About me

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC) of the International Coaching Federation
  • Certified Positive Intelligence Coach (CPQC)
  • Led, as managing director, a social entrepreneur organization into self-organization
  • 15 years of international professional and executive experience in social innovation
  • Personally advised more than 100 social entrepreneurs in Europe
  • Founded and initiated 10+ organisations and programs
  • Taught Adaptive Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Master of Public Administration (Harvard Kennedy School)
  • Master in philosophy/German literature with focus on artificial intelligence and cognitive science

My Background

Coach and Organizational Developer

I always wanted to know: How and why do people think and act? In my studies of philosophy and literature I was fascinated by analytic philosophy of mind, consciousness and language. And I was a geek, anyway. On the side I programmed software for my social start-ups. I specialized on artificial intelligence and cognitive science.

Later, at the Harvard Kennedy School, I immersed myself in negotiation strategy, system dynamics and leadership. In the team of Prof. Ronald Heifetz I taught “Adaptive Leadership“, an unconventional and very powerful leadership approach that would later be useful practically every single day of my professional life .

Through Adaptive Leadership I understood two things: Leading and being the boss are not the same thing. And: Good self-perception and reading group dynamics are requirements for good leadership and for social transformation. I began regular yoga practice and Vipassana meditation.

In 2015 I read “Reinventing Organizations” by Frédéric Laloux and was inspired by his case studies of self-managed organizations. As a managing director, I initiated the transformation of Ashoka Germany, a growth funder for social entrepreneurs with more than 20 employees and €2.5m turnover, into a self-led organisation without formal hierarchies.

Over 18 months and together with organizational developer Bettina Rollow, we developed and strengthened the inner work competencies in the team needed for such a transformation. These are primarily: self-contact, meta-reflection and conversational quality.

At the end, we led the organization as a collective. We eliminated all hierarchichal titles. Today, the leadership structure of Ashoka Germany has been compiled into a “Code of Conduct”.

The effect was not only huge internally, it also had impact externally: The German weekly “Die Zeit” covered us in May 2018. We were a finalist of the XING New Work Award 2020. I began to consult to other organizations on a similar path, both social startups and businesses.

I trained to become an executive coach, to connect even better my leadership experience with inner work. Today, I am an Associate Certified Coach of the International Coaching Federation, which is considered the gold standard in the industry.

In 2020 I co-founded the “Inner Work Alliance“. It consists of experienced entrepreneurs and coaches who have lived self-organisation for many years – and who want to provide other organizations with a tangible experience of these new leadership cultures.

Certificates, memberships, partners:

Social Entrepreneurship Pioneer

I founded my first social initiative at the age of 19. I and two friends of mine did not want to accept that a quarter of all students drop out of university. We founded a counseling network for college and career choice that eventually covered more than 200 high schools. That was when I experienced: If you roll up your sleeves, you can change something in society.

After graduating I was curious: How can I turn improving the world into a main job? I worked for big private foundations like the Robert Bosch Foundation – and learned how to advance innovative social projects with funding and know how.

After five years in philanthropy I switched to Ashoka, the world’s largest network supporting social entrepreneurship. This meant specializing on the support of social founders. I was fascinated how purpose, business and society can be combined.

Over 10 years at Ashoka I built numerous new programs, platforms and service providers together with partners to support social entrepreneurs. They are shaping the scene in Germany and Europe to this day.

With Ashoka, I also directly supported more than 100 social entrepreneurs in Germany and Europe: through start-up funding and with my expertise on financial strategies, scaling methods, impact measurement and leadership models.

I worked with foundations, private donors and investors, with the federal government, associations as well as with companies like Google, Zalando, McKinsey & Company, Hubert Burda and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Internally, I held several different roles and executive positions at Ashoka Germany: I led the search and selection of the supported founders. I was CFO, COO, managing director, partner. As fundraiser, I raised six-figure grants and donations and was the internal organizational developer. In my last role for Ashoka Europe, I led the selection of new social entrepreneurs across 25 countries.

For several years, I was a member of numerous advisory committees and expert juries for social innovation. Until today, I am a member of the founder’s council of the foundation “Stifter für Stifter” and serve on the board of a number of trust foundations.

Affiliations and memberships:

Start-Ups and Expert Committees

I designed, initiated or founded these organizations and programs.

