You’re invited! 26 October 2023, 6pm

If you’re new here: Idealists Quarterly is a diverse community, each of us trying to improve their little corner of the world – and we’re having a meet up!

  • 26 October, 6pm onwards
  • Full Circle, 89 Ch. de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels
  • Inspiring lightning talks
  • Drinks and chats

The theme of this edition is ACCESS.

Whatever it is you’re trying to do – simply live your life, support your community or change the world – you need access to a range of resources, people and privileges. Our speakers will dive into these issues, share their perspectives and propose ways forward.

The vision of Idealists Quarterly is that we can help each other access what we need to affect positive change.

Join us for an inspiring evening, connect with passionate people and talk about things that really matter – and make sure to get your free ticket here.

This event by Idealists Quarterly will be hosted at Full Circle community of people who contribute to positive change. They are a platform to connect good ideas, with the power to carry them out. They offer a carefully curated ideas and cultural programme in a beautifully designed space, where people can meet socially and professionally.

Run of event

  • 6pm: doors open + mingling.
  • 7pm – 7.30pm: Lightning talks by some impressive people.
  • 7.30pm – 9pm: drinks + mingling.


To be announced – stay tuned!

This event is for people who

  • (Want to) work in policy, tech or sustainability.
  • Are passionate about improving the communities around them, open to collaboration.
  • All genders are welcome. Our goal is to support underrepresented groups including women of colour, members of the LGBTQI+ community, people with disabilities etc.
  • We particularly welcome people from diverse cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and we aim to accommodate any special needs. Write to us with any questions.

A thousand ships sailing into a better future

What a blast!

I, and the whole Idealists Quarterly team, thank all of you who came to our Drinks & Talks event last Thursday. We were delighted to welcome each and every one of you. 

We enjoyed fantastic talks from four speakers, who dove into some of the systems that make up the world we live in: 

  • Edel Shanahan on biodiversity, which should always be considered when we talk about sustainability and climate.
  • Janique-ka John on plastic waste, which does not subscribe to regional divisions, and usually ends up polluting the homes of those people who have the least resources to deal with it.
  • Gabriela Chang Valdovinos on financial resources, and how the people who produce most of our food do not make enough to secure their livelihoods – and how web3 can help.
  • Dominique Roch on how the circumstances and locations in which we live dictate how we should approach sustainability.

Here are some snapshots of the evening (thanks to Mubarak Masae)

A thousand ships

They say you can’t change something from the outside. However, we also all know that it is not always that easy to try and change an organisation, sector or industry from the inside either. It can feel like trying to single-handedly push a giant tanker ship onto a different course: it’s a big job, will take a long time and you might strain your back in the process.

Rather than fight big fights we are likely to lose, let’s work together to win as many small victories as we can – as the saying goes: “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

Each of us in our own contexts have a significant amount of power, privilege and influence – even though they feel like a drop in the ocean sometimes. But we can use that small drop to just slightly readjust our own little ship. To help steer it a bit closer towards being environmentally, socially and financially regenerative. With a bit of luck, we will then have a thousand ships sailing in the same direction. Maybe they will overtake the giant tanker and maybe, just maybe, even force it to follow suit.

Am I being overly optimistic? Yes I am, and that’s a conscious choice.

The best networking event in town

Activist Srđa Popović says: If you want to change the world, you have to throw the best party in town. 

I took notes: To help change the conversation and trajectory in our respective industries – be it tech, policy or sustainability – Idealists Quarterly aims to be the one of the most fun networking events in town. One that welcomes everybody and gives a voice to people with diverse perspectives. One that re-energises you instead of burning (or boring) you out. And one that makes it easy for you to reach outside your own bubble and collaborate with others. 

Stay tuned for our next event in autumn!

How you can help

Reply to this email 

  • With a short sentence describing your experience at our event – your feedback will help us make our events better.
  • If you’d like to suggest a topic or speaker for our future events.
  • If you’d like to volunteer at our next event or contribute to this newsletter.

Or post about our event on social media, using the Hashtag #IdealistsQuarterly.

Thank you to our partners

The biggest of Thank Yous goes out to our sponsor Belgian Spirits Company. Their Madame Pommette mocktails were so popular with all of you, they were the star of the evening! The #1 crowd pleaser was Spiked Passion (passion fruit, apple, vanilla, chilli and orange), followed by Razzle Dazzle (fresh raspberries, apple, violet, chilli and orange) and Black Orchard (blueberries, apple, violet, lavender, chilli and orange). Check out their webshop here

Madame Pommette by Belgian Spirits Company

We also thank Conversation Starter for partnering with us to help you forge deeper connections with the other attendees. 40 people signed up to use the tool, many engaged in one-on-one conversations and even stayed in touch beyond our event.

We thank our media partner The Green Fix – a free and independent climate justice newsletter providing information and practical resources to help you fight the climate crisis and build a greener, fairer world.

Finally, our gratitude goes out to Mubarak Masae, our community photographer, for the fantastic snapshots and reels. Follow or reach out to him here on Instagram if you want to work with him.

Share this newsletter with a friend, and see you September! (Date and location to be announced)

Impressions from our event

What if our best days are ahead of us?

In today’s newsletter I will speak about optimism, people and systems.

You will find out how this beautiful community that you are part of is evolving, joining forces with friends, and going forward as the Idealists Quarterly. Make sure to mark your calendars for 22 June, 6pm to celebrate this merger together.

Many of us know: Climate action can be exhausting. Why? Because the systems we live in make it hard to do the right thing. Trains are more expensive than flights, plastic packaging is more accessible than sustainable alternatives, and trying to convince any doomer that change is possible can suck the lifeblood out of you. 

So why bother?


For a good few years, I’ve been struggling with eco-anxiety. I was scared. I was angry. After a few loved ones told me that I’m depressing to be around, I started to consider: Maybe, just maybe, I’m investing my energy in the wrong things.

But it seemed impossible for me to be optimistic. After all, people around the world were relentlessly calling for change, and yet, so it seemed, nothing was changing. Being told I should be more hopeful, I remembered the words of Greta Thunberg: “Hope is not something that is given to you. It is something you have to earn, to create”.

Source: Hannah Ritchie

Reading an article about the different types of optimism and pessimism by Hannah Ritchie, I learned: while I wasn’t right in my approach, I wasn’t all that wrong either. Through her work at Our World in Data – an institute collecting research and data to help make progress against the world’s largest problems – she makes the case for optimism, but the right kind. She places people’s attitudes along two axes: their level of optimism, and of changeability, i.e. thinking the future can be shaped by the decisions we make today.

This leaves us, roughly, with four types of people. The two types of climate pessimists doom us to a terrible future. But complacent optimism is no better, because without action we would just sleepwalk into an untenable future. The “good” type of optimism is, like hope, something you have to earn and create.

In other words: Be optimistic about catching that bus – and then run as fast as you can.


It was out of that need to combine optimism with agency and action that I created the Tech, Policy, Sustainability network. I wanted and needed to connect with like-minded people, learn from them and give diverse voices a stage to talk about the actions they are taking.

For example Tino Chibebe, who has made it his life’s mission to improve underrepresented, and especially Black founders’ access to venture capital. He is convinced (and now I am too) that these are the companies that are going to change the world for the better. They are creating solutions to problems that have been overlooked or ignored by the majority, and thereby benefit the innovation ecosystem as a whole.

Tino Chibene (left) speaking about how diverse startups are going to change the world

Or Aikaterini Liakopoulou, a business coach for “clean tech” and “deep tech” startups, helping them advance clean tech, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing and more to tackle global and environmental challenges.

Aikaterini Liakopoulou explaining how deep tech is different from other technology

Or Tamara Makoni, an award-winning diversity and inclusion specialist and CEO of Kazuri Consulting, who applies an intersectional and cross-cultural lens to inclusion to challenge systems of inequality like climate injustice.

Or Sevim Aktas, a European Commission policy officer and founder of the EU Green Deal Brief, where she explains the EU in a way that is sexy and accessible for young people.

Sevim Aktas talking about the importance of listening to each other when shaping (and implementing) green policies

Dr Audrey-Flore Ngomsik, CEO of Trianon scientific communication. Her mission is to make sustainability profitable. Dr Ngomsik believes that social sustainability (people), environmental sustainability (planet), and economic sustainability (profit) should be tackled hand in hand to answer today’s sustainable challenges. Therefore, Dr Ngomsik not only strategises on the way to decrease a business’ CO2 emissions, but also to increase inherent and acquired diversity (DEI) among decision makers of any organisation. Her final goal is that corporate sustainability becomes business as usual and is integrated in organisation’s DNA for business success.

Dr Audrey-Flore Ngomsik explaining how a successful corporate sustainability strategy must consider people, planet and profit

Another one of those like-minded “changeable optimists” is Bruno Selun. In 2016, he started The Idealist Quarterly, bringing people together to have a good time and to make connections with optimism in mind.

I am excited to announce that I will be taking over this project, and merge the two​ communities into the Idealists Quarterly. It does what it says on the tin: once a quarter, we’ll assemble impact-driven people to mingle, exchange knowledge and look for ways to collaborate – all while listening to inspiring talks and having a drink. Please join us to celebrate this merger with us – on 22 June at 6pm, in BeCentral in Brussels.


Optimism and dedicated people are great, but at our event on 22 June we will talk about the elephant in the room: The system – or rather, the many systems – that make up the world we live in. And of course any attempt to change something must take into account the systems that said “thing” is embedded in. 

Systems are incredibly hard to change, and the resistance that sustainability-minded voices have been up against for the past half-century are proof of that. And yet, it is not all that wrong to choose optimism.

This is also the stance of sustainability expert Solitaire Townsend. She explains that change seldom happens in linear, and more often in exponential curves. And the fact that, over the past years, sustainability has become a mainstream topic is proof that: after many, many years of small, invisible changes across our human systems, big systemic change is beginning to happen.

Solitaire Townsend speaking about how change happens

Through that lens, our best (or worst) times are indeed ahead of us. Of course it’s not a given that it will go well – that would be the complacent “not-changeable-optimism”. But giving up is not an option either (no thank you, “not-changeable-pessimists”!)

