Matthew (right), pictured with fellow Northern Ireland delegate Kain Craigs and Baron Alderdice (Centre).
Friday 18 June 2021


Applications are now open for Future Leaders Connect, a 6-week online global policy and leadership programme. 

Run by the British Council, the opportunity will give 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.

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 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.

Matthew O’Neill, a PhD student studying Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, previously took part in the programme in 2019.

Speaking about the opportunity, he 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 at this 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.”

Also speaking about the programme was Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland. He said: “This is an amazing opportunity for emerging young leaders and policy makers in Northern Ireland. It’s a chance to hear from inspirational young people from all around the world and participate in leadership training and interactive workshops run by experts in the field. This year’s programme will also support participants in developing and delivering their policy action plans through a bespoke mentor programme with UK think tanks. 

“The participants learn so much from the programme itself, but in addition they learn from each other and about the lives of people in other countries. It’s a fantastic collective experience that encourages future leaders to have a global outlook to the challenges they may face in a wide range of fields from climate change to education reform.”

The programme will take place online from 11 October to 19 November 2021.

Applicants for this year’s programme must be between the age 25-35 and be able to explain what their unique policy ideas are and why they have what it takes to be a global leader.  

The deadline to apply is Monday 5 July 2021 23.59 (UK time) to find out more, visit: Join the conversation online using #FutureLeadersConnect.

Future Leaders Connect continues the British Council’s work, building connection, understanding and trust between people in the UK and overseas through arts, education and English language teaching. To find out more about their work in Northern Ireland visit or follow on Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – BritishCouncilNorthernIreland

Notes to Editor

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – BritishCouncilNorthernIreland

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.  For more information, please visit: