Writer. Lawyer. Nigerian. American. Bibliophile. Gender Equality Believer. Pop Culture Junkie. Theology Nerd. Millennial. 

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#FutureLeadersConnect Files No.3: Processes, People & Places At Cambridge University.

#FutureLeadersConnect Files No.3: Processes, People & Places At Cambridge University.

This is a continuation of a series about my experience with the British Council’s global program for emerging policy leaders. You can read the first post in this series here.

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My final days at Cambridge University’s Møller Centre were a whirlwind of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, and policy labs. For example, we learned about the use (and misuse) of data in policy making from Dr. Steven Wooding (Lead for Research and Analysis at the Centre for Science and Policy). Nicola Buckley (Associate Director, Centre for Science and Policy) and Dr. Lara Allen (Director, Centre for Global Equality) led sessions on using policy making to influence change. We also discussed the United Nation’s role in global policy making with Natalie Samarasinghe (Executive Director, United Nations Association—UK). Each session was so rich with new knowledge, I frequently found myself scrambling to write down everything I was learning. Amidst the power-points and group discussions, three themes stood out to me: Processes, People and Places.

PROCESSES.

While I enjoy theory, I was captivated by the process-focused workshops at the Møller Centre. Stand-out experiences were the design-thinking policy labs and mini-workshops hosted by Adam Billing (Director, Treehouse Innovation). What I like about design-thinking is its human-centric approach. A big challenge for me moving forward, will be finding ways to adapt and apply some of the techniques we learned to Nigerian contexts.

Completing a design thinking group challenge...but first, an #Usie.

Completing a design thinking group challenge...but first, an #Usie.

My absolute favorite learning sessions at Cambridge University though, were the daily process-focused workshops. These sessions were led by a phenomenal team from the Møller Centre: Richard Hill (Associate, Møller Centre Executive Education), Cathy Butler (Director of Programmes, Møller Centre Executive Education), and Gillian Secret (CEO, The Møller Centre).

Richard Hill leading a reflection session at the Møller Centre. 

Richard Hill leading a reflection session at the Møller Centre. 

During ‘Case study Circles,’ we worked in transnational groups to analyze the future challenges that policy leadership in our countries will need to tackle. Corruption was listed by every team! This reminded me that corruption is not a Nigerian problem, but a global malaise—the disease is the same, the symptoms just differ across borders. Youth empowerment, uniting fragmented societies and climate change were also common themes across groups.

With my inspiring case study team. Represented on this table: Nigeria, Kenya, India and Wales. Not pictured: Our team mate from Egypt.

With my inspiring case study team. Represented on this table: Nigeria, Kenya, India and Wales. Not pictured: Our team mate from Egypt.

Post case-studies, we built an interactive leadership map with the Møller Centre team, highlighting what forward looking leadership requires in different countries and cultures; and what navigating leadership for change and development looks like around the world. We further broke in pairs to discuss our personal leadership models and policy action plans.

Leadership development planning worksheets.

Leadership development planning worksheets.

Some of our group discussions illustrated by our in-class cartoonist. 

Some of our group discussions illustrated by our in-class cartoonist. 

Finally, we were grouped in country teams to discuss our cascade plans i.e. how we plan to share what we have learned with people in our country.

We had working lunches with our country teams to finish our cascade planning.

We had working lunches with our country teams to finish our cascade planning.

These various exercises allowed me to really engage with and appreciate the people in the #FutureLeadersConnect program.

PEOPLE.

Personally, one of the most valuable components of this program has been the diverse people I have had a chance to meet and form real connections with.

For example, I did my policy action planning with Mithun Srivatsa from India. We may have greeted each other before this exercise, but we had not had a chance to have a real conversation up until this point. He also was a little quieter in class, so I couldn’t remember hearing him speak. I was absolutely blown away by Mithun’s brilliance. This Cambridge MBA grad, is the founder and CEO of a tech company called Blowhorn (think Uber, but for transporting goods). He is passionate about policy solutions for transportation in emerging markets. Mithun reminded me that the loudest voices aren’t always the most substantial ones. Sometimes, depth whispers.  

Policy action planning with Mithun Srivatsa, CEO of Blowhorn. 

Policy action planning with Mithun Srivatsa, CEO of Blowhorn. 

Hope is the word that comes to mind when I think about the Nigerian team. Imagine that in a group of six Nigerians from different geopolitical zones (five of which were women), we did not have a single fight, even when we had differing opinions. I have never met a group of young Nigerians like this one.

Getting ready to film a video for the British Council's website with #TeamNaija. 

Getting ready to film a video for the British Council's website with #TeamNaija. 

Through this program, I met Nigerian youth who don’t just talk about it, but are about it. Nigerians who are less concerned with self-promotion and more concerned with country development. Nigerians who are more content, less ‘package.’ Dotun, Amaka, Seun, Ola and Hauwa: you give me hope for Nigeria’s future.

Dressed up for dinner at Cambridge University's oldest college (more on this below). #NaijaNoDeyCarryLast.

Dressed up for dinner at Cambridge University's oldest college (more on this below). #NaijaNoDeyCarryLast.

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And don’t even get me started on the incredible future leaders I interacted with outside the classroom. I will surpass my word count and get myself in trouble trying to list them all.

With my new friends from India, Egypt and the UK.

With my new friends from India, Egypt and the UK.

Two conversations with two amazing people I had at one of Cambridge’s most important places will stay with me for a long time. Two of many.  

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PLACES.

On the final night of our executive leadership program, we got to dine at one of Cambridge University’s most storied places: Peterhouse. It is the oldest of the Cambridge colleges, and has five Nobel laureates associated with it, either as former students or fellows. Peterhouse is one of the few colleges that still preserves the tradition of communal dinners, known as “Hall.” Hall takes place in two sittings, with the second known as “Formal Hall.” It consists of a three-course candlelit meal and must be attended wearing gowns. At Formal Hall, the students rise as the fellows proceed in, a gong is rung, and two Latin graces are read.

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We got to simulate the formal hall experience with a three-course candlelit meal, a rung gong and one Latin grace. By the way, I now think Latin grace should always be said before dinner, especially when one is hungry—shortest prayer ever. There were also toasts, poems and even a dance performance! It was a fitting end to a marvellous week.

Aardra Chandra Mouli, Future Leaders Connect member from India, performing a beautiful dance.

Aardra Chandra Mouli, Future Leaders Connect member from India, performing a beautiful dance.

Moving forward, I know knowledge itself isn’t power—applied knowledge is. My goal is to find ways to use all that I’ve learned to do the work of policy change. Of course, gender equality is at the top of my agenda.      

Receiving our executive education certificates from Cathy Butler and Gillian Secret of the Møller Centre.

Receiving our executive education certificates from Cathy Butler and Gillian Secret of the Møller Centre.

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UP NEXT: Recaps from the Future Leaders Connect program in London—including an event with The Elders, designing policy at UK Parliament, media training sessions at the BBC, vising the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence and presenting our policy solutions at No.10 Downing Street!

#FutureLeadersConnect Files No.4: The Most Epic Day Of My Life.

#FutureLeadersConnect Files No.4: The Most Epic Day Of My Life.

#FutureLeadersConnect Files No.2: Cambridge So Far...

#FutureLeadersConnect Files No.2: Cambridge So Far...