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Emerging policy leaders selected for global leadership programme

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis at Hillsborough Castle with some of the 10 emerging young leaders from Northern Ireland selected for this year's Future Leaders Connect programme

TEN young leaders from the north have been selected for the British Council’s prestigious Future Leaders Connect global policy programme.

They will be among 63 delegates from 13 countries taking part in a six-week online policy and leadership programme running from October 11 to November 19, where they will gain exclusive access to policy experts and training, discuss their policy ideas with UK Parliamentarians and Government and be mentored by UK think tanks and other senior leaders.

In partnership with the Møller Institute at Cambridge University, Future Leaders Connect aims to help the delegates develop their skills, expand their networks and ultimately, make policy change.

The programme has been expanded in Northern Ireland to 10 places this year instead of two, thanks to support from the NIO, with local delegates joining emerging leaders from Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Ukraine, Vietnam and the rest of the UK on the programme.

This year’s participants were selected from more than 9,000 applicants worldwide in a competitive process where they pitched their innovative policy ideas for global change.

Policy ideas from the Northern Ireland delegates included changes to integrated education, climate action and mental health provision.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, said: “I was delighted to meet the young people taking part in this year’s programme and to hear about their ambitions for the scheme and beyond.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to hear from leaders around the world and learn how governments can work together to tackle the great global issues of the day.”

Jonathan Stewart, director of the British Council Northern Ireland said: “Future Leaders Connect is an opportunity for emerging leaders to collaborate with their counterparts from all over the world, and to benefit from the sharing of ideas and knowledge in tackling global issues and challenges.

“The application process was extremely competitive, and we are certain that our 10 young leaders whose backgrounds range from law and politics to housing and the environment, will make positive changes in Northern Ireland. We wish them every success in the programme.”

The 10 people chosen for the programme:

:: Emma Boyle is an investigations officer in the legacy unit of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. Her role is to investigate security forces related deaths which happened during the 30 year conflict in Northern Ireland. She holds a Bachelors of Law from Trinity College Dublin, and is currently completing a Masters in Law at Ulster University’s Transitional Justice Institute in Gender, Conflict and Human Rights. She worked previously as a Family and Civil Law Paralegal for one of Northern Ireland’s leading solicitors, and as an Anti- Money Laundering Officer in the Financial Crime Department in PwC Belfast. She is passionate about gender equality and in her previous role at PwC she was a founding member the Northern Ireland Gender Balance Network – the first regional network operating outside of PwC’s London offices. She has walked the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain, and trekked the Tour du Mont Blanc crossing the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. Her most recent expedition was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with colleagues from PwC UK and raising over £10,000 for the company charity, Barnardo’s.

:: Rory Clifford is the interactive manager at Northern Ireland Screen and chair for audience development agency, Thrive. He has over 10 years marketing and sales experience in the film, TV, gaming and immersive industries in Northern Ireland.

:: Connie Egan is a councillor on Ards and North Down Borough Council. She also works as a researcher for the chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly's Education Committee. She attended Queen's University where she graduated with a degree in Politics and Philosophy in 2016. Following university, she worked for a political party, and latterly shifted her focus to research as part of her role assisting the chair of the Northern Ireland Education Committee. That position has seen her focus on increasing the provision of integrated education in the divided society of Northern Ireland, alongside pupil wellbeing. It has involved developing legislation, currently progressing through the Northern Ireland Assembly, which would see the exemption of teachers from fair employment laws removed. Connie was elected to Ards and North Down Borough Council in 2019, becoming the youngest woman to do so in the borough. Connie is committed to helping build peace and reconciliation.

:: Donal Griffin is a marine biologist from Northern Ireland, and has researched, monitored and studied everything from jellyfish and prawns, to blue whales and basking sharks. After completing his masters degree investigating the diving behaviour of the basking shark (the second biggest fish in the world), at Queen's University, he continued to volunteer his time to help protect these wonderful shark species. Following a few years working as an environmental consultant all around the world, Donal started back at University to complete his PhD on fish-jellyfish interactions and how that may impact on the fishing industry. Now, Donal is working at the Northern Ireland Marine Task Force which is a coalition of non-government environmental working together towards, healthy, productive and resilient seas for Northern Ireland. As the result of years of collective effort, including an initial outreach lecture tour organised by Donal in 2014, he recently coordinated a targeted campaign to gain legal protection for basking sharks in Irish waters.

