When the Fellowship Programme is the inspiration for a £4.6mn programme to address disability employment

I enrolled on the CDPB Fellowship Programme as an opportunity for personal development and to consider ways in which civic society organisations can have a greater role in driving forward a sustainable peace. While the Fellowship Programme did provide opportunities to develop, grow and inform peace building, it has offered so much more.

The Fellowship Programme includes a unique assessment process in which leaders from across the region work together to identify a societal challenge and then seek to address that challenge. This process, Design Thinking, was delivered by Fujitsu and included a full day session at the Oxford residential. The persistent cost of living emergency, political impasse and public finance crisis were the backdrop to my group’s work. Together as a group of cross-sectoral leaders, we considered how the current societal context would impact upon disabled people and disabled person’s organisations.The challenge was vast and multi-faceted.

While this is a complex issue, the Design Thinking process kept disabled people at the heart of the challenge. The process identified that while funding and investment were important, disabled people wanted credible employment opportunities and ways to develop entrepreneurship. From this the seeds of the Empower programme were planted. Empower is a £4.6mn programme funded by the UK government and will support two thousand disabled, autistic and/or neurodivergent people to secure careers across all sectors and all levels of careers, including those who seeking to be entrepreneurs. Some of the Fellowship Programme’s partners are also partners in the programme, including Allstate NI, alongside Empower’s lead partners USEL, Disability Action and Specialiststerne.

Overall, the Design Thinking process was crucial to establishing the Empower programme. My group of cross-sectoral leaders were able to critically engage with this complex issue to identify multiple opportunities and provide the infrastructure to drive the programme forward. Further collaborative action and access to decision makers informed the decision of the UK government to increase the amount of funding available through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Throughout the process to obtain funding, Design Thinking was vital to ensuring two thousand disabled, autistic and/or neurodivergent people will receive essential support in the midst of our current societal context.

Nuala Toman, class of 2022-23 Fellow

Design Thinking session was delivered by Fujitsu.

Cultural Diplomacy Symposium – 29 June 2023, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

What is the role of the cultural diplomacy in our polarised and divided world? How can we foster a better understanding between cultures and nations? How can cultural diplomacy pave the way for wider cooperation and dialogue?

Hochhauser Auditorium
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
29 June 2023 | 10am – 5pm

This one-day symposium on cultural diplomacy provides a unique opportunity to gain practical insights and hear from former and current diplomats, art professionals and academics.

Together we will examine the role of cultural diplomacy and international relations, learn how we can foster effective diplomatic practices, examine positive stakeholder engagement, and explore how the arts and culture can enrich social cohesion in Britain and beyond.

This event is organised by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute in London and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Sessions including:

• Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations
• Cultural Diplomacy in Action: Fostering Effective Diplomatic Practices
• Changing Britain: Art, Culture and Society
• Art of Healing
• Connecting Cultures: Cultural Diplomacy and Stakeholder Engagement
• Making It Happen


• Dan Mulhall, former Irish Ambassador to US, UK and Germany, Parnell Fellow, Magdalene College, Cambridge
• Lord Alderdice, Executive Chairman, Changing Character of War, Pembroke College, Oxford
• Adriana Sandoval, Cultural Attaché, Colombian Embassy
• Anaïs Aguerre, Culture Connect
• Cian Smyth, Ulster Presents
• Evgeniya Ravtsova, Victoria and Albert Museum
• Marta de Zuniga, Director of the Polish Cultural Institute in London
• Roisin Inglesby, William Morris Gallery

(more to be announced)

Centre for Democracy and Peace Building launches new intake for Fellowship Programme

The Centre for Democracy and Peace Building has opened applications for its 2023-2024 Fellowship Programme for leaders in politics, business, and civic society in Northern Ireland.

The Fellowship Programme is supported by the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, some of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers including Allstate NI, FinTrU, Fujitisu NI, Devenish, NIE Networks and Ulster Carpets, and the Irish American Partnership. It aims to support and equip participants to take on some of Northern Ireland’s most complex political, business, and civic challenges.

Through bespoke sessions delivered by leaders and individuals in the top of their field such as former adviser to three prime ministers and the Principal of Hertford College at Oxford, Tom Fletcher, and former Irish diplomat, Tim O’Connor, Fellows are challenged to step outside of their comfort zone, with sessions including in-studio media training with Northern Ireland’s largest commercial radio broadcaster, conflict management with the PSNI, as well as residential sessions at Oxford University and in Dublin.

The unique programme is delivered by the Centre for Democracy and Peace Building to support the peace process in Northern Ireland, focus on innovation and capacity building, and encourage collaborative decision-making.

Past participants of the Fellowship Programme include Diane Forsythe MLA, Dr Caoimhe Archibald MLA, Pádraig Delargy MLA, and Connie Egan MLA, Director at Diversity Mark, Nuala Murphy, and Head of Policy and Engagement at the Law Society, Jamie Warnock.

Applications for Centre for Democracy and Peace Building 2023-2024 will close on Friday 23 June. To apply or to find out more, visit:

Fellowship Advisory Board Chair, John Healy, said:
“The Fellowship Programme is a fantastic opportunity to gather ambitious leaders from diverse backgrounds and spark new conversations about the future of Northern Ireland. It has been a privilege to watch each cohort overcome difficulties and grow together in their abilities. Their open-mindedness, optimism and dedication to seeing Northern Ireland progress and truly prosper has been inspiring. I would encourage anyone who wants to enhance their own leadership ability, or who simply wants to learn from other leaders from different walks of life, to apply for this programme”.

Fellowship Alumna and Director at Diversity Mark, Nuala Murphy, added:
“Taking part in the Fellowship Programme has been one of my greatest achievements. I invested in the experience from start to finish, especially the completely unique opportunity to collectively seek out how to build a better future for all in Northern Ireland so that we can live up to our giant potential. The Fellowship has given me renewed hope for this place we call home, especially in my work in diversity and inclusion via Diversity Mark. I am confident in our future leaders’ ability to help this place we call home to evolve into a truly inclusive place to live, to grow up, to bring up a family, or to start a business, embracing the diversity of all our communities, our cultures, and our identities. That’s the renewed start that this place needs and it’s one I’m really excited to be part of in the future”.

Fellowship Alumnus and Chair, Migrant and Minority Ethnic Council & The African and Caribbean Leadership Consortium, Alfred Abolarin, said:
“Being part of last year’s Fellowship cohort was a great honour. Not only have I had the chance to learn and develop but I have had the opportunity to build relationships with so many individuals. I feel better equipped to build on the successes of the organisations I am affiliated with and contribute positively to navigating through difficult and complex issues that society contend with. A highlight for me was seeing people from different backgrounds and with different viewpoints come together to learn with a shared aim to see Northern Ireland thrive”.