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Name: Alexiane Terrochaire-Barbançon
Country of residence: France
On the web: Linkedin
Short bio: Alexiane Terrochaire-Barbançon is the Project Manager of Afev’s Digital Mentoring Program, while working at the same time on some of the organization’s European projects. Additionally, she is the Young European Movement UK’s Podcast Officer and Unite 2030’s Western Regional Focal Point, working towards achieving the SDGs in Western Europe.
She has a Master’s degree in European and International Public Policy from the London School of Economics and an undergraduate degree in Social Sciences from Sciences Po in Reims; she also spent a year as an Erasmus student at Lund University in Sweden, where she discovered European Affairs.
Changemaker, activist, campaigner; how do you describe yourself?
I would say that this trio works well for me! I best describe myself as:
changemaker because I advocate for change in the EU’s decision-making to encourage it to consult its citizens, which requires more knowledge about the EU on the citizens’ side in order to drive their civic and political participation upwards. Secondly, I would like to contribute to making change happen in the French schooling system, in particular, by advocating for the inclusion of more non-formal educational means.
activist because, to make things change, I need to raise awareness on issues for people who are both directly and indirectly affected by the problem at stake.
campaigner because I like organizing different virtual and in-person events to raise awareness and induce change through campaigns. For instance, I mostly convene digital conferences or informal discussions to stir up conversations about mentoring in my day job and about how the EU affects our daily lives in my side projects!
I am passionate about making the EU more understandable and accessible to its citizens in France and the United Kingdom post-Brexit, as well as advocating for SDG4: “quality education” in France. Thus, my actions in these fields are different, given the diversity in the target audience. Young people are the most important target group, but I also like to reach out to people from different ages, backgrounds, and working sectors.
You are involved in many (and different) inspiring projects tackling pressing societal issues. Have you always been interested in these topics? What drives your activism?
I really started getting involved with activism – be it EU-related or educational projects – only
during the first year of my Master’s, at 20 years old, when I discovered the world of associations, non-profits, and NGOs. I joined Afev, as a volunteer and then the Young European Movement France (JEF Sciences Po). These associations were working on topics that caught my attention and interest during my time in Sweden, but I decided to join them only when I started my degree in Paris; I got more and more involved during lockdown. First, to be honest, I needed activities to keep myself busy and avoid thinking about the worst possible scenario. Second, I was amazed by how many projects could become “digitalized”, such as podcasts, culinary classes to discover new memory tricks, and the list can go on! That was the start of my current digital activist path.
I have been an activist for two years, and the factors that drive my actions are: passion for the
cause I take action for and the feeling of being useful when I see the direct impact of my
You are also the founder of "Our Europe", a podcast aiming at bringing the EU closer to its citizens. What led you to start it?
Lockdown, once again! Besides, as I explain in the first episode, I witnessed an almost “surreal” conversation between, what one would call, “everyday people”– one against and one in favor of the EU – in Oléron, the island I grew up in. They could not seem to hear each other’s opinion, and I realized that there were a lot of misunderstandings in the latter’s actions and values. Thus, I decided that my first objective during lockdown would be to use every spare minute I have, besides my studies and my work at Afev, to raise awareness about what the EU is on paper and in practice, and help provide citizens with correct information. I wondered what the best ways were to attract citizens’ interest; my objective was to make the content compelling, dynamic, and comprehensive – not at all in a lecture style – given that the EU is already perceived as boring or distant by a majority of citizens.
After brainstorming for a couple of days, I chose to do podcasts; it felt very natural. First, I had already been trained in producing them during my undergraduate degree. In my opinion, it really is the best and the most convenient way to communicate information, while allowing people to do something else at the same time – especially if they lack time, which I think we all tend to experience these days!
Last September, you participated in the Youth SDG Summit along with other aspiring change makers. What were the main points you wanted to illustrate?
The session I delivered was about the power of non-formal education tools to complement regular teaching, in order to provide more qualitative education to a wider range of pupils and reduce school inequalities at schools in Western Europe. These especially affect those who experience difficulties, notably because they do not have access to help at home or elsewhere (OCDE-PISA, 2019).
We discussed two types of non-formal educational tools: mentoring and podcasting. I invited my boss and supervisor at Afev, also a former teacher of mine, several colleagues, and one of my fellow classmates at Sciences Po Paris. All guests had different perspectives, being from professionals in the non-formal educational sector to producers and consumers of podcasts. We concluded that these tools are better addressed to different pupils, better encompassing and addressing their different needs and ways of learning. In short, no tool can be one-size-fits-all.
Speaking of SDGs, which goals are you most sensitive in and why?