Let’s choose to believe in a better future, let’s work for it, and let’s meet on 22 June to do it together. You can expect interesting lightning talks from our speakers, who will dive into the systems that define their life and work. We will speak about nature as a system. Our planet’s continent as a system. Money as a system. Lifestyle as a system.



Raoni: The Fight for the Amazon (1978). Shot in Brazil in the Amazon rainforest, this documentary deals with the Kayapo tribe and their famous Chief Raoni Metuktire who are fighting to preserve their lives and the Amazon rainforest. This Belgian-French production was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary.


Tapestries of Life: Uncovering the Lifesaving Secrets of the Natural World by Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson. The natural world is the system if there ever was one. It provides life-supporting goods and services like food, fresh water, medicine, pollination, pollution control, carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, recreation, spiritual health and so much more. This book is packed with beautiful storytelling and fascinating knowledge.


Outrage and Optimism, a podcast by former UN Chief Christiana Figueres and the team who brought about the Paris Agreement. It embodies the concept of “changeable optimism”: it faces the climate crisis with the appropriate outrage, but reminds us that we collectively have the power to bring about change. Recommended for everyone who wants to channel their (out)rage constructively.


While we’re on the topic of rage: In her latest edition of the Green Fix, Cass Hebron asks “What’s so bad about being an angry woman activist anyway?” After all, it’s an important and necessary catalyst for change. “Polite deference doesn’t put rich white men in court. Being convenient does not uproot the system.“ Check out this newsletter if you’re interested in information and free practical resources on helping fight the climate crisis.

Stay in touch!

To not miss any updates from the Idealists Quarterly, make sure to subscribe to this newsletter, and follow the Hashtag #IdealistsQuarterly on your social platform of choice. Under this hashtag, you will receive updates from all our community members.

You’re invited: 22 June 2023, 6pm

Get ready to shake things up and connect with some incredible, passionate and impactful people.
Join us for our next event on 22 June, from 6pm in Brussels in BeCentral. We are excited to welcome you.

Make sure to register here.

The theme is going to be SYSTEMS CHANGE.


Edel Shanahan
An expert on a wide variety of topics in the environment world – from protected areas and marine ecosystems to deforestation-free supply chains and EU policy – Edel currently works as Technical Advisor at Sea Alarm.

Edel will speak about Nature as a system – because the goods and services we receive and depend on from nature are so much broader than “just” carbon.

Janique-ka John
Software engineer and founder of Women in Tech Caribbean – a network of 200+ members, promoting opportunities, job offers and scholarships. Janique-ka is an experienced software engineer, entrepreneur and an inaugural member of Twitter Developer Insiders.

Janique-ka will speak about Geographic divisions as a system – because plastic waste (to name one example) does not stay in the places where it was generated. Even the most remote places on the planet are interconnected with everywhere else.

Gabriela Chang Valdovinos
Chief Sustainability Officer and co-founder of EthicHub, founder of Women & Blockchain Spain and former organic coffee producer – giving a voice to millions of smallholder farmers, who are excluded from traditional financial, certification and carbon credit systems.

Gabriela will speak about Money as a system – because smallholder farmers are doing incredibly important work, yet are not connected to financial markets in the way they should.

Dominique Roch
Digital communication, marketing and transformation specialist – with a keen interest in sustainability.

Dominique will speak about Lifestyle as a system – because what is sustainable for one person (with certain life circumstances) will not be the most sustainable option for another (with a completely different set of life circumstances.

Run of event

  • 6pm: doors open + mingling.
  • 7pm – 7.30pm: Lightning talks by some impressive people
  • 7.30pm – 9pm: drinks + mingling.

This event is for people who

  • (Want to) work in policy, tech or sustainability.
  • Are passionate about improving the communities around them, open to collaboration.
  • All genders are welcome. Our goal is to support underrepresented groups including women of colour, members of the LGBTQI+ community, people with disabilities etc.
  • We particularly welcome people from diverse cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and we aim to accommodate any special needs. Write to us with any questions.

Don’t forget to register here – and see you soon!

What would YOU do, if you could?

So many of you joined us on 27 October to discuss how business and entrepreneurship can support sustainability and climate action.

Thank you for an inspiring evening!

If you couldn’t make it for the event, we’ve got you covered. The speakers’ talks are available on my podcast – listen on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts

  • Can companies change the world for the better? With Tino Chibebe  – a Venture Capital expert working at the intersection of entrepreneurship and impact, and author of The Black Opportunity.
  • How is deep tech different from other tech? With Aikaterini Liakopoulou – Business coach advising deep tech and clean tech startups, with experience in Venture Capital, Research and Development.
  • The power of stories: on boats, yachts and rafts. With Tamara Makoni – Inclusion expert and founder/CEO at Kazuri Consulting, helping leaders drive inclusion and empower diverse teams.

Soon to come:

What initiative would you start, if you could?

Before you head off, I want to encourage you to ruminate on this one question: If money, economic incentives and financial pressures weren’t an issue – what would you do to make the world a better place?

Imagine for example, if you had a buddy that could hook you up to some of that sweet venture capital money, with the sole purpose of creating a positive impact for the communities and ecosystems around us. What initiative would you want to create and implement?

I am very curious about what this question evokes in you, and what you are passionate about. Message me your wildcard ideas, imaginary initiatives, and potential future projects – for example via DM on Twitter or LinkedIn.

