Passing the torch to the next generation of societal leaders

The selection Process

The initiative aims at bringing together a diverse community of 40 talented emerging leaders. The selection of participants is designed to ensure a broad representation of different personalities, sectors, activities, backgrounds, areas of interests. It also pays attention to gender and linguistic balance.

The central part of the application focuses on personality and motivation to join the Belgium’s 40 under 40 community. Applicants are invited to describe in one page (maximum 6.000 characters, in English) why they should be selected! Here are a few guidelines about what we are looking for in the application: why do you want to join, what can you bring to this initiative, what do you expect from it, what are your leadership and impact achievements, what societal challenge(s) inspire you and why, what do you think you could change in society if you were given the opportunity, what are your personal and leadership development objectives…

Initial societal footprint

You have a first proof of impact towards society. It can take various forms: being active as an entrepreneur, a community leader, an opinion shaper...

Active co-development

You want to grow as a leader, reflect on yourself, your values, your impact, and you want to connect with other people to learn and to shape your societal engagement.

Leadership track-record

You have demonstrated leadership in your own context, through projects, initiatives, professional environment, personal area...

Future oriented

You want to think ahead to build solutions for the long term, adopt an integrative perspective and gather various point of views.

Thematic sweetspot

You have a passion for one or more societal topic: healthcare, ageing, well-being, work, mobility, food, inclusion, education, energy, climate, digital, information, democracy, youth, culture...

From inspiration to action

You are ready to roll out your sleeves and bridge the gap between ideas and concrete impact.

Who is admissible?

Based in Belgium

It is not mandatory to have a Belgian nationality to apply, however you need to be living in Belgium and demonstrate a strong attachment to the future of the Belgian society.

Below 40 years old

You need to be younger than 40 at the start of the program, so for your application to be accepted to join the 2022 Cohort you must be born after October 1, 1982.

No political mandate

We want to keep the debate outside of the political agendas. Hence, we do not take candidates who hold an elective mandate.

Fluent in English

A good command of English is necessary since it is the main language used in the initiative.

Participation COMMITMENT

There is no financial contribution expected to join the program, but participants are asked to commit real time, energy and goodwill in the program. Participation to all the activities is a must. Repeated absences have direct consequence on the group dynamics, and lead to a discontinuation of your participation to the program.

To help you assess the commitment that is needed to take part to the program, consider the following time involvement:

1. Forums: these meetings take place on Saturdays (and sometimes Sunday mornings), on average every 8 to 10 weeks. There are 5 Forums in the program.

2. Conversations Circles: these activities take place once a month, on a week evening, usually from 6pm to 10pm. The day of the week depends on the group, you typically define that with your Coach at the first meeting.

3. Field Work: this stream of activity is initiated during the Forums, and you are expected to meet with other Fellows to progress on your topic between the Forums. You are free to define the modality and the frequency of your work with your team mates, and we estimate that it requires on average 1 to 2 hours per week.

4. Individual Mentorship: these one-on-one meetings with your Mentor take place every 4 to 5 weeks to keep a good progression in your discussions, and each meeting is around 1h30 to have meaningful conversations. Since this is a one-to-one relationship that you build with your Mentor, you define the schedule of the meetings together.

We know that the overall commitment is significant, but is necessary to have real impact. Fellows currently in the program estimate the time investment at 2 to 3 hours per week. If you feel that, at the moment, you would not be comfortable to invest that time in the program, then we advise you not to apply to avoid facing difficulties further down the road… Of course, in the event of a personal situation arising during the course of the program, we are always open to discuss and review how to adapt to individual cases.

Are there activities during holiday period?

No, we always organise the activities outside of holiday period. So you will not have a Forum at the end of December or in the middle of July-August... and the same applies to the Conversations Circles. Regarding the Field Work and the Mentorship, you organise that with your team mates or Mentor directly, so you can arrange the schedule as you want.

Is the program compatible with parenthood?

Given the age range of the participants, we emphasise that becoming a parent is compatible with a participation to the program! For example, in the past, we had several Fellows who welcomed newborns while they were part of the program, and we are flexible to provide support and amend the participation rules depending on your individual situation.

Can I follow the activities virtually?

Most of the activities are taking place in-person. That's the case for the Forums, where remote participation is not possible, and most of the Conversations Circles. You will define with your Coach if remote participation to the Circles is possible, but that's certainly not ideal and should remain exceptional. For the Field Work and the Mentorship, you can decide with your peers or Mentor what is best for you.

Since one of the goal is to have meaningful discussion between the Fellows, it is never as good as meeting in-person. For that reason, we do not accept candidates who are living abroad, although we know that they could bring a lot of rich perspectives to the Cohort! It is a difficult choice, but experience proved that it is best in that way.

Where do the activities take place?

To keep things simple, the Forums take place in Brussels: we are hosted at TheMerode (Place Poelaertplein) which offers a central location and excellent facilities for our meetings!
The Circles can be organised in various/rotating places, to be defined with your Coach, otherwise the default location would be Brussels.

Regarding the Mentorship, we can pair you up with a Mentor from your geographical area to facilitate the organisation of your meetings, you just need to let us know at the beginning of the program.

And for the Field Work, it depends on your group, but location has not been an issue so far...

In the past, we had Fellows coming from all over Belgium: from Kortrijk to Herve, and from Oostende to Arlon! We want to keep it that way and your place of living (in Belgium) should not be a barrier to your participation.

Can I only do the activities that I like?

No, the program is not 'à la carte' so you cannot pick what you like and not do the rest... Therefore, a participation to all the activities is requested. You will quickly discover the complementarity of the activities and how each stream of activity reinforce the other streams. The program has been designed as a comprehensive experience!

What happens if I can't make it to an activity?

We know that there are times when you really must to be somewhere else... For that reason, you have one joker that you can use to miss one of the Forums in case of imperative agenda conflict (except for the First Forum where presence is mandatory). However, missing more than one Forum becomes an issue since you quickly get disconnected from the larger group. The same applies to the Conversations Circles, where you will see that a regular participation is needed to make the most of these sessions.

In the case of the Field Work and Mentorship, well, you probably don't want to be kicked out by your peers or have a bad image to your Mentor... 🙂

Missing out on too many activities typically leads to a frank discussion to understand what has caused your disconnect. In extreme cases, it could possibly lead to an exclusion in case of manifest disinterest, but we hope it won't get that far...

What is the
selection process?

The selection process is consisted of three stages:

    1. Screening: we review all the applications and we make a pre-selection for the second stage;
    2. Interviews: pre-selected candidates are invited to meet with Supporters and Alumni for online interviews;
    3. Validation: after the interview, we review all the feedback and assemble the Cohort, with an attention to forming a diverse and balanced group.

The intention is to expand the 40u40 community with new selections on a yearly basis. Candidates can apply more than once to join the Community. We emphasise that the selection is not a judgement of the intrinsic qualities of the participants: it is not a ranking of ‘The best 40 young leaders of the year’.

The next Selection round will be organised in the Spring of 2023, and the Cohort will start in September 2023. We will announce the opening and closing dates for the applications on our website and our newsletter. 

Join THE 2022 Cohort


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