Alumni at School
Alumni networks for German high schools

Bildung als Chance
Collective impact-initiative for education in Duisburg

Social Reporting Standard
International standard for impact reporting

HR agency for jobs that make the world a better place

Financing Agency for Social Entrepreneurship

Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland
The political representation of Germany’s social entrepreneurs

This Works
Ashoka’s initative against unemployment in Southern Europe

Hello Europe
Ashoka’s international initiative for migration and integration

Learning and Action Center
Ashoka’s think tank in Europe

European Changemaker Summit
Ashoka’s biggest conference format in Europe

Inner Work Alliance
Expert alliance for self-organization in teams and companies

Participatory grantmaker for system-changers

So far, I was a member of these expert comittees

Deutscher Integrationspreis

Deutschland – Land der Ideen

Digital Top 50 (McKinsey/Google/Rocket Internet)

Google Impact Challenge Europe on Online Safety

Next Economy Award

Start Social

Talks, Interviews, Publications

DLD Talk (2016): 15 Social Entrepreneurs and Their Crazy Ideas
DLD Talk (2017): Social Entrepreneurs and Their Crazy Ideas – Migration and Integration

MyCollective (2022, November 20): “Rethinking hierarchy – how anyone can improve their work culture“, Podcast interview with Dr. Ricarda Engelmeier for the series “Get Inspired”

Breidenbach, Joana (2022, July 29): “Führung, Coaching und Kontrolle“, Podcast interview for the series “Being Underwater”

Talents4Good (2021, June 21): “Führen ohne formale Hierachie“, Talk at the “Inspiring Lunch People & Culture” of Talents4Good

International Coaching Federation (2021, June 10): “Brauchen Social Entrepreneurs ein großes Ego?“, Talk at the ICF Germany Social Impact Day 2021

Südwestrundfunk, SWR 2 (2021, April 29): Radio interview for the feature “Soziales Unternehmertum – Profit ist nicht alles” by Christine Sievers and Nicolaus Schröder

Leadership Choices (2021, March 26): “Rainer Höll, was unterscheidet einen Chef von einem Leader?“, Podcast interview for the series “Leaders Talk”

International Coaching Federation (2021, March 05): “Coaching, new work & social entrepreneurship“, Podcast interview with the International Coaching Federation Germany

Höll, Rainer (2019): “Why social change needs inner work, what New Work feels like, and why you should read this book. Foreword by Ashoka Germany”, in: Joana Breidenbach, Bettina Rollow, New Work Needs Inner Work (Ashoka Edition, S. V-IX). München: Vahlen

Ashoka Deutschland and McKinsey & Company (2018): The skilling challenge. How to equip employees for the era of automation and digitization – and how models and mindsets of social entrepreneurs can guide us. Study. PDF file

Höll, Rainer (2017): Warum alle über Kooperationen reden – und warum es so wenige von ihnen gibt. Keynote at the Haniel conference „Gemeinsam mehr erreichen – Innovative Bildungskooperationen gestalten“ on 15 November 2017. Unpublished.

Höll, Rainer (2017, January 31): Social Entrepreneurs and Their Crazy Ideas – Migration and Integration. Talk at the Digital Life Design Conference 2017. [Youtube] Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJMi4g6SCT0

FASE, Ashoka Deutschland, BMW Stiftung Herbert Quandt, McKinsey & Company (2016): Taking off. A hybrid investment fund to unlock the growth potential of social enterprises in Germany. Study. PDF file

Höll, Rainer (2016, Juni 20): 15 Social Entrepreneurs and Their Crazy Ideas. Talk at the Digital Life Design Summer Conference 2016. [Youtube] Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlXKcpgPP6M

Höll, Rainer (2012): “Wie bereite ich (m)eine soziale Innovation auf Finanzierung und Verbreitung vor? – Das Jonglieren mit Rechtsformen in der Praxis von Social Entrepreneurs”, in: npoR – Zeitschrift für das Recht der Non Profit Organisationen (Heft 1/2012, S. 11-14). Hamburg: Bucerius Law School

Höll, Rainer (2012): “Engagement und Erwerbsarbeit bei Social Entrepreneurs” in: Engagement und Erwerbsarbeit in Europa. Organisations- und gesellschaftspolitische Herausforderungen und Modelle. (S. 120-122). Frankfurt und Berlin: Institut für Sozialarbeit und Sozialpädagogik e.V und Bundesnetzwerk Bürgerschaftliches Engagement (BBE). PDF file

Höll, Rainer (2012): “Wie Social Entrepreneurs und Wohlfahrtspflege gemeinsam soziale Probleme lösen können”, in: Joachim König, Christian Oerthel, Hans-Joachim Puch [Hrsg.] Soziale Nachhaltigkeit – wer erzieht, pflegt und hilft morgen? Documentation of the Consozial conference 2011. Nürnberg: o.V. PDF file

Höll, Rainer (2011): „Problemlöser mit unternehmerischem Geist“, in: Die Stiftung. Magazin für Stiftungswesen und Private Wealth (Spezialausgabe Social Entrepreneurship, Dezember 2011, S. 6-8). Frankfurt: „Die Stiftung“ Media

Höll, Rainer und Oldenburg, Felix (2011): Wie überwinden wir Hürden für soziale Problemlöser? Sechs Ansätze zur Verbreitung von sozialer Innovation und Social Entrepreneurship in Deutschland. Ashoka position paper. PDF file