Fondation Botnar runs a Young Professionals Programme aimed at enabling young professionals under the age of 35 to introduce new perspectives, innovation, and expertise to their fields of work. The programme lasts for two years, one year spent with Fondation Botnar in Basel, and up to one year with a partner or related organisation in a low- and middle-income country.
In the very first podcast blog from Fondation Botnar, you’ll meet the third cohort of Young Professionals, Adria and Theresa.
Adria: I’m Adria, 24, and originally from Romania. Before joining the Young Professionals Programme, I studied International Relations and Modern History at university and completed a master’s degree in diplomacy and Foreign Policy in the UK. After I returned to Romania and worked in the Education NGO sector. As Cluj-Napoca, my hometown, is one of the cities in the OurCity initiative of Fondation Botnar, I had the pleasure of working on two Fondation Botnar-supported projects. I fell in love with collaborative project-making, co-designing initiatives, and working towards improving my community. I have taken on this opportunity with Fondation Botnar to develop my skills and make an even bigger impact during these two years and when I eventually return home. With the foundation, I am working towards designing a new education intervention, piloting this in three of the foundation’s focus countries and doing all this in a highly participatory way that allows education stakeholders, such as young people, to design programmes alongside their funders.
Theresa: I am Theresa. I grew up in Germany and studied Business Administration and later completed a master’s degree in International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy. Throughout my studies and later as a freelancer, I was a conceptualist for events and live communication. Through that, I had the chance to learn from various companies, NGOs, and a lot from the entire Social Business Community. I am someone you would describe as a “multi-potential” – I have never been linear in my thinking, interests, or wishes, but through that ability, I was always part of many different teams. I learned from branding to workshopping to stage directing to storyboard-writing, everything and anything in between. While I enjoy doing all these things, I wanted to make sure that I could pursue these qualities in a purpose-driven way and learn how to create impactful change. In my quest to do so, I found Fondation Botnar, or it found me – now I am part of the Communication and Advocacy Team.
Theresa: Adria, you remember when we first met here on the 1st of September – what was your first impression?
Adria: I don’t think I have ever seen so many workaholics in one place (!) – my biggest shock was just how many roles each person has, how many hats they wear in the foundation, and how even with plates so full, the team still finds some space to take on new challenges. Seeing such brilliant people coming together to achieve the same goal was overwhelming, and on a more private note, it gave me a little impostor syndrome. I thought, okay, this will be a challenging year, and I have big shoes to fill.
Theresa: There were so many concepts they would refer to and so many abbreviations I even started a vocabulary list! I am used to such fast-paced environments that we are often “just winging it.” And Fondation Botnar is well organised and structured; there is such good reasoning behind the actions. I also admire the entire mindset and motivation behind the cause – everyone holds that vision to “create a world where young people can thrive” very highly.
Theresa: Adria, how would you describe Fondation Botnar in one word?
Adria: Daring is the word for me. Daring to ask big questions, daring to test new solutions, daring to innovate, daring to be open to criticism, daring to change and adapt, and daring to admit when things are not working. I think daring encapsulates the energy here.
Adria: What would you want to leave behind at Fondation Botnar?
Theresa: I would like to see how the team looks a little further into the creative toolbox when working, especially in its external engagements such as panel talks, events, and workshops. Furthermore, I highly encourage a more down-to-earth language. Also, as I am a team player and love to see how team structures enable collective knowledge and creativity – I would like to see more of that.
Theresa: What have you already learned or want to learn in your time at Fondation Botnar?
Adria: Maybe circling back to that impostor syndrome, something that I’m starting to learn here is that we cannot change everything for the better. The entire weight of the world’s problems is not on our shoulders, and we must find those places where we, as individuals or as an organisation, can make the most impact. So perhaps what I want to learn is to not feel the need to solve everything at once and always feeling that although I’m doing a lot of good with my work, it’s still not enough. I want to appreciate the change I’m contributing to and understand that even if there are many more things to do, our work is still valuable.
Theresa: What fascinates you most in the work you do?
Adria: Collaboration. I have always loved collaborating, teamwork, co-creating things, and participating. So, I think this question of how do we collaborate for the better? As foundations between each other, as NGOs and civil society, citizens, governments, and academia. One of the big questions is how do we coordinate, how do we collaborate, and how do we create a better tomorrow together? And with the work that I am doing now, I understand more and more about how we, as various stakeholders in a society, have collaborated in the past and have the privilege to explore and test how we can collaborate today. I think the word ecosystem gets thrown around a lot but exploring how to create an effective education ecosystem is extremely fascinating to me.
Theresa: I am impressed by the approach of collaboration as it’s a model that tries to give space to others instead of focusing on us and the work we do. It’s such a humble environment that is designed to prioritise project partners, celebrate collaborations, and make sure that the voices of others are being heard. Especially in the communication circle, we make sure that we don’t talk on behalf of others, and that we use every chance to place our partners at events and on social media. I have to recall and remind myself of that a lot when coordinating the creation of creative assets such as videos, reports, exhibition booths, website alteration etc. or imagining our communication strategy for the next five years.
Adria: If you could do one task for the rest of your time at Fondation Botnar what would that be?
Theresa: I am currently working on a live-radio concept for the Women Deliver Conference 2023 that should be part of various next year’s events and overall communication. It focuses on listening to others and making sure we hear and understand the issues of the younger generations in a very approachable and entertaining way. So far, I have had lots of fun brainstorming about it and imagining the results – I think it’s a very encouraging way to increase youth participation and create dialogues between various partners if rightly applied.
Adria: I love hearing about the experiences of implementing initiatives in different landscapes, the challenges, and the successes and using that information to better inform the development of our programme. And there is never too much information.
Theresa: Our goal is the wellbeing of young people – what makes you well?
Adria: Sleep, good coffee, kind people, rewarding work. I think for me feeling good comes from feeling like I am making a difference, and this could be something as small as helping someone get off a bus, holding a door, or as big as the work that I do with the foundation. But being well for me also comes from knowing when to take breaks, sleeping well, doing the occasional office yoga, being around friends, and trying not to take everything too seriously.
Theresa: If I had to measure my well-ness, I would probably always refer to my level of confidence. And what boosts my confidence is surely when people value my opinion, when I invest my time into something that I like to share with others, and when I feel inspired by my surroundings and the people I meet – and creating this environment for others.