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Applying for British Council Future Leaders Connect? Here is What You Need to Know

Applying for British Council Future Leaders Connect? Here is What You Need to Know

Are you applying for The Future Leaders Connect program? Opportunity Desk delves deeper into the application process to find some tips which can help you make a successful application.

The Future Leaders Connect application has two stages:

  • Stage 1: Online application. Applicants are expected to answer three major questions on the online portal from which those who qualify will be invited to the next stage.
  • Stage 2: Interview. Applicants are invited for an interview, and the shortlisted ones make a presentation before a panel of judges from which the winners are selected.

The British Council Feedback

Feedback was provided to 2017 Kenyan applicants who never made it to the second round. The feedback says the selection criteria used was based on the following: The proposed policy ideas; how they would put those policies into action; how they would communicate what they learn in their countries; the candidate’s ability to articulate their leadership potential; their academic achievements and their volunteering experience.

The information provided on the Kenyan Feedback further said those who scored more than 79.5 “clearly demonstrated their ideas and mostly detailed the impact of their activity in their country. Applicants tended to use the full word count allocated, using all the available capacity to evidence their experience and expertise. Candidates demonstrated that they had worked or pursued volunteering experience in relevant areas and clearly articulated what they had gained from these experiences and how this had helped them develop their skills or understanding on issues. Most candidates could have improved their applications by including data or detailed evidence where appropriate to back up their examples of achievements. The very best scoring candidates had not only pursued related academic studies, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels they had also achieved excellence within those academic institutions.”

The feedback further advises,” In the future when applying for programmes like this it is important to provide data and evidence to support arguments and ensure that any word counts are fully used to provide the best chance of success.”

Opportunity Desk catches up with Ayu Kartika Dewi from Indonesia who was among the 2017 fellows to find out more about the program.

Why did you opt to apply for Future Leaders Connect? Did you have expectations of getting selected?

Ayu Kartika Dewi

I was intrigued by the title -Future Leaders Connect- that emphasises specifically on the word “connect”. I instantly thought it was a great idea to build friendship and strong bonding among young people who eventually be the leaders in their countries.

I was sold when I read the details of the programme. Giving us an opportunity to take exciting courses on leadership in Cambridge and experience various activities in London were a great combination.

Tell us about the application process. What do you think the judges are looking for? What style should applicants use to tell their stories to capture the judges’ attention?

The application process was quite straightforward. We had to write some essays, and the shortlisted candidate should give a three-minute pitch in front of the judges.
I, interestingly, was experiencing a very vulnerable period of my life when I was writing the essays. I was working in the office of Governor of Jakarta, Ahok –a double minority (Chinese Christian), who is now in jail for a highly politicised blasphemy case. When I was writing the essays, Jakarta was in the middle of a divisive election. He was in the middle of the trials, and we could hear hundreds of thousands of people marching on the street, demanding for him to be thrown in jail. I was devastated because what happened to Governor Ahok, and I was angry because I saw how the country could be divided by some political actors who were using religious issues. The emotion was raw, and I poured my heart out in those essays.

That experience matched with what I have been doing in the past six years, which is promoting tolerance through my non-for-profit organisation, Sabang Merauke.
So probably that was what made me got into the final round: the genuine concern for the unity of the nation and years of track record of real actions. I used the exact same storyline for my three-minute speech.

Tell us about your experiences as a Future Leaders Connect fellow. What impact has it had on you and what you do? Which is the most memorable moment you had during the fellowship?

Future Leaders Connect was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. I wasn’t expecting it to be that great. I mean, I know it will be good: meeting accomplished young leaders from around the world, getting world-class courses, and experiencing once-in-a-lifetime moments in London. But I didn’t expect it will be *that* amazing. I came home as a different person. It changed me.
It changed how I view myself. Despite all achievements that I have, I am generally a very insecure person. I always wonder whether I have done enough, and I always wonder whether I am a good leader. I always feel that I am always trapped in the middle between being a too-kind of a leader who has too many feelings and emotions, but then sometimes I would try too hard to reach the goals that it hurt my relationship with my team. But during the programme, I met so many people that said that I have a very kind personality. It gave me a boost of confidence.

It changed how I view about policy and politics. I used to think that I want to help from the outside: advising on policy, for instance. But I met so many political leaders who are really smart and know exactly what they are doing: they are in politics because they want to do something for the country. Policy and politics are inseparable. One of the speakers said: ‘politics is too important to be done by someone else’. We need to be in the system and create changes from within.

There are multiple memorable moments; it is difficult to pick just one. So I’ll share few of them:
I was selected to give a speech in front of Kofi Annan. Practising with the other Future Leaders who were selected too (there were four of us), was so much fun. We spent a lot of time together, refining each other’s speeches. I remembered after I gave the speech, I sat down on my chair on the stage, next to the other speakers. I was looking at the audience and saw him, smiling, and (probably) nodded at me (it was difficult to see the audience from the stage!). After the speech, a fellow Future Leader from Pakistan, Kamil, hugged me tight and gave me a long appreciation speech about how great I was and how much he admired my work. I cried, both in relief after the stressful speech, and in gratitude to have such a supportive friend.

I also cherished the last two evenings we spent together in London. No one wanted to sleep. Initially, some of us hung out in Hussain’s huge room. Hussain is using a wheelchair, so he got the fanciest room of all that is the most wheelchair friendly. We then got scolded after another hotel guest complained because –obviously– we were too noisy. We then lounged at the lobby: the sofas and the floor. We chatted, danced, cuddled (yes, cuddled!), held hands, cried, while sitting down or lying down next to each other. It was amazing, such short period of times could create such strong bonding among us.

Any word of encouragement to prospective applicants?

Really, you still need a word of encouragement to apply, after all these stories? Excellent programme, inspiring fellows, UK, and all cost is covered. There is absolutely no reason for you to apply, if you truly care about the future of your country and the world, and therefore you want to invest in making yourself a better leader.

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