Meet Wales’ Future Leaders 2018!

Deborah Thomas, a Policy and Campaigns Officer at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, and Owen Evans, Director at Teach First Cymru, have been selected to represent Wales as part of our 2018 Future Leaders Connect global programme.

As part of the selection process, both had to outline one major global change they would like to see over the next five years.

Deborah, who began her career in journalism before moving into policy and campaigns, wants disability awareness to be taught in schools.

She said ‘Whilst I am grateful for the disability and equality legislation we have in place in the UK, ultimately many disabled people face barriers in their daily lives because of a general lack of awareness”.

“I feel that disability discrimination could be greatly reduced in the UK if there was an improved understanding of various disabilities and how they impact on people’s lives. I believe that raising disability awareness would lead to a more inclusive society and would help to foster a more positive approach to disability in society.”

“I also believe in the importance of raising disability awareness in nations across the globe. I am particularly aware that the low level of awareness in some regions has created negative attitudes and disabled people consequently have little in the way of life chances. Furthermore, in developing countries, where poverty is rife, getting disability on the political agenda and accessing equipment to assist disabled people can present challenges that are very different from the UK.

Owen, whose area of expertise is in education, wants to see the eradication of the attainment gaps in literacy, numeracy and qualification level that exist between learners from wealthier backgrounds and those from less wealthy backgrounds, and between nations. This would mean significant progress towards achieving two of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals in quality education and reduced inequalities.  

He said: “In Wales, the attainment gap at age 16 between pupils eligible for free school meals, a measure of low-income, and their peers is 32.4%. This is a profound injustice which clearly impacts on individual life chances and Wales’ economic performance.

“In order to address this issue, we must “bias resources” to those schools and communities most affected by educational inequality. This isn’t just about the redistribution of funding - we need a workforce development strategy which prioritises recruitment of high-quality teachers for schools with the greatest need. We must then ensure that the professional development of those teachers is prioritised. It is vital that we place leadership development at the core of this agenda – as poor school leadership is known to be a key driver of educational inequality. Policy makers must strive towards solutions to the persistent problems of educational inequality not only because of the economic benefits, but, as international research shows, more equal societies are happier, safer and more tolerant.

 “On a global level, this would see significant improvements made in terms of educational outcomes amongst developing nations. For instance, today there are still 57 million children world-wide who do not have access to primary education. UN figures also indicate that there are over 100 million young people in developing countries who lack basic literacy skills. I would like to see both these figures reduced to zero in five years’ time.

“Addressing these global issues would have a significant impact, improving individual life chances and enabling increased economic growth in those developing nations through increased skill-levels. Change in this area can only be achieved through sustained international collaboration – sharing resources and expertise to ensure that progress in this area can be accelerating and sustained in the long-term”


Future Leaders Connect is a long-term programme to build a community of emerging leaders from around the world who have big ideas and want to change the world through policy making.

Through Future Leaders Connect, we will support a network of exceptional young people (aged 18-35) to develop their policy making and leadership expertise, and help them to make valuable global connections. We hope that the skills they learn will help them to tackle the challenges they face in their regions, and make a positive impact. 

Find out about the 50 Future Leaders Connect 2018 global members and what they’ll be doing when they meet in the UK for nine days of activities, which includes policy and leadership development, meeting inspirational leaders and visiting world-renowned institutions, including the UK Houses of Parliament.    

Sir Ciarán Devane, the Chief Executive of the British Council, said: 

An international outlook is vital for the future leaders of all countries, if they wish to overcome the challenges they will face. Through Future Leaders Connect the British Council will help a new generation to understand practical policy development by putting them in contact with the leaders of today. The programme will help them to develop the skills and international contacts they need to make positive change in their countries.

Future Leaders Connect 2017 

Fifty Future Leaders Connect 2017 members were chosen from 11,000 applications from around the world – two of whom were from Wales. 

Welsh members 

Nikki Giant

Nikki Giant is based in Cardiff, Wales, and is the founder and director of Full Circle Education, a social enterprise that connects children and young people to their potential through a range of educational and extra-curricular programmes to raise aspirations, attainment and school attendance. Nikki is also the founder of a new sister organisation, Girls Circle, which aims to educate, elevate and empower girls and young women across the UK. 

Nikki is the author of three educational books produced by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, and the author of a young adult novel, ‘Hello Me’ which will be published in 2018. 

Nikki was named as a ‘Rising Star’ by Business Insider Wales and listed as one of Wales Online’s ‘35 under 35’ business women in 2015.  Nikki is an ambassador for the organisation Girl Rising, which seeks to empower girls across the globe. 

In 2016 Nikki launched the first ‘Manifesto for Girls’ Rights in Wales’, calling for better support for girls, and more recognition of the challenges still facing girls and young women across the country. She envisions Wales to be the world’s first gender-equal country, to create a more equal and prosperous society for all. 

Jack Gillum

Jack Gillum is currently a 3rd year student at the University of Reading studying for his degree in Politics and International Relations. 

Jack from Knighton in Wales, was recently awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to research the role of civil society in policy making. 

Jack also sits on a number of charity boards focused on working to raise youth engagement in areas which affect their life. This includes the Campaign for the Children and Young People’s Assembly for Wales (CYPAW) and the Smart School Council Community. 

He has a range of experience of the UK political system from campaigning during elections and is currently interning for a backbench Member of Parliament. Jack as a Trustee of CYPAW campaigned for the creation of a Youth Assembly in Wales which received support both from the United Nations CRC and more importantly the National Assembly for Wales late last year. 

Jack’s global vision for change is to see an increased level of civic participation in the policy process at all levels of governance as it is important to close the ‘loop’ and make sure that citizens have the ability to be heard at all levels of the policy process. 

Future Leaders Connect 2017

During October 2017, the Future Leaders Connect members met for the first time in the UK for a nine-day leadership and policy skills programme.  

Members travelled from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya

, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia, USA and across the UK to be a part of the global network of emerging policy leaders.

They met with world leaders, and ambassadors and had the opportunity to visit 10 Downing Street and the UK Houses of Parliament.

The members discussed major global policy issues and collaborated to produce innovative policy recommendations. 

While at the UK Houses of Parliament, the members took part in discussions and debate with UK politicians and policy makers to address some of the world’s most urgent issues. 

There was also a special event with the Elders, who are an independent group of global leaders working together for peace and human rounds, which was founded by Nelson Mandela a decade ago.

  • Find out more about the Future Leaders Connect 2017 agenda and members 

Follow Future Leaders Connect activity on social media using #FutureLeadersConnect