IEE Newsletter

MADM Alumni Carolin Gomulia has started her own transformation and development agency: “I love seeing organisations with meaningful visions thrive”

IEE’s research fellow Anne Siebert talked with Carolin Gomulia, an independent consultant running her own Transformation and Development Agency called The Workroom. She is an alumnus of the MADM and graduated in 2006 in Bochum. She is German and lives in South Africa.

Carolin GomuliaAnne: You recently started your own Transformation and Development Agency in South Africa. Before we get to talking about what that is, where did your journey in development cooperation start?

Carolin: It all started when I was still a student and had a naïve view on wanting to change the world. I wanted to work in development aid and looked for university careers that would assist me in this regard. I ended up studying Social Science at the Ruhr University Bochum. During my last years, there were many opportunities to do courses linked to development aid and development cooperation. In that time, I heard about the MADM programme at the IEE. I applied and was selected to become one of the few German candidates on the programme. The class was comprised of people from all over the world, and many had years of direct work experience in their country of origin. It was eye-opening for me to spend almost two years side-by-side with amazing, passionate and driven individuals from all over the world.

Anne: That sounds like an exciting journey. Why did you end up working in South Africa?

Carolin: The MADM programme partners with the University of the Western Cape. It meant that we did a summer school programme in South Africa and I stayed a bit longer to do the mandatory internship of the programme in South Africa at the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape Province. I landed my first job at the University of the Western Cape immediately after I graduated in 2006, through professional relationships I had developed during my internship.

Anne: Why did you start your own business?

Carolin: I was fortunate to transition into my career from working at university, to government and then for the past almost nine years to civil society. It was an interesting and enriching journey. My last job in senior management at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa (a medium-sized NGO) encompassed quite a number of tasks from strategic planning, overseeing M&E, as well as fundraising and resource mobilisation and heading up the Communications department. It exposed me to many different stakeholders and gave me the liberty to be part of growing and improving a complex organisation. There are many organisations that could benefit from the combination of skills I bring - translating transformative thinking into impactful programmes and strategies combined with organisational development. I enjoy bringing all the different aspects of the success of an organisation together. It is a bit like cooking and ensuring that the correct amount of each ingredient is mixed together at the right time to produce a delicious meal. I love seeing organisations with meaningful visions thrive. I decided that I could apply my skills in various organisations; and by doing so, not only contribute my skills on a larger scale but also continue being exposed to and learning from new and different settings and organisations.

Anne: Let's talk about The Workroom - A Transformation and Development Agency. What does the Workroom do?

Carolin: The purpose of creating The Workroom is to create a space where my clients and I roll up our sleeves and get to work. The metaphor of a workroom stands for a creative space where nothing is assumed, insights and ideas emerge, grow and through a creative process insert possibility and wonder. The Workroom’s approach pivots around the idea of fresh, innovative, courageous and audacious thinking and practice.

Anne: So who are typically your 'clients'? Can you give an example of a piece of work that you have done or are currently busy with?

Carolin: My clients range from NGOs, to philanthropic organisations, consultancies and organisations working in the field of fundraising as well as academic institutions. I am also open to working with small business and social enterprises. The most exciting part of my work is when I get an opportunity to work with an organisation over a longer period of time. I prefer the idea of going on a journey with the organisations I work with. Most of the times organisations approach me to assist them with fundraising. It is most interesting when this process turns into helping the organisation (re-)define their purpose. I love collaborating with organisations, defining their purpose, and contributing to the transformation of the society they operate in. Once we finish that piece of work, the organisation has unlocked new possibilities for fundraising and resource-mobilisation. If I am given the opportunity, I assist the organisation with strategy development, planning, fundraising, communications, leadership mentoring and the adjustment of organisational processes.

Anne: Would our alumni in other parts of the world be able to benefit from your work or do you only work in South Africa?

Carolin: I am based in South Africa, but I am open to working across the globe. I am convinced that networking and cross-sectoral collaboration are required to address the complex problems that we face around the world.

Anne: In closing, what message would you like to give current MADM and MADM alumni?

Carolin: I think the MADM students and alumni are in itself a powerful and interesting network that generates its own powerful insights and ideas. Here are just a few things that immediately come to mind: Never stop learning – put transformative thinking in the centre of your work. Don’t take existing paradigms for granted and keep on questioning the development paradigms that exist and that we have all become comfortable with. Think upside down and inside out. Embrace complexity. Logframes, planning, reports, theories, models, even technology, apps and ICT are tools to help translate insights and ideas into practice and success but they can never substitute your goals and vision and will always remain a means to an end. Give yourself time to give birth to your ideas.

Institute Navigation


You can subscribe to our newsletter via this link:

IEE Newsletter Subscription

Or have a look at our current Newsletter first.