John Smith Trust launches Wider Europe and Central Asia Fellowship Programme

Apply now for our 2024/25 programme and help create a fairer, more sustainable, and inclusive future.

We’re inviting exceptional young professionals and change-makers from 10 countries to apply for our Wider Europe and Central Asia Fellowship Programme. We welcome applicants from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.    

Our programme will run from October 2024 until March 2025. It includes a series of online sessions followed by a 16-day residential programme in the UK from 21 February to 9 March. 

If you’re working on governance, social justice or climate action 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.  

Insights into UK institutions 

Through our programme, you’ll gain detailed insights into the values, ways of working and challenges faced by people and institutions in the UK and connect with counterparts in your field of work. 

Suhayli Abdulvahhobov, head of banking analysis at the National Bank of Tajikistan, was among the 11 Fellows who took part in our 2023/24 Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia programme. He says: “The days in Scottish Parliament and Westminster Palace, in particular the debates, were very educational. It was interesting to see how the check and balance system works in the UK. This was proof that democratic values are very important in building public and state institutions.” 

Andranik Shirinyan, country representative for Freedom House Armenia, another Fellow from our latest programme, says: “I have created networks and connections that are going to be useful to me while I implement my action plan around ensuring inclusivity in policymaking. My meetings with Equal Rights Trust and Stonewall are important in connecting Armenian and UK-based NGOs. My meetings with UK MPs will help me in my advocacy efforts.”   

Connecting with peers

For some of our 2023/24 Fellows, connecting with peers was one of the highlights of the programme. At a time of continued insecurity, it offers a rare opportunity to build lasting connections with other change-makers across the wider Europe and Central Asia region. 

 “I have established strong connections with fellow professionals in the human rights field through the programme,” says Tamar Oniani, a human rights lawyer with the Georgia Young Lawyers Association (GYLA). “We have managed to stay in touch and exchange ideas on significant issues. I even invited one of my fellow participants to the conference held in Georgia in February. Another Fellow and I attended a conference together in November 2023. These connections will persist and grow beyond the duration of the programme.”  

Tamar describes the UK residential part of the programme as: “A truly amazing 12 days of my life.” She adds: “It has genuinely been a transformative experience for me and I am not exaggerating. It provided me with the chance to evaluate my leadership abilities and refine my approach to thinking and acting as a leader.”  

Leadership and negotiation skills 

Like Tamar, Gulkhanim Mammadova, a researcher from Topchubashov Center, an Azerbaijani think tank, found the leadership development aspect of the programme valuable. 

She says: “The leadership skills training was particularly useful for my development. Through practical exercises, I gained valuable insights into effective leadership techniques, communication strategies, and team management. These skills are essential for driving forward initiatives in collaboration with my organisation and community.” 

Gulshat Ayydova, an environmental activist and educator from Turkmenistan, adds: “From the leadership workshop I gained a lot of practical skills, such as active listening, public speaking and giving feedback. The mediation and negotiation workshop was also very insightful for me. I understood how difficult it is to be a mediator and how challenging it can be bringing people to negotiate on one table.”  

Speaking of the programme overall, Gulkhanim says: “It’s been an invaluable experience for me, providing opportunities for personal and professional growth, networking, and collaboration. The guidance and support received have been instrumental in shaping my journey.”  

Apply for our fellowship 

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funds our fellowship programmes and our wider network activities. We work with a range of partners across government, universities, business and civil society whose contributions to our programmes and network are invaluable. 

If you are passionate about improving your skills to make a difference in your society then please consider applying for our latest programme. Applications are open until 23 June.