John Smith Trust launches new fellowship programme

Apply now for the John Smith Trust’s 2023/4 fellowship programme.

We’re inviting exceptional young professionals and change-makers from 12 countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia to apply for our next fellowship programme. The programme will take place online from October 2023 to March 2024 and includes a two-week residential programme in the UK.

If you’re working on issues of governance, social justice or climate action to improve the well-being of your country then we encourage you to apply. You could be working in the public, private or civil society sector – but you must share our values of respect, tolerance and openness as well as our commitment to rules-based and people-centred governance.

Our programme will give you the chance to gain detailed insights into the values, ways of working and challenges faced by people and institutions in the UK. It will also create ongoing opportunities to connect with and learn from the experiences of your counterparts in the UK and across Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Unique opportunity

At this time of regional and global insecurity and uncertainty, the programme provides a rare opportunity to build lasting connections with other change-makers across the region.

“The future is uncertain, and the present is quite dark as well,” says Anton Radniankou, a Fellow from Belarus. “This programme gives a unique opportunity to meet with leaders from different countries of the region to exchange experiences, to exchange ideas, and to tell our stories about the situation in our countries.”

Bella Gazdiyeva is an MP of the Aqmola region Maslikhat (regional council) in Kazakhstan and a member of the budget committee. She describes her Fellowship in 2017 as “a fantastic opportunity”, and adds: “Where else could you meet an ambassador and deputy minister or former minister of foreign affairs in your usual life? Nowhere! The John Smith Trust brings all these people to one table.”

Career development

Shahla Ismayil, a Fellow from Azerbaijan, works in the field of gender equality. She believes the programme has had a “very fundamental role” in her career, enabling her to “upgrade her academic knowledge” while also learning about how systems that protect human rights work in practice.

“The programme is short but efficient, intense and thought-provoking,” she says. “I think all those who are striving for education and who are in mid-career should apply to the fellowship and get to know these values and democratic principles, which we all share.”

Since her fellowship in 2005, Shahla has run over 100 programmes in Azerbaijan, mostly focusing on women’s empowerment and participation.

Central Asian Fellows cohort, 2019


While for some Fellows, like Shahla, our programme enhances their existing career path, for others it prompts a change of direction. When Andrian Cheptonar from Moldova undertook his Fellowship in 2018, he was a political advisor who “despised the idea” of getting involved in politics himself.

Inspired by his fellowship, Andrian decided to go into politics to help reform political life in his country – and is now an MP in the Moldovan parliament. “For me, it was an experience to meet different kind of politicians, different kind of public workers from those in Moldova at the time,” he says.

Ukrainian Fellow Artem Shaipov describes the fellowship as “a life-changing opportunity”. He says: “If you’re thinking about applying to the John Smith Trust fellowship, please be prepared. You should definitely take it and become part of the community of Fellows. You’ll be delighted to meet new people, new friends and learn from the UK and then bring your learning back to your home country.”

Dreaming big

For Liza Mamaliga, a social entrepreneur from Moldova, the fellowship encouraged her to be ambitious with her project and “dream big”. Liza set up a social enterprise to promote the Moldovan honey industry in her country and Europe. During her Fellowship, she visited the Eden Project in Cornwall, which she describes as “visionary”.

She said: “Before coming to the fellowship, my vision was too small. But when I visited this project, I saw their professional approach. I’ve learned that you have to approach a social enterprise as a real business in a competitive world.”

And Natalia Djandjgava, also from Moldova, emphasises the importance of the “long-lasting professional networks” that are created through the John Smith Trust fellowship programme. She adds: “But more than that we’re creating friendships which I’m sure will last for many, many years. So don’t hesitate. Just apply – and I wish you good luck.”