Interview with Ville Wacklin

I interviewed Ville Wacklin at the Finnish Church Aid headquarters in Helsinki. The reason why I chose to interview him is my interest in the entrepreneurship training at the refugee camps. In my opinion it is smart to help people to get an education during their stay at the camp. Sometimes it can be many years of their lives that they are forced to live at the camps. So it is very important to give them education that really makes a difference. In this interview Wacklin tells about how he ended up working for a NGO, what kind of work does he do and which qualities a person working for a NGO needs.

Ville Wacklin works at the FCA (Finnish Chuch Aid) as a project manager. He is mostly doing programmes/projects related to entrepreneurship and education export. He ended up working for FCA by a bit of luck and a lot of entrepreneurial attitude. After high school he travelled for several years abroad. He visited many countries in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Then he decided to come back to Finland and start to do something that is remotely remarkable or meaningful.

He started to study to become a class teacher, but after finishing his BA he was not sure if he he wanted to be a class teacher for the rest of his life. After a while he decided to finish his Master´s degree. He became interested in education in refugee context. He wanted to collect data at the refugee camps and to be able to do this he contacted FCA and joined their research in Uganda. After graduation he pitched his ideas to FCA of how FCA could boost entrepreneurship in refugee context and after a lot of maybes he finally started working for FCA in Uganda. He was part of a team that made the curriculum for the entrepreneurship education which is a part of a vocational education. Even if the student decides not to become an entrepreneur, this education gives the student tools for acquiring a job. Later on FCA has also started to help people with start up ideas. FCA offers now different kind of education in the field of entrepreneurship in Uganda, Jordan, Cambodia and Eritrea.

What kind of qualities one should have when working in a NGO? Wacklin says that all the travelling he did for years helped him to adapt for different environments. He also feels that he learned how people interact and work in different environments. One needs ability to adjust in his line of work. It is also important for your own wellbeing to let go of micro managing in sub-Saharan countries. He says that rather than navigating the boat, you must navigate the stream. According to Wacklin, you must understand that things will happen in the last minute. It is not possible to plan a head, atleast not more than 2 weeks a head. You should always have Plan B and Plan C, because things will always change. One needs to be flexible. You will get to the goal, but maybe not the way as you wanted. For the language skills needed for the work, Wacklin says fluent written and spoken English is very important. Languages like Arabic or Spanish might also be useful depending on the country you are working in.

Does religion play any part in your work? No, not really. Even as a faith based organization, religion does not show in his work. Only when it comes to local staff in Uganda, they are very religious and we have to respect that. Being a church aid also opens doors especially in Middle East. There Faith based organizations are not seen by covernments as a threat but as more reliable than other kind of NGO´s.

Why did you choose Africa? Africa is the continent that fascinates him most. At the same time it is the most frustrating continent to work in. I travelled earlier before my work at FCA in different countries in Africa for a year. I feel that it has helped me  to adjust for my work in Uganda. My competence is mostly in Africa, in how to run projects or programmes in Africa. I have learned how to deal with crazy traffic and people with different backgrounds. I know how to react when somebody calls me “white face” or wants to touch my hair. You get by well when you can talk some words local language and find a reason to laugh together with the person you meet.

What would you like to say to students wanting to work at a NGO? I want to say that be curious, be resilient and don´t take no for an answear! It can be tough but at the same time I have to pinch myself for living my dream. I am very happy and also very proud of myself for achieving all of this!

Interviewing Ville Wacklin was a very nice task. We were talking about important things both on and off tape. What I enjoyed most was all the sharing of wise thoughts and laughs. I hope the readers will find this interview useful. I recommend every one to contact NGO´s, do interviews and network, it might help you to find your dream job. So Thank You Ville for this nice interview and continue to enjoy your work and life atleast as much as you do at the moment. Keep up the good work and spirit!


Some links related to FCA (in English) and Ville Wacklin (in Finnish):

The Role of Knowledge in Business Start-up Activity

Summary by Tytti Aalto

The study focuses on knowledge-based determinants for business startup activity. It focuses specifically on the role of knowledge in the decision to start a new business.

The central research question in this article is: ‘How do knowledge-based factors, in addition to other factors that have been suggested in the literature, affect one’s propensity to become an entrepreneur?’. The authors argue for the role of knowledge based on the notion of self-efficacy and the confidence in capabilities. In this study, the authors build on and extend the self-efficacy explanation for business start-up activity by emphasizing the role of two groups of knowledge-related components, i.e., individuals’ existing knowledge base on the one hand, and their exposure to external knowledge on the other. The analyses are drawn on a sample of nascent entrepreneurs from two European countries (Belgium and Finland).

Summary on Swastika Paudel´s thesis by Kaija

OPERATING A SMALL BUSINESS IN FINLAND, Case study E-bazaar in Pietarsaari, by Swastika Paudel

I read a thesis about how to start a shop that sells Asian goods in Finland. It was written by Swastika Paudel. In this thesis she describes his case study of E-bazaar, a shop in Pietarsaari. For her thesis, she interviewed people and used a variety of written material. She has done a thorough research on how to start a business in Finland.

This research includes different kinds of things you must have knowledge of to be able to build a successful business in Finland. You must know about the laws, have a good business plan and find out with different analysing techniques how to make your business blossom. Mainly, according to Paudel this thesis is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs to make their dreams about own shop to come true.

She chose E-bazaar for her case study because the business has been successful although it has not yet been around for a long time. All in all Paudel´s thesis can be considered to be a good information package for all those who aspire to become Asian food store owners.

Radziszewska: Intercultural dimensions of entrepreneurhip

Summary by Veera Wusu

The article aims to describe the impact of national culture in the process of starting an entrepreneurship and especially in family firm creation.  The article defines cultures as national cultures, and utilizes Hofstede’s (2001) model and Hofstede’s GLOBE project’s (2002) categories in the analysis.

To given an insight to the author’s perpective on culture and it’s influence on the entrepreneurial behavior, I quote her. The author claims that: ”Cultural differences have direct influence on entrepreneurial orientation and entrepreneurial behaviors among member of particular cultural community” (p. 38), and: ”Culture has a direct manifestation in the behavior of people belonging to a specific culture. It influences the personal values of individuals, and furhermore, influences their behaviors. Thus, national culture can support or impede entrepreneurial behavior at the individual level” (p. 42).

In this framework, the article compares different dimensions of national cultures described by Hofstede, and puts them in relation to entrepreneural behavior categorizing them as having assumably positive or negative influence on starting a business.