DR. Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist at IKEA Social Entrepreneurship, Delft, The Netherlands
Jens grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. He completed a Master in Economic History in Lund in 2012 and received a Ph.D. in Economic History in 2018.
A few months after receiving his PhD from our department, Jens was employed as Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Specialist at IKEA Social Entrepreneurship. After a year in Malmö, he is now based in the headquarters of Inter IKEA in Delft, The Netherlands. The work offers a possibility to combine social science methods, with business and social impact.
What does your current job entail?
IKEA Social Entrepreneurship is a social impact organization under the IKEA brand and we fund different programmes and investments to help social enterprises to grow, both outside and inside the IKEA value chain. I am basically responsible for making sure that we formulate goals and follow up on results and learnings for these programmes to the best of our abilities. The main questions I seek to answer are: Does it work, how, for whom and when?
What are the most rewarding things about your current job?
The most rewarding part is that we are actually trying make a difference, by working with partners and social enterprises that aim to improve the lives of vulnerable people in some way. We are also inspiring the IKEA business to increase its positive impact on people and plant. Personally, I like that I am able to both participate actively in formulating our strategies and have a lot of freedom in designing our whole impact monitoring framework. In a few cases I have succeed in connecting to academics to do studies on topics that are relevant to us or even on our programmes. That cross-fertilization between academia and practitioners is great fun when it works.
Did your studies at the department help you in your career? How?
Well, I got my PhD very late. I already worked as a freelance consultant for many years with topics close to what I do now. However, the PhD has given me more confidence, which helped in the application and selection process for the job. It has also helped in my job, since I can speak about social impact, development and approaches with more authority. It is not obvious, however, how the specific topic of my thesis (the colonial state in West Africa) is of use within IKEA.
Why did you choose to do doctoral studies in Lund?
I worked as a freelance consultant within international development of a decade or so. It got lonely and boring after some time, so I started studying economic history at Master level in Stockholm at first. Then I moved with my family to Lund and continued the studies there. An opportunity to do a PhD came up and after some hesitation I grabbed it. All in all, the Master and PhD took some 10 years.
What were some of the best things with studying at our department?
Without a doubt the possibility to dig deep into a topic you find fascinating and learning the scientific way of dealing with the topic. It was not so pleasant at the time, but as a PhD student you are basically broken down into pieces and need to build yourself up. The first two years are tough, but when you realise that you are getting the hang of academic thinking and writing it is very rewarding.
Do you have any recommendations for future students who would like to follow your path?
I think we all need to find our own paths, but here is some advice. Grab opportunities. Do not work too much – there is life outside. Read broadly – I have eg. had great use of the few readings in institutional sociology I had during the PhD programme. And please, seek ways to connect academia and practitioners. In the future the winners will be those that are able to transcend barriers.