Blog: My interview for The Careers Group, University of London

In my capacity as Fellow of the UpRising programme, I have recently been interviewed by the University of London Careers Group. I’m an alumnus of the University of London (undergrad and Masters both from there) an I jumped at the chance to speak about UpRising – a programme that I am incredibly proud to be associated with.

The full transcript is here: http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/development/index.php/2013/02/06/the-uprising-leadership-programme/

The UpRising Leadership Programme is enabling 19-25 year olds to change their communities for the better as well as giving their CVs an edge. We spoke to Queen Mary and UpRising alumnus and Fellow, Eshaan Akbar about the impact UpRising made on him.

How did you hear about UpRising? I came across their leaflet during a brief internship for MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali. The internship was part of a process for me moving from the banking career I had gone into after my Queen Mary degree in economics,finance and management, into a more public policy oriented role. What impressed me about the programme – which Rushanara had helped create as part of The Young Foundation – was the way it combined a curriculum of support with a practical project which made a real difference in the communities participants wanted to engage with. I was particularly interested in the political context in which community change can happen and I was impressed by the fact that all three party leaders are patrons of the UpRising programme.

So what are the main elements of the programme? Well the web site gives the best summary but there are learning sessions, mentoring and networking events and a community project. The learning sessions include ‘inside view’ visits to key organisations such as parliament and the BBC, a leadership retreat (this was two days in Roffey Park – fantastic fun and transformational). The programme really helps you create far reaching networks of in myriad industries you simply aren’t aware of normally. In my banking career I had a network of high net worth celebrities who were my clients, but what I developed through UpRising was a network of purposeful and powerful individuals – powerful in the sense that they were people who were able to get things done.

What were the highlights of the programme for you? Well I was sufficiently impressed by the programme as a whole to continue to be involved as one of the selected ‘Fellows’. The programme had a really big impact. Firstly in introducing me to the whole arena of journalism. This came about from a visit to the offices of The Guardian. We were introduced to the ‘Comment Is Free’ editor who agreed to consider a piece I wrote. They then printed it which gave me the confidence to shape my UpRising project around the written word but also to develop a portfolio of articles published in newspapers like The Times, The Observer as well as The Guardian on issues like racism, economics and social issues. I’m due to do a placement at Sky News shortly and ITV news after that.

Other highlights of the programme included getting a talk on effective public speaking by Tony Blair’s speechwriter and having a roundtable discussion in The Cabinet Meeting Room with Nick Clegg The ‘Retreat’ at Roffey Park was brilliant. This centre normally charges corporate clients thousands of pounds for the weekend retreat and we got it for free. What it gave us was a brilliant developmental weekend that was both great fun and a foundation to our practical programmes – a key part of the UpRising experience. In my case I and a team of UpRisers had a project that was founded on using the power of the written word to help young people communicate issues of concern to them. The project had a strong after life and developed into the You Press initiative http://weareyoupress.blogspot.co.uk/, taken on by other members of the programme.

Is the programme hard to get on? Well, it is competitive but, on the other hand it is expanding to other cities in the UK. What they principally look for is passion and a commitment to making a difference in local communities. Just as they provide the networks for participants, it is up to participants to use these networks to better their own communities.