In 2018, Debbie Thomas was chosen to take part in Future Leaders Connect. Here she describes her experience of one of the British Council's most prestigious programmes.
It’s fair to say I was pretty excited when I got the news that I’d been selected as a Wales representative for Future Leaders Connect 2018. In fact, I think I surprised my daughter a little as I fist-pumped the air and cheered very loudly!
As a self-confessed politics geek and passionate campaigner, the idea of spending ten days learning from successful policy movers and shakers really appealed. And yet, the experience exceeded my very high expectations.
The programme at Cambridge University was jam-packed and diverse. I thoroughly enjoyed the panel discussions and presentations from high profile political speakers who shared their life experiences with us. But we also learnt many skills. From design thinking through to warm up exercises to do ahead of making a speech; the programme gave us lots of new tools to build our confidence as leaders. And in the second week, we put these new skills to the test as we attended meetings at Westminster and Number 10 Downing Street.
"What I appreciated most about the programme was the other representatives. I feel privileged to have spent ten days in the company of 49 enthusiastic campaigners from across the globe."
It is so hard to pick a favourite moment from the programme, but the event the British Council ran in conjunction with the Elders to celebrate 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a real highlight. To have the opportunity to pick the brains of inspirational leaders was incredible. I will never forget the wise words Gro Harlem Brundtland spoke to me at this event. She told me that a leader will never please everyone, but the key to staying strong is to make sure that you’re happy with the things others are criticising.
Aside from all the fantastic workshops and events, what I appreciated most about the programme was the other representatives. I feel privileged to have spent ten days in the company of 49 enthusiastic campaigners from across the globe, all passionate about inciting change for the better. I learnt so much from the other representatives as we compared and contrasted our experiences. And the very best part is that this network of global policy makers did not end in October. Thanks to the digital world in which we live, we have (and will continue to) share thoughts, opinions and, most importantly, support.