See you soon!

Join us – 27 October 2022, 6pm

Get ready to mingle at our next Tech x Policy x Sustainability event on 27 October, 6pm-9pm, in BeCentral at the Google Digital Atelier in Brussels

Summer is over, autumn is in full swing, and our network is growing!

Come meet some of the new faces on 27 October, 6pm at our next event at BeCentral, in the Google Digital Atelier.

You can look forward to amazing people, inspiring lightning talks and of course delicious drinks. I’m thrilled about this edition’s speaker slate, as we’ll be focusing on Business and Entrepreneurship for Sustainability and Climate Action.

We are also welcoming new partners who want to tap into a network of incredible women and allies – could your company, organisation or initiative be next?
Join to learn more!

What’s in today’s newsletter

  1. EDITORIAL: What’s new?
  2. NEXT EVENT: Our speakers for 27 October
  3. READS: Recommended books and articles
  4. NETWORK: People to watch (and support!)
  5. YOU: How you can get involved


What’s new? In short: a whole lot. 

Let’s begin with what hasn’t changed: this newsletter and event series started out as a space to bring together impact-driven people from the sectors of Tech x Policy x Sustainability

After our last event, three things are clear:

  1. Many solutions to planetary and societal challenges already exist. We know what we should be doing, because researcherspractitioners and communities have been telling us.
  2. But in order to implement and scale those solutions we all have to work together – as scientists, civil society, policy and politics experts, industry and businesses. From there, we can take the next steps: Organise, share knowledge and transform our communities.
  3. Good work is done by good people – and good people do the best work when they are inspired and supported by others.

These concepts – knowledge sharing, collaboration and inspiration – are at the core of this network, as well as the ethos of having diverse viewpoints and voices in our community.

And this is what you can expect from our upcoming event…

2. Speaker slate

Our next edition takes place on 27 October. We will be talking business – more precisely: how can business and entrepreneurship support more sustainability and effective climate action?

Our lightning talk speakers:

3. Books to read (and recommend)

I’ve asked my speakers for their best book recommendations – here they are:


  • Mismatch by Kat Holmes. Being intentional about inclusion can be a source of innovation and growth, especially for digital technologies. It can be a catalyst for creativity, a boost for a company’s bottom line, and an opportunity for more people to contribute to society in meaningful ways.


  • Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller. Learn from Nobel Prize-winning economists why the free-market system encourages so much trickery even as it creates so much good – and how harms can be reduced through greater knowledge, reform, and regulation.
  • Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Do ideas that stick have a common “anatomy”? Can we make good ideas stickier? Learn about practiced and proven methods like the human scale principle, the Velcro Theory of Memory, and how to create curiosity gaps.


  • Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Noble. The internet was not created in a vacuum, but in the context of a world that is racist, sexist and classist. Algorithms of Oppression uncovers how negative biases are created, maintained, and disseminated in the 21st century.
  • Venture Deals – Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer And Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. Have you ever wondered how venture capital deals come together? This book has you covered. It explains the inner-workings of VC deals, from negotiating strategies to the different stages and types of financings, including equity, traditional convertible debt, venture bank debt, or one of the newer practices of crowdfunding and pre-sales.
  • The Black Opportunity: Conversations on Belgian Venture Capital and Afropean Entrepreneurship by Tino Chibebe, who you’ll get to meet and hear from on 27 October. I’ve recommended the book before, and if you haven’t bought it yet – what are you even doing?!

4. People to watch (and support!)

Aurélie Mulowa

Aurélie Mulowa founded Entreprenoires – a platform promoting female-led Afro-Belgian businesses. Entreprenoires helps people find and create opportunities and make themselves known. It also connects them with potential investors and supporters. Watch an interview with Aurélie here (in French).

Make sure to follow Aurélie and Entreprenoires on Instagram.

Leïla Maidane


Leïla Maidane founded begreator – an AI-driven tool that helps job seekers navigate the job market. It also supports companies and education providers in hiring more diverse talent. This is just the latest project from Leïla, having previously founded Femmes Fières – an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports women in building their digital skills and through the process of setting up a business. Listen to an interview with Leïla here (in French).

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Sarah Lokman


Sarah Lokman – as Head of Sustainability at Greenomy, Sarah helps companies and investors better measure, disclose and improve their sustainability reports. This is particularly important with the sometimes complex national and EU sustainable finance standards, like the EU Taxonomy for Sustainable Activities. Besides this, she is involved in civic and political projects in Brussels to empower young girls to lead change and take ownership of their future. Watch an interview with Sarah here.

Follow her on Twitter.

5. What about you?

If you would like to get involved in the Tech x Policy x Sustainability network, the best place to start is to join us on 27 October from 6pm, at BeCentral Brussels, in the Google Digital Atelier. You will meet amazing people and hear some inspiring talks.

Register to the event now

If you’d like to join our organising team, you’re more than welcome – we’re looking for social media and digital marketing support in particular (but not only).

If your company is interested in tapping into a diverse network of impressive women and allies, consider partnering with us – send me a DM and let’s talk. We are always looking for sponsors to ensure our events remain accessible and free for everyone.

