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  • purposelypodcast

'First CEO role', Leading for impact

Meet Maria English, the CEO of Impact Lab, a New Zealand-based company working with charities and funders to make a positive impact.


They do this by focusing on 'social investments' and making them work for communities, and with a grand goal of enabling people to lead the lives they choose. To get the full story we explore Maria's career journey, from overachiever at school and University to her first CEO role as boss of Impact Lab, and their unique approach to social value measurement. We also go into her home life and the important role her family have played in her journey and success. Maria’s early career focused on travel and academic achievement, earning a politics and philosophy degree at the renowned University of Cambridge in the UK and later an MBA at Stanford University in the States. Following a well trodden path and utilising her studies, Maria joined the Boston Consulting Group and experienced the pressures of being a business consultant and delivering value in the corporate world. A high-flying consulting career seemed to be her destiny! However, her move to the purpose led work she does now was activated by an experience she had helping ‘first nation’ communities in Australia. A life changing moment which eventually led her back to New Zealand, her home, and the birthplace of Impact Lab. So blending consulting skills, purpose and family Maria was drawn into Impact Lab. A unique proposition and a family business for Maria at least. That's because Impact Lab was co-founded by Maria's father, Bill English, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and respected policy maker Emily Mason. In 2019, the founders identified the need to understand, grow, and demonstrate the impact of frontline impact organisations and strategic funders. This realisation led to the development of Impact Lab's unique methodology and tools that connect social value measurement with decision-making. Their goal is to equip decision-makers with actionable information to enhance social impact. Their unique proposition is based on Investment (SROI) model to measure impact. SROI compares the estimated social value of a program to its cost, quantifying the social impact in dollar terms that a program achieves for its participants over their lifetime. The hardest part of that equation appears to be accurately valuing or estimating the 'social value', but that is what Impact Lab pride themselves, having the skills, knowledge and insight (data) to so this well. Her very first role as CEO probably came earlier than expected, However, like all leaders of 'start-ups' Maria faces daily challenges with enthusiasm and by keeping a focus on the bigger mission and goal, making a positive and lasting difference to all New Zealanders. She has absolutely no regrets about leaving the corporate world though and 'leading a small but impactful team and guiding the organisation toward growth' has been a transformative experience for her especially in the place she calls home. We ask Maria to offer up her super power and after some thought she reflects on her ability to collaborate effectively with others, for her and her team that means joining with remarkable charities and organisations and finding meaning and purpose in the work they do. We also talk about the challenges and benefits of working with her father within the same organisation, its unique dynamics, and she acknowledges the challenge of separating work from personal life and the importance of finding a balance. Maria looks to the future of Impact Lab, with an aim of deepening its impact and building more connections within the sector to make data-driven decision-making a standard practice. Their goal is to see all investments in the community sector in New Zealand guided by data, leading to greater social impact and positive change.

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