms like Coursera, Acumen and others. But I was hungry for more.

Right platform

That’s how I came across the Frankfurt School’s Development e-campus. Initially, I enrolled myself into the Certified Expert course in Microfinance, then continued with Agricultural Finance and now I am currently taking the Climate Adaptation Finance course. I must say that I came to the right place. The concept of the Development Finance e-Campus is amazing. It enables students from all over the world to follow quality education at their own pace and if they want, they can work towards an internationally renowned master’s degree with the Master of Leadership in Development Finance or the newly released Master of Leadership in Green Finance. The course material, responsive staff and the ability to share questions and experiences on the forum contribute to a real campus feeling even though you are not physically in Frankfurt. As you will see, the participants of the course are very diverse: from business leaders, academics, development practitioners to people who, like me, aspire to have a career in the development finance sector.