Telecentre Europe Awards 2016 Entry: Digital Changemaker

Veronique De Leener

Country: Belgium

City/Town: (Anderlecht) Brussels

Work Place: MAKS vzw

Position: director

Years in service in current organization: 15

Nominated by:  Jan Debognies, manager, MAKS vzw

 

1. WORK EXPERIENCE

Veronique has a Master in Romance philology. She worked as a teacher and later as director of a dual learning vocational school in Molenbeek, Brussels. She became director of Maks vzw in 1999. She manages three departments: a non-formal IT and media education centre, a social economy graphic design agency and an employment counselling service. Veronique saw the potential that lies in using digital media to empower people of disadvantaged areas and to help them gain access to the labour market. She has a particular passion for motivating young people to discover their own talents and growing to their full potential. She strongly believes in creativity as an efficient way of getting people with learning difficulties to engage with enthusiasm in STEM-subjects.

2. CONTRIBUTION TO DIGITAL INCLUSION AND EMPOWERMENT

Veronique has developed an open centre in two location in Brussels where people can take very low-cost courses or workshops tailored to their needs and a counselling service, helping people to get a job. She coaches her staff to make activities truly inclusive and to encourage people to expand their digital skills to actively participate in the 21st century society.

Veronique has made Maks grow to about 40 employees, but 25 of the employees are youngsters that are trained on the job as educators in multimedia or desktop publishing. Annually, Maks is coaching about 500 adult jobseekers and 100 youngsters between 18 and 25 years old. In the IT centre, we reach 1200 inhabitants from 6 to 99.

3. LEADERSHIP, COOPERATION, AND RESOURCE MOBILISATION 

Veronique is a visionary leader and an extremely dedicated manager who brings out the true potential in people she mentors. She gives young people a chance to prove themselves and coaches them to grow into a job. Veronique never takes the easy route but stays true to the mission and the vision that built the organisation.

Even though the organisation is not structurally funded, the organisation is financially healthy because of her daily dedication in fundraising and PR. Veronique quickly picks up on needs of the target groups she works for and can rally diverse partnerships to secure funding for relevant projects that have a real impact on the employability or the self-confidence of people. She never stops trying to find innovative ways to use the means of the organisation to combat poverty and exclusion of people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Brussels.

4. SOCIAL IMPACT

Over its 15 years of existence, Veronique put MAKS on the map as an expert organisation in e-inclusion and media literacy in an urban context. She made MAKS an organisation that is being consulted (both locally, regionally, nationally and internationally) by other organisations and policy makers when designing policies or projects for disadvantaged target groups. She personally and the organisation as an entity have coached many thousands of people to further their education, gain important skills, find jobs or just plainly find purpose and connection with society again.

Veronique personally brought methods like digital storytelling to the core of the organisation as a way to give people who usually are not heard a voice about important social issues such as diversity, gender based violence and mental health. She personally fostered many intergenerational projects bringing people together in fragile neighbourhoods.

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