Towards the end of 2020, RSN continued to build on a partnership with the Forward Institute, a non-profit who work with senior leaders and companies who want to build a better society.
Before Covid-19, the plan was to bring together Fellows at the Forward Institute - leaders in their fields and deeply influential in our society - with young refugees supported by RSN. When Covid-19 struck, that became more difficult, but it didn’t stop us hosting a beautiful virtual dinner together.
Young people from our Youth Advisory Board, the leadership course or who are involved with the Westheimer Scholarship which RSN coorinates were joined by 6 fellows to socialise and discuss different models of leadership, and what it takes to be a leader in today's world.
RSN caught up with Hamid Khan, a young person who attended the event.
“The dinner was really useful for me. When I told them my story and experience, they were very shocked that people from migrant backgrounds could be treated this way”
“Speaking with leaders made me feel good. To know that there are people who understand you, who are on your side, who give you lots of support and appreciate your work - it was a good feeling.
“My aim is to be a big leader. I want to do more than the mechanics which I’m doing now. When I speak to big people and important people, I realise I am not after money or something I can do for myself, I’m after something big and being involved and leading myself, contributing to society.”
When RSN spoke to two of the Fellows who were on the call, it was clear that Hamid’s hopes of leadership were more than just hopes. Helen Grimshaw, Senior economist, Head of Strategy & Analytics at the Financial Reporting Council, explained something surprising about how the event developed:
“I was keen to attend the dinner to hear stories from people from around the world with different experiences, and I was set up to give them some hints and tips. What actually happened was that the Fellows were the ones doing the learning. We heard lots of inspiring stories, the challenges young refugees face and what they have done so far. The truth is that they are already leaders, in their careers and their communities. I wanted to share the benefit of my experience, but actually it was the other way around.”
It was incredibly valuable for the young people in attendance to hear from senior leaders how they are inspired by them and to hear how grateful the Fellows were for them being here in the UK.
Anna Sanders, Director for Strategy, People & Culture in the Government Legal Department, expressed a similar sentiment:
"It was just one of the best things I've done in the last period because it was so interesting and enlightening to hear of the experiences of people who have come to this country, the barriers they have overcome and the resilience they have. It was massively inspiring and humbling.”
“I was listening to these young people and thought ‘you have achieved so much more than I have!’. What they have dealt with and the leadership and resilience they have shown is just amazing. I felt I could really learn lessons from them. It was a real privilege to be able to share the evening with them.”
To hear this vote of confidence from individuals who have been highly successful in different positions of leadership was incredibly powerful. It was also deeply inspiring to hear the story of another Fellow who commented that her journey in leadership took time. When she started out in private investment, ‘I tried to be like a white male to fit into the environment, but I’m not. I decided to be myself. If you treat people a certain way, they will treat you that way back’.
It was also wonderful to hear young people speak about the value of bringing people together who have had similar experiences, a model that RSN is committed to and something the new building will make possible on a much larger scale:
“I had to wait 13 years for settled status. It was sad, but it's nice to hear others who have been on this journey”
As well as learning from young refugees, the fellows wanted to share a message of hope and positive futures to young people, especially in employment. Anna Sanders said:
“I’m a civil servant and many of the young people I spoke to will have had interactions with government agencies. The government isn’t faceless, there's hundreds of thousands of people working to make people’s lives better and there are lots of opportunities for people to work. We want to be as diverse as possible to reflect the people we serve. I hope the young people we spoke to see the Civil Service as a prospective career opportunity. It’s so important - we need people with experience of the system making the decisions and informing the future.”
But what if young people feel some way away from completing their education, let alone successful careers? Helen Grimshaw had an inspiring message for those who don’t feel like leaders just yet.
“We all have doubts about our potential, our skills and our worth. We’re all uncertain about what we might do in the world, but if you reflect on the challenges you've overcome, you’ve got the toolkit and the inner strength. The only thing that limits you is your ambition. You've got the foundations to build on. You can persevere, you’ve got a good understanding of what it takes to succeed. Those are fantastic attributes to have.”
If you want to get involved with this programme, speak to the person you know who works for RSN!