Nicholas Schiavo and Shreya Nayak standing in front of 10 Downing Street
Nicholas Schiavo and Shreya Nayak in front of 10 Downing Street

Nicholas Schiavo and Shreya Nayak travelled to the UK to join this year's cohort of 50 young policy leaders from around the globe at Future Leaders Connect. There they participated in sessions and workshops on tactics of policy making, the use and misuse of data and influencing for change at the Møller Institute, University of Cambridge and met with Members of Parliament and Lords to share their policy visions at the UK Houses of Parliament. They were also hosted at 10 Downing Street and BBC World Service, and took part in panel discussions with The Elders. Highlights included Shreya speaking on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour about Gender Equality and Nicholas being selected to speak about Human Rights onstage with members of The Elders.

They both shared their experiences, read Shreya's insight directly below, and scroll down past the photos to read Nick's story. 

Shreya Nayak

November 2018 marked the congregation of 50 young global policy leaders at the British Council’s Future Leaders Connect (FLC) Summit in the United Kingdom. As the inaugural Canadian delegation in this global leadership program, I was both humbled and resolute in creating a policy strategy to increase gender inclusion in the workforce through financial and digital literacy for millennials.

After my experience in Mexico City, which you can read about Here, it was of no surprise that the UK Summit blew beyond our expectations. A few of my favorite highlights of the FLC Summit included: a comprehensive advanced policy and leadership course at the University of Cambridge, a week of experiential learning with global policy leaders and politicians at the UK Parliament, and of course, no trip to London is complete without gracing the many famous English pubs!

As reflections from the FLC Summit and numerous discussions with successful policy leaders and global influencers, I want to share 3 fundamental principles that will prove useful to any young leader determined to make a difference in today’s world.

1. Put People at the Heart of Policy – People are the engine of our economy, of art, culture, and breakthrough innovations globally. As young leaders we have a moral responsibility to take a human-centered approach to policy-making which will ensure that we solve real problems of real people. As we did with Treehouse Innovation Executives at Cambridge, challenge yourself to embrace human-centered design that puts people at the heart of your solutions.

2. Pursue Inclusive Methods of Collaboration – Bringing stakeholders of all backgrounds to the table is indispensable in the policy-making process. Not only does inclusive collaboration empower people by giving them a voice, it also enables policy-makers to create better solutions for more people. People-driven policy is only effective if it is inclusive, and in countries with large youth populations – we as young people must get involved in shaping policies that will inevitably affect us in the future.

3. View Leadership as a Service – “If service is beneath you, leadership is beyond you.” This famous quote is a reminder that every leader needs a purpose. Find yours, and lead with integrity. As global citizens many of us will have different policy ideas, the one constant is that leadership, ultimately is a service and an ethical call to duty - if we view it as such, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

Through the Future Leaders Connect I’ve learned that leadership is also a journey; one in which you will encounter obstacles, opportunities, failures, victories – and most importantly friends, like the 49 I met, who will challenge you, inspire you, and help you grow – in the end, that in itself makes everything worth it.

Future Leaders Connect members sitting around a table at the UK Houses of Parliament
Future Leaders Connect members at the UK Houses of Parliament
Nick Schiavo speaking on stage at the Elders event
Nick Schiavo speaking about the power of hope at the Elders event
Graça Machel hugging Future Leaders Connect member
Graça Machel congratulating Future Leaders Connect member after The Elders event
Future Leaders Connect participants standing together for a group photo
Future Leaders Connect participants in London

Nicholas Schiavo

Tired and jetlagged, I enter a small room in the east side of the Moller Centre, part of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge. Looking around I see dozens of people standing awkwardly, sipping orange juice and mingling at small tables. Feelings of imposter syndrome, nervousness and excitement flood my stomach as I begin to wonder “why am I here?” Soon after speaking to the other Future Leaders, my jitters fade and find the answer to my question quite easily: I am here to listen, to learn and to fight for a better future. I am here to speak up for the members of the LGBTQ2+ community without a voice. 

It’s a difficult task to summarize my time in the United Kingdom as part of Future Leaders Connect and the immense value of this experience, but in the hopes of motivating other young Canadians to seize this incredible opportunity, I will try.

The Future Leaders Connect program (FLC) has been one of the most influential experiences in shaping my understanding and mastery of public policy. Beyond expert knowledge, practical skills and global networking opportunities, the biggest investment the British Council has made in my name is confidence. Knowing I have dozens of allies across the world who believe in me, my vision and my ability to affect tangible change is the most empowering gift I have ever been given.  To all of you: thank you.

I am so humbled to have been selected to work with such passionate members of the British Council, the University of Cambridge and The Elders. I am so grateful to learn from 49 brilliant, engaged and dynamic global leaders. I am so excited for the tough work that lies ahead to fulfill my policy action plan, ban conversion therapy in Canada and let every child be themselves.

None of this would have been possible without such a thorough program. This one-of-a-kind, world class program connects you with world leaders, policy practitioners and a learning environment like no other to create dialogue, explore ethics and develop solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Incorporating powerful experiences like meetings in Westminster, discussions at 10 Downing Street and a visit to BBC Broadcasting House highlight how to influence real actors in the policy world.

Overall I have come away from Future Leaders Connect, more well-rounded and more focused on my goal to stand up for the human rights of the queer community. I’ve been given some powerful knowledge and I’ve made some unforgettable memories. I’m so thankful to have a global network of partners and friends who I will follow on this journey for decades to come.

To anyone who is considering applying for Future Leaders Connect, my advice to you is simple: do it. Your experience is valid, your ideas are worthwhile and there is a seat at this table with your name on it.