[Crowd Investor Spotlight] Interview with Verena Ringler

Get to know the crowd investors who support impact Hub Vienna in our new Crowd Investor Spotlight Series



Verena Ringler advises policymakers and stakeholders on the EU’s future and EU’s role in the world. She is driven by her conviction that European integration is too good to fail – internally as well as globally. She is trained and experienced in diplomacy, multi-stakeholder EU processes, and international quality journalism.
Read this interview in German



Verena Ringler can be called an activist of the “Erasmus generation”. She firmly believes in the underlying potential, necessity, and resilience of transnational cooperation in Europe. Across the continent, she scouts for individuals, identifies groups, and spots trends concerning Europe’s societal and political developments. The Impact Hub has since its inception been one of her pools of potential stakeholders and interlocutors. This is why Verena Ringler supports the hub as a Crowd Investor. According to her, “there is a Viennese public life before the Impact Hub– and a Vienna with the Impact Hub.”


“Doing things differently in order to do different things” is what informs Verena Ringler’s approach to hands-on work on European integration. She suspects that this is also part of the response to the challenges of our time, such as youth unemployment in southern Europe, the immense loss of trust due to the Eurozone crisis, migration policy, climate policies, or participation in democracy. For Verena, these challenges are here not to be circumvented, ignored, or belittled—they are here to be tackled. Since 2013, she has been devising and realizing a large number of projects in the Europe Cluster of Stiftung Mercator, a private foundation. In her projects, she identifies practical interventions at the politics-society interface. They range from the “Mercator European Dialogue” – a backchannel platform for national members of parliaments across borders—all the way to “Rethink Europe” at the European Council on Foreign Relations. As a Crowd Investor of the Impact Hub Vienna, Verena not only supports the hub but also shares her thoughts on its long-term role.


Why do you support the Impact Hub?

I am happy to support the Impact Hub, which serves as both a space and a place here in Vienna, Austria. People with different backgrounds and from different fields work together towards the future. To me, what’s enticing about the Impact Hub is that all its members – while working on different things, in different branches – seem to be great friends of the future, no matter how uncertain that might be.


How would you describe the Impact Hub?

The Impact Hub resembles an ecosystem. Someone has planted seeds, and tending these ideas leads to a variety of different outcomes.


What are your hopes and expectations for the Impact Hub?

One man’s antagonist is another man’s policy advisor. In this respect, the Impact Hub, based on the experience it has gained in its first few years, could turn from a taker of the policy agenda to a co-shaper of Austria’s policy agenda. It’s quite fascinating to see the Impact Hub turn, step by step, into an Impact Advocate; members of the Impact Hub would thus become experts on social impact. Slowly and surely then, they would inject themselves into Austria’s political life. They would understand, prepare, represent and advance the interests and themes of contemporary initiatives in Austria, who are often non-governmental, non-profit, one-person in their set-up.


What does impact mean to you?

For me, impact is when, after an activity or a project, people emerge differently than how they were when they started. When an activity or project creates an internal or external transformation.


In your opinion, what is the contribution of institutions such as the Impact Hub to social development?

I suspect that the potential reach of the Impact Hub is huge because the Impact Hub sits like a cluster of future-minded individuals and initiatives in the center of Vienna’s public life. There are certainly match-making or synergy effects that Impact Hub can trace from the beginning to their end, but there are many more such contributions that are not yet even documented, or traced. Just visit the Impact Hub for one day and document how many guests, partners, and newcomers walk in an out—they walk out with more access to information, players, and markets. They profit from efficiency and spillover gains, from knowledge transfer and indirect contacts.


In your recent lecture “Reaching for the Stars” at the Vorarlberg “Days of Utopia” festival you spoke about the “non-profit single European market”. What is that, what should happen?

Today the EU developed a single market for capital, goods and services, employers and employees. But there is no single market for the non-profit sector. An NGO still needs to register in all EU Member States if it wants to operate all over. The same applies to donors and foundations. And yet: If we all think we do need a non-profit single market in order to lift our impact, we need to realize that it’s us we have been waiting for. We must learn to fight politically for our own playing field – to research ourselves and build expertise, to contact MPs, to convince them to forge alliances, and to advocate relentlessly for a European association statute that works for all, from Finland to Portugal. Or, consider a whole other field, the field of the EU budget. Why not pilot with participative budgeting e.g. in some regional and youth funding lines, and thus bring citizens to the table from the beginning of a budgeting process? Why not use EU taxpayers’ money efficiently and effectively? Why not dream of a group, say, the Impact Hub and its friends, to inject themselves into the negotiations for the next EU’s multiannual financial framework? Why not advocate for a first “Citizens Million,” i.e. one million euros of EU money that citizens could program themselves in a joint, participatory process?


Where do you see Impact Hub Vienna in 10 years?

I guess once the Impact Hub has also become an Impact Advocate, the next step would be embarking on “Impact Research.” So, the Impact Hub could undertake empirical research on society and economics in Austria. It would work together with international research groups. It could address overarching or cross-cutting questions of social impact and thus of values, the economy, and society.