If you’d like to speak at our next event, contribute to this newsletter as a guest editor or have recommendations on who to watch and support – shoot me a DM.

See you on Thursday 27 October from 6pm, at BeCentral Brussels, in the Google Digital Atelier! 🍸🌱

What do YOU want to learn about next?

If you enjoyed last week’s event, buckle up – there’s more to come. (And we’re looking for partners/sponsors, so do get in touch!)

Last week’s launch event was fabulous – 50 people came to have a drink, mingle and listen to lightning talks packed with knowledge and inspiration.

What’s in today’s newsletter

  1. EDITORIAL: Insights from our launch event
  2. READS: Recommended books and articles
  3. NETWORK: People to watch (and support!)
  4. LEARN: Facilitation technique
  5. YOU: What do you have energy for?
  6. TELL A FRIEND: Sponsorship opportunities


I had the honour of welcoming four incredible speakers at the Peer Mentorship Space launch event on 18 May 2022.

Rooted locally, connected globally

Leen Scheelfhout shared with us her journey from being an active citizen, to organising climate action with Extinction Rebellion, to creating a blockchain based collective of 150 climate initiatives.

On her journey, Leen realised that bureaucracy is one of the biggest hurdles for climate action: when she created an urban garden with her neighbours, the local city council confiscated it, because it did not conform with “the rules”. This is why the All for Climate DAO – a decentralised autonomous organisation – helps citizens start or join a local collective by minimising an initiative’s admin burden and instead allowing them to focus on turning their ideas into action. 

If you want to hear more, check out this podcast episode, in which Leen and I have a deeper conversation about these topics.

People, planet and profit

Dr Audrey-Flore Ngomsik shared some insights from her company Trianon Scientific Communication, in particular the importance of interdisciplinarity and intersectionality.

Consider a simple glass of water. To understand the problem that this glass of water is:

You need a chemist to ascertain it’s H2O – a molecule containing one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms.

You need a physicist to understand it’s in its liquid form.

You need a biologist to identify whether it contains any microbial pollution.

Only with all of these diversity of perspectives are you able to understand the glass of water, i.e make smart decisions, i.e decide to drink the water.

Businesses often treat sustainability in silos. But for a successful corporate sustainability strategy, the social aspects of a business (people), the environmental aspects (planet) and economic considerations (profit) must go hand in hand. Diverse teams, especially at the levels where decisions are made, play a key role in long term sustainable development. In short: you need to work outside the box to innovate, within the box to engrain new ways of working (governance, DEI) and without the box for more transparency and to avoid greenwashing.

Biology, ecology and blockchain

Dr. Alice Jones told us about Bloomeria – a young Belgian start-up that addresses the challenges of biodiversity degradation and the need for climate change adaptation. To fund nature restoration projects by citizens and environmental organisations, Bloomeria’s platform uses non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In this way, it providees tokenised carbon to the carbon offset economy.

The goal is to increase citizen participation interdisciplinarity, efficiency and transparency in the ecological transition. Many solutions are emerging, but the different actors – scientific, political, legal – struggle to communicate with each other, and with local communities. Sustainability issues and solutions are complex, which is why community building and listening to constructive criticism from experts in other fields is crucial. If you are interested to support – the Bloomeria team is always looking for helpers.

At this point, you may ask: Why is this event called “Peer Mentorship Space”, if it’s all about sustainability? The next talk completes the full circle and brings us back to where we started: how do we create impact, and how do we make sure that we achieve what we set out to do?

The power of community

Janique-ka John shared some powerful wisdom about human trust and connection with us. Coming from a small island, Janique-ka’s community would colloquially talk about “pull string” – a term for knowing someone in the right place, who would help you get a task or procedure done more quickly. She later realised: this is not a small-island dynamic, but more of a general human characteristic: We tend to trust the word of people in our lives more than that of a stranger. It’s the reason why you might trust a recommendation of a close friend, more readily than that of an anonymous stranger. 

That is why the professional mentor you are looking for might actually be already in your life right now, and next to you in this room as a peer. Community doesn’t stop at professional support. 

Many of you reading this can reflect right now on where a family member, friend or friend of a friend, “pulled that string” that was crucial to you being where you are today. Janique-ka went a step further and challenged us all – yes, including you, dear reader – to connect also with people outside our field, for an unexpected surprise on how you may be able to mentor them or vice versa. Hold on to this moment, because some powerful cross-pollination is about to take place.

2. Books to read (and recommend)

The Black Opportunity by Tino Chibebe – I said it once, I say it again: Read this book and buy one for your friend. Like, do it now. You won’t regret it – as it is full of entertaining and inspiring personal stories from the author and dozens of interviewees. After this, you know all you need to know about venture capital and the opportunity it has to transform our communities, economies and planet. And about how important that “pull string” is that Janique-ka spoke about.

Seriously though: Read this book and buy one for a friend, too.

Embedded, by Shelby Parks. Following last month’s recommendation for The Ministry for the Future, here’s another futuristic post-apocalyptic science-fiction dystopian novel – that gets you thinking about the secret ingredients for a utopia. Embedded is set in 2038, and as the climate crisis ran its course, humanity has been forced underground. I won’t tell you more – suffice to say that this story aims to empower society out of learned helplessness and instill hope and action in humanity.