::Keysha Jaime is a Puerto Rican American living in Northern Ireland. She is a third year PhD candidate at Queen's University where she studies climate change-related human mobility. At present she is consulting with communities and local perspectives in the South Pacific to better inform policy-making decisions regarding climate migration. Her research ultimately aims to consider lived experience and perspectives to make more informed policy recommendations that considers the needs of communities. Beyond her research, Keysha is part of Global Shapers Belfast Hub and part of Voices in Mobilities and Migration (VIMM) Network, an international online community that facilitates a dialogue on research exploring migration and mobilities. Keysha is open and excited to new projects and collaborations.

::Stephen Jones is resilience co-ordinator at Climate Northern Ireland. He has over seven years' experience co-ordinating climate change adaptation in Northern Ireland, holds an MSc from Queen's University and has experience as a Red Cross volunteer on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK without its own climate legislation. This hinders central government ambition, but also means that local government is unsupported, despite the UK Climate Change Committee recognising it as vital to climate action. In this context,he supported Derry City and Strabane District Council to develop the first climate change adaptation plan in Northern Ireland. He then created the Local Government Climate Action Network (LGCAN) in late 2019, which acts as a forum for training (supported by an online platform) and collaboration between councils, and a conduit for communication with partners, such as government departments, NI Local Government Association and NGOs. There is no regulatory requirement for this work, and yet despite the pandemic, he has facilitated 6 councils to hold cross-organisation climate vulnerability workshops and begin developing adaptation policy. Stephen will be leading a session to showcase this work in the Green Zone at COP26 in November.

:: Katie Matthews is a 29-year-old, multi-award-winning entrepreneur, growth mindset educator, speaker, founder, mentor, trauma-informed practitioner and mental health and well-being trainer. She has 12 years lived experience with mental illness, and is passionate about supporting other's mental health, entrepreneurship, leadership, community development, growth mindset development and supporting our next generation young people. Katie is the founder of 4 businesses: The Mind Tribe UK, Excel In Education Tutoring School, Odence and Bloombug, as well as founding two voluntary organisations: Young Entrepreneur's Network NI and FYLA Global (Female Youth Leadership Academy) and runs her podcast: The Omni Voices Podcast. She is an Independent Board Member and Vice-Chair of the Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon Area Policing Community Safety Partnership, the Northern Ireland National Director for the Global Entrepreneurship Network, a forum fellow for the Washington Ireland Programme, sits on the UK BBRS SME Liaison Panel and was a regional judge and panel chair for The Diana Award 2020 & 2021. She wasrecently been named 2021 Young Business Person of the Year for Northern Ireland.

:: Emma McIlveen from outside Ballymena is a barrister who specialises in employment law. Prior to coming to the Bar, she spent a year at Harvard university as a Kennedy scholar. She is now qualified to practice in NI, GB and the Republic of Ireland. She is a mother of 3 young children and is passionate about encouraging people to adopt family friendly policies which support women to advance their careers alongside raising their family.

:: Katrina McDonnell is co ordinator at Rape Crisis NI. A first class graduate in Business & Hispanic Studies from The University of Liverpool (2017), she founded The Homeless Period Belfast in 2016 - a project that aims to alleviate the issue of period poverty and eradicate the taboo that surrounds menstruation. She was awarded 'Woman of the Year' at the Northern Ireland Women's Awards in 2019. In 2020, she spearheaded a campaign for free period products in all schools in Northern Ireland which was successful and approved by the NI Executive. Free period products are now accessible in all primary, secondary and special schools in the region.

:: Andrew McFarline started his career in the social housing sector in 2014, working in a range of frontline and strategic roles. In addition to being employed as a communications officer, in the Housing Executive's customer engagement and campaigns team, he is a board member of North Belfast Housing Association. He graduated from Queen's University Belfast in 2011 with a BA (Hons) in Modern History with English. Andrew is also a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

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