Eric Flecijn, Senior Business Development Manager, discusses Candriam’s partnership with Boost, a Belgium-based association that supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and how it aligns to the goals of the Candriam Institute for Sustainable Development.
According to a 2019 report by the OECD, around 50 percent of children with parents who have poor educational qualifications will themselves gain few qualifications, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will have lower incomes during their lifetimes. These children also have less access to quality education and healthcare, creating barriers to their social mobility.
But on a more optimistic note, the report also points out that these odds can be changed when vulnerable children are given the right opportunities to build resilience. Mentoring and other programs can help children to overcome their economic disadvantages.
One such program is Boost, whose ultimate goal is to empower talented young people from underprivileged backgrounds and give them equal opportunities to succeed. Since its launch in 2011, over 600 young people have already been part of the program in Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Verviers, Mons, La Louvière, Gent and Oostende.
Eric Flecijn, Senior Business Development Manager, Candriam
Boost was set up by the King Baudouin Foundation, one of Europe’s biggest foundations, supporting projects and charities that contribute to a better society, and the Sofina Boël Fund for Education and Talent, which provides financial support for education and training through individual grants and providing support to other organizations with similar objectives.
“Supporting educational initiatives is a core part of the Institute’s ethos,” Flecijn explains. “Boost is totally in line with the Institute’s focus on youth empowerment and Candriam’s motto ‘Investing for tomorrow,’ as it targets future generations—the future children of those supported by Boost today will have a greater probability of entering higher education.”
A long-term approach as opposed to a “quick fix”
Boost is unique in that it is a long-term program (a minimum of six years). It starts at the turning point in a young person’s development – around 15 years old – a time when it is still possible to influence the path that a young person takes in life. Individuals then receive support until the end of their education.
In addition to focusing on educational achievement, Boost also provides opportunities for personal development as well as coaching and networking through a wide network of alumni. On the practical side, Boost provides training and financial support, from grants to ensuring that individuals have access to computers and printers. In time, those who have gone through the program become role models for others, creating opportunities for them to pass on their own knowledge and experiences.
One of the aspects that makes Boost so unique is that it goes beyond the individual. “Their success and their experience often spread to their entire family and community,” says Flecijn. “They are in contact with others—brothers, sisters, parents, teachers, friends etc.—whom they can then influence as a result of their own path to success. So, the overall impact is thus much greater than just on the young people Boost supports. “
Maximizing the impact of mentoring
Mentoring is an important part of the Boost program, with organizers looking at ways to make the mentoring aspect more innovative, flexible and personalized.
Rather than pairing a mentee with a mentor over the long-term, as is already often done, Boost plans to hire a new project manager who will structure the mentoring process by activating the right mentor networks and finding the most appropriate mentors at each key moment in the students' academic careers, whether they are making a choice of higher education, pursuing a master's degree, or starting a first job. Candriam has committed to supporting the launch of this new tailor-made mentoring program for the next three years.
“Supporting Boost is yet another way that the Candriam Institute can provide a positive societal impact,” Flecijn notes. “And I enjoy the fact that I am part of something which will change the lives of young people for the better.”