How Voice of Hope @ HHL Bridges Business Acumen with Social Impact

by Carl Wallbaum & Lukas Vatter | May 10, 2024
Get to know our HHL student initiative "Voice of Hope" introduced by its members Lukas Vatter & Carl Wallbaum. In this guest post, they talk about their journey with the project, from the first steps of their cohort after taking over from their seniors to their current successes. Be inspired by their passion for social impact and the important milestones they have achieved.

The Beginning of a Meaningful Journey

It all started in September 2023 when we began our studies here at HHL. Faced with the opportunity to join various student initiatives which are all orientated towards leveraging diverse skills and international perspectives, we found ourselves at a crossroads. The completely new, high-performance environment of this leading business school was intensely focused on academic and professional achievements. Yet we also felt a strong pull toward maintaining a connection to broader societal issues.

Without thinking for too long, we both decided to join Voice of Hope. This decision was influenced not just by our new and unfamiliar surroundings but also by our desire to integrate a social perspective into our business education. From our point of view, this emerged not just as an option among many extracurricular activities but as a call to those who wished to intertwine their business acumen with social impact. In other words: Joining this initiative allowed us to balance the rigorous demands of our studies with the need to stay engaged with the community around us.

VOH Symbol
What is Voice of Hope @ HHL

Voice of Hope is the first and so far only student initiative at HHL that makes a social contribution beyond typical business education. What started in 2015 as a buddy program for international students quickly developed into an organization that now focuses on various social impact projects. Through cooperation with renowned non-profit organizations such as the German Red Cross and DKMS, it was possible to realize different social events at HHL. The overall purpose of Voice of Hope is to become a platform for the development of tomorrow’s strong leadership personalities by approaching the topic of “responsibility” not only from a business perspective, but also from a common good perspective.

Our Decision for Voice of Hope

MiM Student and Head of Operations, Carl Wallbaum, describes his decision for Voice of Hope as follows: When I arrived at HHL, I met Lukas who spent some time volunteering for an NGO in Africa during his gap year. Since we both were interested in social impact, we decided to take on the topic alongside our studies.“. In this sense, through Voice of Hope, we were sure to find a way to enrich our academic journey. Realizing the necessity of having a fuller, more balanced perspective on leadership also reminds us that there is more to business school than just talking about the next job interview in strategy consulting or investment banking.

The Voice of Hope @ HHL team of the academic year 2023/2024 
From left to right: Carl Wallbaum, Sebastian Hofer, Aishwin Arora, Jannik Hermwille, Nadine Struck, Lukas Vatter, Yashovardhan Bhardwaj, Tilmann Bayn
Not in the picture: Lara Schulz, Moritz Schätzlein

Our first major milestone came directly in October 2023, during our inaugural initiative meeting, when we elected the head positions. These roles, promising significant responsibility, were critical, especially given the already challenging demands of our studies.

As Head of Initiative, I embrace significant responsibility and also represent HHL externally. This opportunity offers practical experience in organization and leadership, preparing me for future challenges.

Lukas Vatter | Student MiM

With the head positions now in place, a pivotal question arose: What should be the focus of our initiative? In recent years, Voice of Hope had shrunk to a small, barely visible group without any significant events. Determined to revive and reposition Voice of Hope prominently within the community, we decided that organizing social events would be the best strategy to enhance our visibility. This decision was the key to revitalizing our initiative and increasing our presence.

Once we committed to our new path, everyone from heads to active members was encouraged to brainstorm and propose ideas for potential activities. Although the discussion began with a wide range of suggestions, a consensus soon emerged, steering us towards a focus on health-related themes.

As one of the heads, I realized the complexity of our task, especially as other groups progressed while we initially lagged behind. However, this allowed us to break from standard approaches, turning Voice of Hope into a promising opportunity.

Carl Wallbaum | Student MiM

Realizing our Social Identity

Stem Cell Registration Event

Our journey into impactful societal service began with a registration event for stem cell donation. This was sparked by the alarming statistics surrounding blood cancer – a disease diagnosed every 27 seconds somewhere around the globe. Recognizing that the registration process for stem cell donors was both simple and potentially lifesaving, we knew this was an essential cause to champion. To maximize outreach and participation, we conducted the event during the HHL’s staff and student Christmas parties, a time when we could be sure to engage a large audience. Our preparation was swift and efficient: we received registration kits complete with clear instructions, allowing us to set up our booths quickly.

At the event itself, our Voice of Hope members were on hand to encourage participation among HHL staff and students. They assisted attendees with the registration process, providing guidance and answering any questions about what the registration entailed and how their involvement could potentially save lives. This proactive approach helped us increase the number of potential donors added to the global stem cell database, offering hope in the fight against blood cancer.



Blood Donation Event

Building on this momentum, we next tackled the critical need for blood donations. With 14,000 donations needed daily across Germany for emergency and routine medical care, we organized a blood donation event in collaboration with the DRK-Blutspendedienst Nord-Ost. This time, our planning needed to be much more comprehensive, covering all aspects from securing a suitable venue to arranging the necessary medical and logistical support.

On the day of the event, our team started setting up early in the morning, preparing donation stations and arranging a comfortable area for donors to relax post-donation. As doors opened, both pre-registered and walk-in donors were welcomed warmly by our team. Each donor underwent a preliminary medical consultation to ensure their suitability for donation, followed by the actual blood donation process. Afterwards, donors were invited to the recovery area where they could rest and refresh themselves with snacks and beverages provided by our team. All in all, the event was a heartfelt success, with nearly 30 donations collected, including contributions from 14 first-time donors. This effort significantly boosted the local blood supply, potentially impacting the lives of up to 70 people.

From our perspective, the stem cell registration and blood donation events were far more than just activities. They were powerful expressions of our social commitment and identity. Through these events, we not only addressed urgent health needs but also fostered a sense of community and shared purpose within HHL. Each activity in this context helped us to not just envision, but actively construct a more engaged and caring society, emphasizing the pivotal role that health-focused interventions can play in the context of our broader mission. Through these efforts, Voice of Hope truly lived up to its name, bringing tangible benefits to the community and reinforcing the importance of civic responsibility among our peers.


Overcoming our Biggest Challenges and What we Learned

Reflecting on our journey with Voice of Hope, it is important to acknowledge not just our successes but also the challenges we encountered and the invaluable lessons they taught us. One significant hurdle we encountered was the lower-than-expected turnout at our blood donation event. Initially hoping for stronger support from the HHL community itself, we had to quickly adjust our strategy by opening the event to the general public. This pivot, while initially staying behind our expectations, allowed us to extend our reach and positively impact the broader society, demonstrating that we were able to turn a setback into an opportunity for greater outreach.

Another hurdle we faced was related to the size of our initiative. Being one of the smallest student groups at HHL definitely impacted our ability to execute ambitious projects. For instance, we originally envisioned hosting a job application training session for underprivileged students in Leipzig. Despite the initial enthusiasm for this idea, we had to scale back our plans due to logistical constraints and timing issues, learning a tough lesson in adapting our goals to match our capabilities.

From all our experiences, we have drawn several key lessons and objectives for future teams of Voice of Hope: