By Nathalie Cadot, Manager, MAVA Impact & Sustainability Unit

For someone with the family name Cadot (meaning “gift” in French and phonetically the same as “cadeau”), it’s written in the stars that I’m made for gift giving. Thus, I’m probably the best person to tell you more about this big gift MAVA is giving to its partners.

When MAVA’s Impact and Sustainability Unit (ISU) was created in 2016, I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead our reflections on how to equip our partners, in particular the younger generation, so they can lead actions more effectively within and beyond their organisations. Our aim is to support a thriving and growing conservation community leading bolder, more innovative and collaborative actions after MAVA’s closing.

The gift is big by its diversity and multiple dimensions. The MAVA Leaders for Nature Academy gives:

> Time and space to reflect, which is much needed for leaders who are constantly busy

> Tools and approaches to support long term personal and professional growth

> New networks to deepen, expand and broaden relationships in the sector and beyond

> Strengthened skills including collaborating (between generations and other sectors), listening (to self and to others), empathy (towards self and towards others), influencing (communication, innovation), creativity and others, too many to list here!

> Self-confidence, in particular for young professionals, to make their voices heard

> Inspiration to become more creative and deliver more for our planet

> Human connections – you make friends, people who understand and appreciate your challenges and from whom you can get support.

“The most unexpected journey, to become the best version of yourself. Priceless training for a leader indeed!”
Konstantinos Perikleous, Terra Cypria – MAVA Academy young professional

This gift is an intergenerational blended[1] leadership development experience, with a 360° self-assessment, coaching and mentoring. It provides an opportunity to develop both on a professional and on a personal level, the last being less common in the conservation sector and in our focus areas (West African and Mediterranean countries). As Gabriel Schwaderer, Executive Director of EuroNatur, shared “it’s more a personal journey than a technical course” (you can hear more participant’s testimonies in this 3 min Academy film).

You can also read more about the thought leadership guiding the Academy developed by our partner Common PurposeLeading Beyond Authority (LBA), and the first face-to-face event of the first cohort with this blog piece from Mowgli Mentoring, our second implementation partner.

Two of the employees have independently told me that lately they have noticed changes in the way I manage the organisation and build relationships with colleagues. ‘You have started to listen more, since July’ – ‘You give much more creative space to others’. I attribute these perceived changes as an impact that the Academy is having on me and my leadership practice.
Aleksandër Trajçe, Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) – MAVA Academy senior professional

Today, I want to share with you four key learnings after one year of implementation of the Academy.

1/ Bringing two generations of leaders together enriches the experience for both participants and improves intergenerational collaboration and mutual help.

What makes the Academy so unique is the recruitment of duos senior-junior professionals from the same organisation. Through the Academy, senior professionals feel equipped to contribute to the young professionals’ growth and leadership journey. They learn about their leadership style. They also realise that it’s more about asking the right questions to the young professionals so they can find the answers themselves. The young professionals gain a sounding-board with solid experience and the seniors get trained as mentors to accompany them on their leadership journey. Both learn from this relationship to be better listeners and develop respective strengths.

2/People say they don’t have time for their development, but they will take it if you give them the opportunity.

Professionals take with eagerness and engagement the time and space offered to reflect and work on their personal and professional growth and their leadership.

The Academy offers a privileged space where I can take a step back from my every day work. It’s an extraordinary opportunity, not forgetting the learnings and new people we meet !
Esra Tat, Zero Waste Europe – MAVA Academy Senior professional

3/ Leadership and personal development is a transformational experience for life with a knock-on or multiplier effect on teams and organisations.

Given at the right moment in a career path, it transforms people for life by boosting their potential and confidence. It opens their eyes on what can be done, on how things can be done differently. It allows them to discover that they are experiencing similar challenges to their peers.

“The program is transformative, powerful, and has forever changed the way I will relate to people.”
Clive Poultney, Southern African Wildlife College – MAVA Academy senior professional

“I took the decision not to wait anymore for things or people to come to me, but rather to create and go and find opportunities.”
Moussa Pouye, International Union for Conservation of Nature (Dakar) – MAVA Academy young professional

4/ Our partners are discovering what mentoring is, and its power. They enjoy it so much, both mentors and mentees!

To support and embed the leadership development and work on the intergenerational aspect, Mowgli Mentoring train and equip senior professionals as mentors to support both the professional and personal growth of the mentees (young professionals). This enables them to lay the foundations for a long-term, trust-based mentoring relationship that can go far beyond the Academy.

“I didn’t know what to expect from mentoring only six months ago, but I’m very happy that I ‘trusted the process’, for it helped me detect and develop skills that are very necessary for my professional and personal development.”
Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe – MAVA Academy senior professional

I’m proud and delighted to work with Common Purpose and Mowgli Mentoring, our partners on the MAVA Academy. I’m proud that MAVA believes so much in the importance of leadership development (the foundation supports several leadership programmes[2]!) and in personal growth. Conservation and sustainable economy activities represent much more than technical knowledge and processes, it’s about people and human relationships.

It is so heart-warming and fulfilling to witness the emotions, energy, well-being, solidarity and sincerity generated by this programme.

My work on the Academy is MAVA gift to me!


[1] Blended learning is a combination of online and face-to-face.

[2] Cambridge Masters in Conservation Leadership ProgrammeSouthern African Wildlife CollegeAfrican Leadership University School of Wildlife conservation