Age is just a number and each day is a new opportunity to redefine what you are capable of. There is no better example of this than within the intern community at SAP, and likely in many organizations around the world. Business is being transformed by the next generation — and the transformation is closer than you think.
SAP employee Anina Monteforte is a world traveler, young changemaker, and the founder of The World Within Us, a social enterprise creating travel experiences directly aligned with the 17 United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.
Prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism — including its direct, indirect, and induced impacts — accounted for 25% of new jobs created globally. The UN World Trade Organization estimates that around 20% of the 940 million international tourists traveling the world are young people. Anina is a part of that statistic; in the past five years, she has traveled to more than 45 countries while pursuing a master’s degree in International Development at New York University (NYU). Inspired by her own personal passion for traveling and culture, Anina founded The World Within Us.
As part of SAP’s ongoing Redefining YOU(th) campaign, culminating on International Youth Day, Anina’s story is one to be shared. Her vivacious spirit, energy, and commitment to help the world run better and improve people’s lives demonstrates that the world really is within us.
Q: As a grad student, an entrepreneur, and an intern at SAP, what inspires you to do all that you do?
A: I have a deep passion for sustainability, international travel, and grassroots social impact. I have learned to bring these passions together in building The World Within Us, my graduate studies at NYU, and the work I do at SAP.
My spark was ignited in 2016, when I went on a voyage called Semester at Sea, a five-month journey traveling across Europe, Africa, and South America, with 600 students from around the world. This experience opened my eyes to the expansive beauty the world has to offer, especially in the hidden corners beyond the commercialized destinations that many travelers visit. It taught me lessons along the way that changed the trajectory of my life. It also led me in the last five years to visit 45 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.
Afterwards I enrolled in a Masters in Global Affairs concentrating in International Development at NYU to better understand how sustainable development can impact travel and the overall future of the world. Simultaneously, I received an opportunity to join SAP as the social media intern for the SAP Next-Gen program.
I never imagined becoming a social entrepreneur, but all the pieces fell into place. At SAP, I worked closely on projects that aligned with the UN SDGs. This framework became my lifeline, using them at work and as part of my educational research at NYU. I realized the travel industry lacked a strong focus on intentional sustainable development.
I created The World Within Us because I wanted to create meaningful travel experiences with intention, empowering social sector partners to serve their local communities and educate travelers on the 17 UN SDGs. I also wanted to keep these travel experiences affordable, so they are accessible. If we change the way that we travel, we can truly make a substantial impact on our world.
The World Within Us was built to host small groups and provide them with travel experiences that focus on fostering positive social and economic impacts. Our success comes from our local grassroots nonprofit partners in each destination like Solar Sister in Tanzania, helping ensure we are successful in empowering local initiatives to fuel the community. We do that by selecting sustainable hotels, female guides, and indigenous-led activities to put our tourism dollars in the hands of the local community. We also educate travelers on the UN SDGs and aspects that relate to tradition, culture, and history prior to our departure.
Success to me is ensuring travelers have a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that the local community economically benefits from our experiences.
What are the challenges you faced while creating The World Within Us? And how are you navigating the pandemic?
The major challenge in starting my enterprise, similar to many other small businesses, is building The World Within Us as a one-woman-army and wearing all hats to keep the organization running. From teaching myself to build a website, manage finances, learn about sales, client management, and so on, it hasn’t been an easy task. But I’ve taught myself how to do these things, and I’ve been able to bring these skills into the work I do at SAP and vice versa. My experience creating content, leading our purpose-driven social media channels through SAP4Good, and building partnerships also helps my small business.
When the pandemic hit, it required many additional logistical steps, including checking government websites to monitor COVID-19 restrictions and ensuring our travelers and local staff were operating safely. While this is proving difficult, it’s not impossible. We just kicked off our second trip to Tanzania this year. The world is adopting safer methods of traveling, and The World Within Us is helping to lead this change.
How has your role at SAP helped you in your accomplishments with The World Within Us?
Everything that I do at SAP has helped me build The World Within Us. I have seen how private sector organizations are taking action to creating a more sustainable and equal world and how they are building partnerships and programs that will help us advance the UN SDGs.
I’ve also developed storytelling skills and honed my ability to share purpose-driven stories that resonate with readers. I work closely on program-building that relates to climate change, gender equality, and social entrepreneurship. My manager at SAP has empowered me in my role and helps me lead my life with purpose and creativity. With SAP’s Flex Work program, I also had the privilege to work remotely during the pandemic, allowing me to be alongside my fellow travelers at the different destinations we traveled to this year.
Pledge to Flex shows that SAP understands how people work, and they want to provide the space for employees to create an impact inside and outside of the work they do at SAP. I firmly believe as a result that passion, creativity, and excitement will trickle into the work you do every day!
How do you perceive youth? How would you help “Redefine (YOU)th” during a particularly uncertain time?
Youth are powerful, dynamic, and filled with immense potential to bring about change. As a young person, I make decisions that align with my values and adapt to the current environment so I can navigate any obstacle that comes my way. I launched The World Within Us during the pandemic. And although I experienced challenges along the way, it never stopped my motivation to drive the mission forward. The growing number of vaccinated individuals helps immensely, along with keeping in mind safety protocols in each destination.
The destinations I selected for the upcoming travel itineraries intentionally represent the Global South — countries like Tanzania, Egypt, Guatemala, and Indonesia — to make sure that the money brought in by travelers reaches the local community directly. I design each experience so I know who is on the receiving end. That is something that as travelers, we all have power over. Everything is interconnected, and we want to boost the local economy through tourism, especially during this pandemic.
Anina’s story, actions, and spirit shows the power of micro-actions in achieving the UN SDGs. Whether climate action, reducing inequalities, creating stronger institutions for peace and justice, or eradicating poverty, it begins with micro-actions we choose. As we prepare to celebrate International Youth Day, Anina’s story is one that showcases the power we have to create a lasting positive impact — both in our own cities and in communities that may not affect us directly but deserve solidarity and support.
Together, we can transform industries, grow economies, lift up societies, sustain our environment, and win the right way.
SAP is committed to helping the world run better and improving people’s lives, with youth playing a critical role. When you choose to make the world a better place in your own little way, you aren’t just redefining yourself as a changemaker, you “Redefine (YOU)th.”