5 Questions with Marcela Thurler Lessa, Program Director at Yunus & Youth

Apr 21, 2021
Marcela Thurler Lessa, Yunus & Youth

Brazilian based in São Paulo, Marcela Thurler Lessa is the Program Director at Yunus & Youth. She has the privilege to be a part of the ever-growing social entrepreneurship global ecosystem while leveraging on her professional experience to support youth tackling the world’s most pressing problems.

Marcela is a certified Project Manager specialized in designing, implementing, and monitoring educational programs to foster entrepreneurship and the development of innovative social businesses. She has over 10 years of work experience in the for-profit sector and in the nonprofit sector having lived and worked in the United States and Germany.

01. What is the mission of your organization?

Yunus & Youth believes that connecting young people from all corners of the world and giving them the tools and resources they need to develop social business solutions can lead to successfully tackling issues that have been left unsolved in our society for far too long.

02. Why have you chosen to dedicate your career to this work?

I studied advertising and marketing in college and had the chance to work at several different workplaces, from ad agencies to retail and industries. Having been a beginner so many times means I never have to start from scratch since I bring all my past experiences with me. All these diverse experiences have broadened the way I understand the world.

Ever since I started working for big corporations, I never really felt connected to the values of the organizations I worked with. I believe in doing well by doing good. Companies that succeed must fight for a real purpose that is more valuable than just making more money. I have worked at companies that had great values written on the walls, but the real attitude and behavior of its employees were the exact opposite.

Since high school, I have volunteered for different organizations, getting to know the many ways I could connect to others, learning their stories, and helping improve their livelihoods in any way I could. In 2017, after having worked for over 10 years in the for-profit sector, I decided to make a big change in my life. I quit my job as a Project Manager at a multinational company and joined the Amani Institute post-graduate program in Social Innovation Management. This is when I first started to understand that I could use my knowledge and skills for good. In early 2018 I joined the Yunus & Youth team. Now I have the privilege to be a part of the ever-growing social entrepreneurship global ecosystem while leveraging my professional experience to support youth tackling the world’s most pressing problems.

03. What is the proudest moment of your work?

I believe I have been able to really use my life and work experiences to scale Yunus & Youth's social impact and brand awareness since joining the organization. By connecting a team of motivated young professionals coming from all corners of the world, Yunus & Youth has exponentially increased the number of supported early-stage social businesses. The achievement I am most proud of is having selected bright and resourceful people to join us, without teamwork we would never have reached over 3,000 young social entrepreneurs around the world in the past years, presenting them with relevant social business knowledge and resources.

04. What advice do you have for organizations that want to support the entrepreneurs you serve?

Listen to and work with your community! Engaging the young social entrepreneurs we support to co-create the activities we develop is the most valuable lesson we have learned as an organization. It is important that community members feel and know that they belong. They should be able to clearly see that their inputs are important and benefit the community. At Yunus & Youth, we host monthly community meetings, where we ask how Fellows are doing, how we can support them further, and brainstorm ideas with them. This has given them a sense that what they have to say matters and that we’re here to listen. As a result, community members share a desire to see Yunus & Youth thrive and are encouraged to celebrate each other’s achievements.

05. What gives you hope?

Working with young people who are motivated to change the world is what gives me hope! With a global population of more than 1,8 billion people, young people are the largest untapped resource in the world, possessing talents and ambition that can overcome our society’s greatest challenges. To achieve the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we need to empower young people – they are not only our future leaders, but they are also the ones most interested in the future of our planet.