TILN 2018: The next generation of international leaders


‘To understand exactly where I’m coming from , Simon’, Anina said with a sadness in her voice, ‘ you need to know, I strongly felt I was born in shame’. ‘We came from extreme poverty, at times my mother had to beg.  Not a life choice she chose, but like many Roma mothers she did whatever she needed to do to feed her children.’

‘You see, I very much know what it feels to be looked down upon, to feel that you and your people are seen as less than’. But almost in an instant her demeanour changed. ‘Today I feel nothing but pride for my mother and my people, and now I focus my life on changing views and fighting for our rights.

Anina was one of 30 international young leaders taking part in this years-the fifth year- Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network - otherwise known as TILN.

The TILN project is the brain child of Dr Mischa Thompson and has been since its inception delivered by her and its Director Lora Berg. I feel proud that I was part of those initial discussions that has helped inspire a project that is rooted locally but firmly has its mission to make a global impact for both the individuals involved and spaces they live and work in.

The programme is intense as it is varied. The participants normally start at 8.30 am and don’t usually finish until around 9-10pm.

The sessions included: Individual development session: Smart campaigning: how to map out your political campaign either for elected office or lobbying for change: Values and ethics; our moral compass, and the ethics of modern politics: Policies for change:

Media training and understanding social media.

Understanding social media created one of the most lively discussions of the training programme. Dr Wes Bellamy Councillor, activist in Charlottesville who led the campaign to remove the infamous statue of Robert E lee, and participant of the scheme, informed the group that he had learnt how to mobilise hundreds, if not thousands of supporters by simply using his snapchat account.

The downside to his brilliant campaigning was the almost inevitable wretched racist abuse, which included regular death threats from white supremist organisations and individuals. Listening to this young man and what he was confronting was like a throw-back to the sixties Civil Rights movement in the Southern States. Asked about how he dealt with the deluge of hatred and bigotry, he responded, ‘I just keep smiling and winning those small battles. That really messes up those racists. They just hate it that their poison can’t touch me. Oh, but I do log and inform the police of every threat and racial abuse’.

Cllr Alisa Flemming was one of two representatives from the UK, another being Sarah . As a local authority Cabinet member Alisa able to share her experience to the group in regards to the difference she had made on issues about race equality with her portfolio and budget she managed. ‘ If I’m provided with good evidence in regards  to the challenges of inequality, then I’m in a good position to make the case from within’. The group spontaneously applauded Alisa. With one example she demonstrated how the power of representation can translate into positive change.

The magic of this ensemble with thirty individuals who’d travelled from Arizona- to Serbia and many places in between, would not only realise that their struggle and efforts for equality were mirrored in variations across the two continents, but hearing each other’s stories and learning and supporting one another enabled them to individually grow, but also to become a strong collective group.

The weekends - Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - with the participants joining world political and business leaders at the famous Brussels Forum. There they get to see and join international politics in action.

But for this group, their journey will not end as they head home to their various counties, in fact for many a new journey will begin, one in which we hope their horizons are bigger and their ambitions to change our world turbo charged.

As for Anina the young proud Roma woman, she’s already changed her world. She won a scholarship in law the famous Sorbonne University , and is now a student lawyer at the Paris Bar. I’m sure Anina will make a good lawyer, but after talking to her I’m acutely aware she has bigger goals to achieve. And, I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that we’re going to hear much more about this young woman, and many others from this years TILN cohort, on the big political stage, some time rather soon.

Picture caption: Anina Ciuciu (left) and Dr. Wes Bellamy

Simon Woolley