Ballymoney man Matt’s call to emerging leaders

Ballymoney man, Matt O’Neill is calling for local emerging policy leaders to apply for a global 6-week online policy and leadership programme.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 12:26 pm

In 2019, Matt was one of 50 young leaders from around the world to be selected for British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme and now hopes to use what he learned to help develop cyber security policy for Northern Ireland

The programme, run by the British Council, gives young policy leaders aged 25-35 from Northern Ireland the opportunity to access policy experts and training, discuss their policy ideas with UK Parliamentarians and Government and network with some of the world’s most senior leaders.

In partnership with the prestigious Møller Institute at Cambridge University, Future Leaders Connect aims to help successful applicants develop their skills, expand their networks and ultimately, make a difference through policy making.

Matt O'Neill (right) on the Future Leaders Connect progamme in 2019 with fellow Northern Ireland delegate Kain Craigs and Baron Alderdice
Matt O'Neill (right) on the Future Leaders Connect progamme in 2019 with fellow Northern Ireland delegate Kain Craigs and Baron Alderdice

The programme has been running in Northern Ireland for several years, but in this Centenary year with the support of the Northern Ireland Office, there will be 10 places for Northern Ireland applicants (instead of the usual two) – and they will be joined by emerging leaders from around the world (Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Ukraine and the rest of the UK) to become becoming part of an exclusive global network of next generation policy makers.

Existing members of the network have already gone on to make an impact across 13 countries, whether bringing in new laws, founding think tanks and even advising presidents.

Speaking about the opportunity and his time on the programme, Matt, who is currently a PhD student studying Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “A major reason I applied for Future Leaders Connect was its focus on policy and how to use policy as a catalyst for change.

“I also wanted to learn from other regions and countries and understand how I could integrate their approaches into my own work. Since the programme, my policy direction has shifted into the area of peace and tech – and while I might not be where I want to be yet in terms of policy vision, I am still working away to make change in Northern Ireland.

“Getting to go to London was a highlight and I learned a lot from different figures - However, one of the best parts of the programme was the work we put in at the Møller Institute in Cambridge. There, we had a week free from distraction to engage with other people from all over the world. It is during this time that you get to learn about your peers, their story and background and understand what motivates other policy leaders.

“I would say to prospective applicants - don’t let this year’s programme being online put you off, I would do it all over again even if it was - the value is in the people you meet and the global long-term network you join.” Deadline is July 5 nireland.britishcouncil.org/programmes/our-work-society/future-leaders-connect.