Image credit: Angelique Pouponneau

Mentoring: Seeing the bigger picture

Mentoring: Seeing the bigger picture

Exchanging ideas through rich conversations

Image above: SIDS Youth Hub AIMS, Seychelles, cleaning up the world around them

In 2016, Angelique Pouponneau became the first Seychellois Queen’s Young Leader. She and her mentor, Paul Begley tell Leading Change about getting more people to care about the environment and sustainable development.

When Paul Begley saw the opportunity to be a mentor for Queen’s Young Leaders, he latched on to three of his favourite words – "Count me in!"

“I felt it might be something I could help with. It is aligned with my interests and I thought it would probably enable me to help someone, develop myself and support a positive change in the world.” 

Paul is the Programme Director at the University of Cambridge's Institute for Sustainability Leadership. For over 15 years, he has supported individuals and organisations to have a positive impact on society and the environment in ways that make business sense.

His mentee, Angelique Pouponneau, is an environmental lawyer and Co-Founder of the Seychelles branch of Small Island Development States (SIDS) Youth Hub in the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and South China Sea (AIMS). 

SIDS Youth AIMS Hub, Seychelles, is a regional network of young people that promotes and advances youth-led sustainable development projects. Angelique is also the Vice President of the Commonwealth Youth Council.

Mentorship sessions

Angelique and Paul met every two weeks for one to two hours. “We would catch up on how each other’s life was going and then go on to achieve the goal of the mentorship session,” says Angelique.

“In the beginning, we set out what our goals were and at the end, we were able to achieve them. If we got diverted to other issues, we made sure to take a step back to the goal of the mentorship.”

While the mentorship sessions lasted for six months, Paul and Angelique continued to stay in touch.

Paul says one of the most striking things about the mentoring sessions was the conversations were so varied and lively, they often overran the allotted time. 

“It is a bit of a copout but the whole process was pretty memorable! It was a flurry of really rich conversations – an exchange of opinions on all sorts of topics from plastics in the oceans, communicating in ways that appeal to people's values and ways that businesses capture value.”

A different mindset

On the other hand, Angelique says what she enjoyed most about her time with Paul was the way he made her think.

“He puts the variables there and allowed me to examine different sides of issues and what I think is best. We would later have a discussion about it.”

Before meeting Paul, Angelique’s weakness was always to assume that people must care deeply about environmental issues because it affects everyone. She assumed, for instance, that environmental issues ought to be among everyone’s top three priorities. She soon realised that she was wrong and that not everyone is as passionate about the environment as she is.

Paul helped her to explore how messaging can be used to strategically attract different sets of people, including by:

  • tapping into mindsets
  • making messaging attractive to different persons or personalities
  • analysing how to tackle sustainability problems                                        
  • finding out where there is the most intense carbon dioxide emission. 

All these have helped Angelique and her team tackle the problem of environmental awareness from a different angle. “He has given me the ability to have a more wholesome view of sustainability issues,” says Angelique.

Pink clouds above turquoise sea and golden beach

A beach in the Seychelles. Image credit: Jean-Marie Hullot

But the learning experience wasn’t a one-sided affair.

Paul says, “Angelique was fun and taught me a lot – not least the ability to throw energy into your work – and reminded me that you often have to actively shape the changes you want to see.”

Open minds

While there is no cookie cutter to driving change, Paul believes mentees like Angelique can make the most of being mentored if they are open, inquisitive and willing to challenge their mentor. 

“This process works best where you can prod, poke and explore one another's views and exchange ideas,” Paul says. “Being open-minded is important for both parties.” 

For those who haven’t been mentored, how can they gain access to mentorship? Paul says mentoring can be found anywhere – in the workplace, the local community or via formal schemes. To work out who to ask to be your mentor, you need to have an awareness of what you want to improve or do differently.

“The question then becomes who do you respect that can help you with that change.”

Angelique Pouponneau

"Paul has given me the ability to have a more wholesome view of sustainability issues."

Angelique Pouponneau

Paul Begley

"Angelique was fun and taught me a lot – not least the ability to throw energy into your work – and reminded me that you often have to actively shape the changes you want to see."

Paul Begley