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Future Tower Hamlets leaders celebrated their graduation as guests of honour at a graduation ceremony

SOAS honours future community leaders

::Emdad Rahman::

Future Tower Hamlets leaders celebrated their graduation as guests of honour at a graduation ceremony at the world renowned School of Oriental & African Studies.

The ‘Community Leadership Skills Programme’ has enabled 30 people living or working in Tower Hamlets to improve their leadership skills.

Guests were treated to a drinks reception in the Brunei Suite, before being awarded certificates in the Brunei Lecture Theatre.
The ceremony was chaired by Professor Graham Furniss (Pro-Director of SOAS) who announced; “I am confident that the participants after exploring the factors that enable leaders and senior executives to develop their leadership role, will provide opportunities to share their experiences, enabling others to take inspiration and learn from successful practices to best fulfil community leadership roles.”
Lutfur Rahman, the Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets attended as chief guest. He said; “The programme has supported the individuals to fulfil their potential through a bespoke, structured and consorted action plan, placing them firmly within the community with enhanced leadership quality. It has enabled participants and graduates to think locally, but achieve globally.
“Tower Hamlets Council is determined to develop the skill set of local residents and those who work for the betterment of our borough, and it is precisely why we are committed to supporting such an initiative in the future.
“I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the participants and the graduates sitting in front of me today who have worked so hard, displaying such tremendous dedication in achieving such distinction within this field. We join with you to share this moment of great pride in your achievement, and I hope that this will provide a springboard for bigger and better achievements.”
Mr Rahman thanked Co – Convenors, Professor Werner Menski and Sham Qayyum for their dedication during the programme.
Ohid Ahmed, Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets praised the achievements of those who participate; “Today is a great day for all the people who have successfully completed a journey on this long and winding road. I remain hopeful that the participants will benefit the community by sharing their expertise and knowledge. Good leaders are rare, and we are proud to have supported this highly engaging programme.”  Speaking during the ceremony Lord Nazir Ahmed said: “Effective community leadership is the cornerstone for representing and empowering local people and has been provided in many ways, both formally and informally and at different local levels.
“Leaders operate in complex and dynamic political, organisational, managerial and community settings and must provide cohesive and coherent leadership within each.”
Co – convenor Sham Qayyum added; “For me – this past year will certainly remain with me for the rest of my life. Not because of the long hours we have all spent in relation to this programme, but because we all came together, from very different walks of life, in challenging times, with the major aim of trying to make a difference to peoples’ lives in the community. 
“As a growing and developing young academic, I became increasingly concerned about the negative implications of not appropriately addressing the gap between theory and practice, applying the hard learnt lessons of the past to the present, and the desire to treat our seemingly separate disciplines, particularly law, as closed esoteric categories of knowledge.  
“To tackle urgent social problems connected to disadvantage, discrimination and adversity in general, particularly in a context of superdiversity, requires the transcending of boundaries; the development of an emotional intelligence which empathises with ‘the other’, especially the most vulnerable in our communities; and the robust connecting of theory and practice, as each informs the other in an iterative fashion – after all, a good theory works in practice.  
“With these aims in mind, and a growing social activism in our hearts, I am proud to say we created the community leadership programme, which uniquely connects academic, theoretical and practical expertise, melding diverse disciplines, orthodox and heterodox methodologies, to aid community-based leadership.” 
Professor Werner Menski said: “Nurturing and cultivating the foundations of community leadership, especially in environments facing the challenges of diversity, is vital if we are to appropriately address urgent social issues surrounding identity, citizenship, belonging, and human rights.”
Graduands Sultana Khanom and Abduljibar Ahmed Nur thanked the Convenors, their colleagues and Tower Hamlets Council for the “overwhelming support” that they had received for the duration of the programme.

Special thanks were reserved for the Programme Coordinator Faisal Ahmed from CEMVO.

The ceremony was closed by Professor Graham Furniss.
The Community Leadership Programme was proposed as part of a package of Accelerated Delivery projects that were approved Lutfur Rahman and his cabinet in November 2009.  
The Community Leadership Programme, a project delivered by the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), which is a top 20 ranked UK University, the Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies (CEMS), in coordination with the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations (CEMVO), was thus funded by Tower Hamlet’s council to develop and refine leadership skills in relation to a cohort of individuals who are, or wished to be community leaders. 
The delivery agency developed, refined and cultivated leadership skills to be delivered through a structured programme and equipped attendees to become more effective leaders in their respective communities. 
The interdisciplinary programme covered a wide-range of topics, including civic participation, research methods, understanding the many voices and cultures in the community, the nature and role of law, the place of advocacy, the diversity of leadership and management styles. We provided an opportunity to individuals to focus on the areas that interest them the most, an aim further enhanced by the cultivation of life-long personal development planning skills.

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