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.

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!

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.

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! ***