If you work in policy, recommend this book to your colleagues. Let me know what they say!

And of course follow Sevim Aktas’ EU Energy Transition Brief.

3. People to watch (and support!)

Saida Sheikh Ahmed is a machine learning engineer and data scientist, and co-founder of the School of AI Brussels – a learning community for anyone interested in Artificial Intelligence. She teaches data science, machine learning and deep learning: on her YouTube channel you can learn the basics of data, and follow the latest developments in the field.

Regens Unite is a 2 day conference which took place for the first time in Brussels on 19-20 May. It connected people from different bubbles – activists, web3 engineers, NGOs, bankers, community builders, policymakers – with each other, with one goal: Moving from sustaining an unsustainable status quo to creating regenerative communities and economies. It was great fun and I can’t wait for the next edition.

4. Facilitation techniques

At Regens, I learned a few cool things about facilitation and mediation techniques. One group exercise in particular I found very inspiring. In it, we explored three questions:

  1. WHAT: The first prompt invites everyone to look at a group of people outside of their own “bubble” – like political decision makers, activists, scientists, hackers or crypto people. The goal is to identify some of the stereotypes (or fears or uncertainties) that you may hold about this “bubble”.
    First, each person contemplates this question individually during a 1 minute meditation.
    Then, in groups of 3, each person shares their personal thoughts for 1 minute (or however much time you have) and afterwards listens to the others without judging or reacting.
  2. SO WHAT: After this first step, each person reflects on the question: So, what does that say about me? The fact that I have a certain fear, assumption or stereotype, what does it say about me? Most of these assumptions happen subconsciously anyway, so it’s a fascinating question to think about.
    Each person shares in turn, the others listen.
  3. WHAT NEXT: Reflect on what could be a next step or intention, what actions it would involve, and so on. Share with the others.
    Afterwards people share in a bigger group (for example in groups of 6) if they had any aha-moments.

5. What do you have energy for?

(Or: How you can get involved, if you want to)

At the end of the Regens conference, one question stuck with me. At a time when I felt drained, I was asked this very simple question: In all of the tiredness and frustration that we experience daily – What do you have energy for? 

What do you want to make time for? What are the things that make you feel good and empowered and that you want to repeat doing? Maybe the answer is “nothing” right now, and that’s ok too. Activism and impact work can be exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you’re reading this, chances are you may be interested in doing good things and creating positive impact in the world. If you are interested in volunteering for a non profit in Brussels – for example All for climateBloomeria or this Peer Mentorship Space – don’t hesitate to get in touch with them or with me.

If you want to explore new topics or give a talk on something you’re interested in – it’s easier than you might think – here are some tips I learned once.

And if you don’t know where to start, just email me, or message me on LinkedIn.

6. Next event + Tell a friend: Sponsorship opportunities

The feedback from all of you who have been at the launch event was so positive that I can’t wait to organise the next one. I am currently speaking to community members, potential co-organisers and other partners. If you have proposals on who we should invite, which topics we should dive into or which projects we should highlight – please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. And a big thanks to those who have shared already.

Most importantly, there are still sponsorship opportunities to support our mission of connecting people in tech, policy and sustainability with each other. It is of paramount importance to us to ensure that participation in our events is accessible and free for everyone. Check out the different sponsorship opportunities.

You’re invited – 18 May 2022

Get ready to shake things up and meet some fabulous and like-minded people

I am delighted to invite you to the launch event for the Peer Mentorship Space with some really amazing partners on

Wednesday 18 May, from 6pm in Brussels in BeCentral, Brussels

RSVP here

…so we can make sure we don’t run out of bubbles (and non-alcoholic drinks). We can’t wait to see you there!

This event is for people who

  • (Want to) work in policy, tech or sustainability.
  • Are passionate about improving the communities around them, open to collaboration.
  • While many of the community members identify as women, all genders are welcome.
    Men are welcome if they want to support women, in particular black women and women of colour, members of the LGBTQI+ community, people with disabilities.
  • We particularly welcome people from diverse cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and we aim to accommodate any special needs. Write to us with any questions.

What’s in today’s newsletter

  1. EDITORIAL: What is mentorship to me
  2. RESEARCH: The power of listening to oneself
  3. READS: Recommended books and articles
  4. MEDIA: Movies, shows and more
  5. NETWORK: People to watch (and support!)
  6. YOU: How you can get involved

1. One question… what is (good) mentorship for you?

I was asked to speak about mentorship recently – by the women.code(be) community, and the Global Shapers community in Brussels. This got me thinking.

One question I have always asked myself (and others) is: What would I advise my younger self, if I could meet her? What’s something I wish I had understood earlier?

When I think about the early days of my career, it brings up images of having to figure out how to get by on your own, and every now and then you meet a great person, a role model or someone you simply enjoy spending time with. For me, mentorship never involved some benevolent mentor helping me out (though sometimes I wished). Rather, it’s about peers who decide to break the silence around certain topics – verbalising and sharing their experiences and supporting each other with their learnings. 

Mentorship is and should be a decentralised concept. Run by peers – not hierarchies nor binaries.

