Read the dream of David Leyssens
What was your dream when you were little?
When I was little, I had a well-developed social consciousness. I was influenced by Greenpeace and social causes − so, even as a child I dreamed of playing a part in helping society.
Do you feel that you've achieved your dream today?
Yes, I do − because throughout my career I’ve been privileged to work in jobs where I really feel I’m doing something good for society.
What do you do now?
I work for The Shift, which is a Belgian sustainability network of 350 companies, NGOs, academic institutions and governments, with the goal of realising the transition to a more sustainable society and economy. We strive to stimulate collaboration among various actors in society to tackle social challenges and create change.
When was your company created?
The Shift was created in June 2015 through the merger between Belgium’s two largest sustainability networks: KAURI and Business & Society Belgium. We decided to consolidate in order to create more impact.
What projects are you working on?
The Shift is quite young, but we are already busy connecting people and facilitating commitments. A major topic we are working on right now is in the context of the UN’s launch of 17 worldwide ‘sustainability goals’ − as a Belgian network, we are seeking to connect Belgian businesses to that global framework of action.
What is your role in the company?
I’m the co-CEO of The Shift. My daily job is quite diverse: this morning I had a talk with one of the members on a climate-related topic, and another discussion on youth employability projects that we’re working on…
What is the scope of The Shift's work?
The Shift is based in the heart of Brussels, and there are currently 8 people on the team. As a Belgian sustainability network, we have contacts with other sustainability networks worldwide and with the United Nations.
What is your ambition?
To create more impact on the sustainability challenges of today and tomorrow. We dream of a better world for future generations, and we believe that we need to radically change the way we produce and consume things in our country. So, we want to be an incubator for innovative sustainability models in Belgium.
We dream of a better world for future generations, and we believe that we need to radically change the way we produce and consume things in our country.
With regard to yourself, what have you studied?
I studied Communication Sciences in Brussels, specialising in the role new communications technologies can play in development. As a result, I helped create a spin-off organisation − called Close The Gap − a non-profit organisation that helps tackle the digital divide by offering inexpensive but good-quality second-hand solutions to projects in the developing world. I was involved in distributing high-end computers to educational institutions in the sub-Sahara, and in creating a plant in Nairobi that collects and recycles electronic waste at the end of a computer’s lifecycle.
Why did you come to Vlerick and what did you study?
I was very fortunate to receive a social grant from Vlerick at a very interesting point in my career: when I decided to join the Management Acceleration Programme: Young Managers (MAP), I was the Director of Kauri and this was when Kauri decided to merge with Business & Society Belgium to create The Shift. So it was really a great opportunity for me to acquire more management and leadership skills and to implement what I was learning at Vlerick in the merger activity.
I was very fortunate to receive a social grant from Vlerick at a very interesting point in my career
Vlerick’s social grants help people from the non-profit sector get access to the Vlerick programmes; and this adds to the diversity of the group, which adds to the quality of the programmes.
Have your Vlerick studies helped you realise your dream?
Yes − Vlerick helped me take the next step in my career by becoming the co-CEO of The Shift. In particular, the programme was a great help to me in 3 areas: Leadership; Coaching; and structuring the on-the-job knowledge I have acquired in my career up to now by means of the theoretical frameworks that Vlerick teaches.
Do you have any special memories of your time at Vlerick?
My teammates and I were assigned the task of developing a business venture − and we decided to embark on an existing venture, a concrete real-life case, in which we helped a Belgian brand of milk develop and grow and explore new business opportunities.
Do you feel you can now apply what you learned at Vlerick?
I really do feel I apply my learning − I appreciate the dynamics between the theory you learn at Vlerick and the time the programme offers you to put it into practice. The MAP is a 1-year programme, in which you have 5 teaching modules − so, you have 3 or 4 days of courses and then perhaps 2 to 3 months to apply the theory to your day-to-day job.
What would be the main message you would like young managers to take away from your dream story?
Celebrate diversity − the chance to work in very diverse environments, different kinds of organisations, different cultures and team compositions, is extremely enriching to both your work and your life!
Connect with David!