Well, I think that you may have already guessed it, but I mainly focus on SDG4: quality
education, SDG11: reduction of inequalities, and SDG17: creating partnerships to achieve
the SDGs by 2030. Why these? Out of passion and, also, because I think that we cannot build a healthier and less unequal society without the ideas and participation of youth. They are a pillar that is often overlooked because they are seen as not mature enough to make big decisions and shape society. Thus, I would like to contribute to changing this perspective by giving youth enough knowledge and opportunities to make their voices heard…and I am convinced that this starts as early as kindergarten! Creating long-lasting partnerships is key to achieving any SDG worldwide, especially SDG11, as they are broad and mutually interlocking. Otherwise, it will be impossible.
You’re based in France but are still interested and actively participating in the developments in the UK post-Brexit. Why?
I feel very connected to this country for two reasons: first, because I got to study a year at the
LSE – it was a mix of in-person and online experience – while the Brexit Deal was being negotiated. I was following every update day by day and had very challenging discussions about the Brits’ perspectives – some being pro- and others being anti-Brexit. I never had the opportunity to discuss it with British citizens, only international in France and Sweden, or hear about the historical roots of the discussion, namely the UK’s imperial history, its approach towards the EU, and the reason why the UK finally joined but on its own terms – it was not a member like the founding ones. Secondly, because it is the first country to leave the EU and make history.
Thus, I am closely following the post-Brexit consequences, especially the ones on youth,
given that they do not have access to Erasmus+ anymore; it has been replaced by the Turing Scheme, which is managed by a private company.
Tell us about your current job, in which mentoring is central. Which aspect of mentoring you think could be more valuable for society?
I am a Project Manager of Afev’s Digital Mentoring Program. Afev is France and Europe’s largest mentoring provider in terms of “mentors/mentees” matched (18.000 in 2021-2022).
My job consists of supervising 140 teams (mentors and mentees), mostly based in Overseas France, such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guyane, while coordinating my other 19
colleagues, who are supervising their own teams in metropolitan France. We focus on educational mentoring. My position thus includes both on-the-ground activities, such as constituting teams, training and advising mentors, as well as “strategic” tasks, such as developing tools and finding subsidies for the program’s development. I am extremely fond of this job, given how interesting it is and how much I can grow personally and professionally thanks to it.
I was actually a mentor myself to an 11-year-old girl during the first lockdown, from April to June 2020. It allowed me to understand the benefits of digital mentoring as well as feel useful by helping her out in her school journey. For instance, we revised French conjugation with games. I also tried to boost her openness towards other people and her self-confidence. It made me step out of my comfort zone and discover two important things: on the one hand, digital discrepancies threaten pupils’ school and personal paths; on the other hand, putting mentees and mentors from different cities in touch is extremely valuable for both, because they can learn from each other while discovering another environment, and sometimes, while favoring cultural exchanges. I remember that one of my teams cooked together, more than 6.000 kilometers apart, one specialty from Brittany and one specialty from Guadeloupe, while revising math! Awesome, don't you think? To sum up, I would say that the aspect of mentoring that is central in our society is that it allows to create strong bonds between individuals who would have not necessarily met without the program. Besides, and I strongly emphasize this, most students have either difficulties at school or in their personal life or development, or both; then, mentoring allows for pupils to benefit from an external and non-judging viewpoint, provided by an encouraging mentor, who is not part of the family. That is what we all need during our journey, I think.
Alexiane Terrochaire, AFEV - Extract from #LPF21 Roundtable "Will Kids be OK?"
In your opinion, what are the caveats and opportunities for digital activism today?
To answer briefly, I think that the biggest opportunity for digital activism is the absence of barriers to connect with different parts of the world today. From March 2020 onwards, I could connect with other pro-EU activists from all over Europe. I would have done that only through in-person events and I was too new in the field to actually be able to identify and join these meetings. Moreover, from September 2021, I got more involved in the changemakers community, working towards achieving the SDGs before 2030. Guess what? I could connect, joke with, compare, and contrast my opinion with people living in other continents! And, let me tell you, I would never have had this opportunity without digital activism, and I absolutely love it, because it allows me to step out both from the pro-EU bubble and my personal intellectual comfort zone.
However, its most important caveat is precisely the other side of the coin, namely the lack of
internet connection in some parts of the globe, or unfortunately, the lack of good connection, often not allowing for proper Zoom calls. There are intercontinental disparities in Internet access, but lockdown really shed light on them in other countries, even those coined as “developed”, such as France.
Towards which direction you’d like to grow in the future?
I would like to keep working on the EU-citizens relationship and education at large. I would like to keep working in an EU-country and do several jobs at the same time: a regular job, an activist one, and a consultant one, specializing in European projects or European youth
policies. Most of all, I would still like to go to work every day driven by the same passion and
the same certainty: that I will learn every single day!
What can each of us do in 2022 to make a difference?
Without hesitation, be more open towards each other, especially people that we do not know very well, or at all, but that we are meant to work with or, at least, spend a moment
together. I think that we should also try to communicate more with each other and be open to hearing different opinions, while being comfortable with asking questions or politely disagreeing. I think that, by communicating better, we can make a difference by actually
living together, without unnecessary conflicts, and striving for cooperation.
Images via Lycée français Victor Hugo and JEF
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