Understanding yourself and others

Personally, I’ve had great mentors and terrible mentors. And what each and everyone of them have taught me is

  • How to spot good people, and how to best support ourselves and each other
  • How to quicker identify the energy suckers and secret sabotagers around me.

And so, my friends and I became our own mentors. And each others’.

The way I see it, every person already has five excellent mentors, or let’s say: advisers or counsellors. They are: fear, anger, joy, disgust, sadness. Our emotions play a crucial role in our lives, and emotional literacy is powerful.

Base emotions, reflexes and instincts fulfil important functions. They help us identify when something needs to change or when we have to get the hell out of here. We may need to adjust our own thoughts or attitudes, or actively change something outside of ourselves, in our environment or relationships.

For the German speakers – in my podcast I discuss why emotional literacy is so crucial for having a successful career as well as for solving crises like fighting for climate justice, equity and so much more. I might do an English episode on this if you’re interested – just let me know.

2. Gut feeling Galore

Ok, buckle up for a quick story.

Did you know that your own gut-feeling is so much smarter than your conscious self? Psychologist Antonio Damasio did a study that illustrated this beautifully: Some people were put in front of four decks of cards on a computer. They were asked to choose which card to turn over. And, depending on which card they pulled, they would either lose money or gain money.  So people started clicking on the decks and turning over cards. Unbeknownst to them, two of the decks were “good” decks. They contained many more rewards than punishments. And two of the decks were bad decks. 

Here’s where it gets interesting

As the participants were playing this game, the researchers were monitoring their skin conductance, which is a measure of our nervous system arousal. As the game progressed and the players were turning over these cards, their skin conductance started to flare up whenever they considered taking a card from the bad deck, indicating that their bodies, their physiology was reacting to the presence of a threat. And yet consciously, the players, when asked, had no idea that two decks were good and two decks were bad. They had no clue about the pattern that was present in the game.

But they began slowly but surely to learn this pattern in an unconscious way and avoid those bad decks more and more as the game went on, showing that they were learning, in a sense, from their gut feeling. But again, this was all non-conscious. So those of us who are more in touch with our internal sensations, and those of us who trust themselves, are more successful and better at avoiding threats. And this is an ability that can be deliberately cultivated to make better use of that wisdom and experience stored within our body.

In short:

Trusting your gut feeling PAYS off, quite literally.

Listen to more here on my podcast.

Before I meet you at the launch event on 18 May, 6pm, (remember to RSVP here) I want to leave you with some reflections and recommendations.

3. Books to read (and recommend)

The Ministry for the Future. I would describe this as a dystopian futuristic science fiction novel, with a stubborn and radically optimistic spin. What happens to geopolitics, the global economy and human society once the climate crisis runs its course? How can one rebuild a sick planet in order to survive and thrive on it?

If you work in policy, recommend this novel to your colleagues. Let me know what they say!

And of course follow Sevim Aktas’ EU Energy Transition Brief and
Cass Hebron’s Green Fix – an ethical roundup for the climate-conscious in Europe and beyond.

If you want to learn more about what people are already doing to preserve and restore the planet, check out this year’s Regens Unite conference on 19/20 May in Brussels – a 2 day hackathon to explore how we can move from sustaining an unsustainable status quo to regenerating natural habitats, communities and more.

Empress Dowager Cixi – The Concubine Who Launched Modern China (my second favourite historical biography after Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. This book describes the exceptional life and work of the woman who controlled the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China for half a century (1861 to her death in 1908). Coincidentally. It is a beautiful take on female perspectives on domestic and foreign policy, and inevitably ends up exposing the omnipresent patriarchal (toxic) masculine leadership styles, debacles and atrocities.

If you are into foreign policy, definitely read this. Let me know what you think in the comments of this doc.

Follow Kristina Lunz and the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy

4. Movies/shows to watch

Station Eleven – Survivors of a devastating flu (ring a bell, anyone?) attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew. For me, this show brings up a lot of big questions: What happens after the end of the world? What does it mean for our capacity for empathy, when every single person on Earth has lived through the same trauma? What happens to people, when life and death depends on identifying whether another person is your ally or a potential enemy? What happens to communities, when people decide to hold on to the best of what’s been lost, and radically do away with the harmful old?

Queen of Katwe – This is the true story of Phiona Mutesi. At 14 years old, living in Katwe, Kampala, Uganda, Phiona’s life changes radically when she meets chess coach Robert Katende and is introduced to the game of chess. I’m not going to spoil anything – go watch it! Today Phiona supports many more children through sports outreach and education. You can check it out and donate here

5. People to watch (and support!)

So many amazing people are doing incredible work to restore the health of our planet, communities and people. The best part is: There are equally many easy ways to support them.

Tino Chibebe


📚 Tino Chibebe is hosting a launch event this Friday, 22 April, 7pm. And until then: his book “The Black Opportunity” on VC & Afropean entrepreneurship in Belgium is already available on Amazon. Show Tino’s work some support by appeasing the algorithms that be:

Give it 5 ⭐️ ratings, share it with your friends – and of course buy and read this important book.

Follow Tino Chibebe, buy his book “The Black Opportunity” and join his book launch event this Friday, 22 April

Janique-ka John

Janique-ka John is the founder of Women in Tech Caribbean – a network of 200+ members, promoting opportunities, job offers and scholarships. Janique-ka is an experienced software engineer, entrepreneur and an inaugural member of Twitter Developer Insiders.

