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