Make sure to follow her on Twitter.

Chloé Bailly

Chloé Bailly is an experienced marketing expert, and manages Events and Community outreach at Le Wagon in Brussels – a coding school based out of 40 cities in 25 countries. Originally from France, she now works in the heart of Europe.

Follow her work at Le Wagon on Twitter.
Le Wagon offers 9-week bootcamps in Web Development and Data Science (on campus or remotely).

6. What about You?

If you’re reading this, chances are you are already thinking about what you want to bring to the world and the people around you, and what you want for yourself. There are so many organisations and networks in Brussels – or in any city.

Share your knowledge, interests or project with someone – and if you like, share it with me and find other community members.

If you want to explore new topics or give a talk on something you’re interested in – it’s easier than you might think! Here are some tips I learned once.

If you don’t know where to start, just email me, or message me on LinkedIn.

See you on Wednesday 18 May 6pm, at BeCentral Brussels! 🍸🌱

(remember to RSVP here)

Welcome To Your Peer Mentorship Space

The concept is simple: drinks + fun + mutual mentorship. The goal is to help you develop a support system that will always have your back.

This is the newsletter accompanying my new peer mentorship space – a place for sharing, learning, supporting. I am so privileged to call many impressive, incredible and supportive women my friends.

In fact, they are so smart that I wish everyone could learn from their wisdom. Which is why I am setting up this peer mentorship space that brings together women+ from diverse sectors and backgrounds.

  • The immediate goal is to have fun.
  • The medium goal is to share stories, experiences and opportunities with each other.
  • The long term goal is to enable each of us in developing a community and support system that will always have our back. 
  • I explain a bit more about my idea of peer mentorship here in my podcast

Interested? Subscribe now, so you don’t miss any updates.Subscribe

What to expect

In the coming weeks and months I will be asking your advice, if that’s ok.

You are able to write and comment in this document, where I am collecting ideas and developing the concept. Please feel free to leave me any of your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. There are no stupid questions, only ones that make obvious that something’s missing.

[Important disclaimer. If you are happy with receiving these letters, but don’t want to actively participate – because you don’t feel comfortable, or simply don’t have time – please know there is absolutely no need to justify yourself. Stressing people out is definitely not the goal of this exercise. But do know this: you are always able reach out, should you need anything.]

What am I planning?

Starting this year, I will organise regular drinks in Brussels, open for women (and interested men) who are interested or working in technology, policy, sustainability.

Some are just starting out, others have many years of experience, and yet others are doing a U-turn and redefining their lives and careers. It is absolutely and totally ok to join sometimes, and to not join other times – whatever your mood, it’s good.

The drink has 3 elements:

  • Short talk by one of the women or external guests (5-10 minutes). “Talk” is a big word – it’s more like a short introduction + a thought I wanted to share. More here.
  • Just drinks. It’s not really an “event”. It’s a bunch of amazing women having a drink with their friends, and getting to know friends of friends. Also: Alcohol is the most glorified drug in the world. If someone does not want to drink it, they are obviously equally welcome, with no questions asked.
  • Challenge or thought experiment, which may be related to the topic of the short talk. It can be tips on things that are difficult (salary negotiations, CV writing, interview prep, dealing with mansplaining, mental load in personal relationships, etc) + what you can do today to start getting into the habit of standing up for yourself. Attendees can entirely ignore the challenge, use it as a piece of smalltalk if needed, or simply reflect on it later if they want to. Not everything will resonate with everyone. Weird ideas here.

What can you do?

You are welcome to join for the drink. I will let you know when and where it happens. You can bring a friend, or three or five. You do not have to come to all drinks – whatever works for you is good.

If you are not based in Brussels, you can still participate remotely through these Newsletters, or any virtual events that might happen this year.

If you are interested to get involved, I am still looking for:

  • Thoughts. Anything that comes to mind to you about my plans – questions, suggestions, concerns, wild ideas – please shoot! And do feel free to tell your friends and get their reaction. This is a communal experiment, the more ideas the better. More here.
  • People to bounce some ideas and topics off of. Help with defining an editorial calendar, reaching out to speakers, media partners etc. Every single person is welcome to join with whatever interests you.
  • Venue. Current options are: Hackages, Brewdog, The nine. Other ideas?
  • Sponsors. I want to get us swag and make these drinks fancy. Potential sponsors could be companies for employer branding or hiring (Bluesquare, Le Wagon, Hackages, etc etc), other organisations or brands (Brussels beers project, Leonidas, etc). Any ideas welcome!
  • Channels. I don’t want to spam, so I want to be mindful about what the best channels to organise are. I will send 1 monthly Newsletter with helpful resources on a variety of topics and organise 1 monthly in-person drink.
    To whoever is interested in helping make this happen, I propose direct communication (whatsapp or other), and maybe you’ll allow me to invite you for coffee, lunch or a cocktail every now and then?

If you’re interested to get involved in whichever way, subscribe now to stay up to date

All the very best and hope to see you soon 🍸


*** Addendum: this community later developed into the Idealists Quarterly. We’re glad you’re here! ***