The Magic of Networking in Life and Work

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to an incredibly talented group of rising stars in their respective fields. They were the participants in the Young Muslim Leadership Programme, organized and supported by the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and The Prince’s Charities. Participants included a British Muslim doctor, a physicist, a senior business analyst, policy advisors to major governmental units, doctoral students, lecturers, civil servants, an expert in technology banking, a curator in the arts, an analyst in a legal tech startup, a trainee solicitor in corporate law, the founder of a Muslim charity, an insurance analyst, the youngest trustee of a Muslim association awarded the Queen’s Award for voluntary services, a member of a local government’s fast-track graduate scheme, … I could go on. A truly impressive group of young women and men.  

The programme began on a Friday afternoon in July and ran for a full week, ending on a Sunday with final panel discussions and a farewell dinner. It was the seventeenth year the programme was conducted so the organisers really understood how to recruit young leaders but also speakers and panelists from all sectors of society, ranging from professors, scientists, MPs, judges, executives, senior civil servants, and more, with some travel to London, such as to visit the Supreme Court.

I was asked to speak and chose to focus on my new book, The Fifth Estate: The Power Shift of the Digital Age. Since the internet and social media are so relevant to developments across all sectors of political and social life, it went well. Great questions. Wonderful debates taking us over our scheduled time. Some participants asked my impression of the Centre’s grand facilities, which I saw to be quite in tune with the traditional Oxford Colleges. It was one of those days that raise my spirits in ways I did not expect.  

Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

But my major take away was the importance of bringing these young leaders together long enough that they can get to know each other and establish networks among themselves. In 2002, when I became the founding director of the OII, one of the first things we did was to organize a summer doctoral programme (SDP), which brought promising doctoral students from around the world together for about two weeks. The common denominators were their promise as academics and their interest in the social sciences of the internet and related digital media. It was incredibly successful and has continued to be a vibrant and successful programme over two decades. Its almost magical how being together with other talented students sharing many of your interests can be so powerful.  

From the OII Summer Doctoral Programme (SDP) to the Young Muslim Leadership Programme, the message is how valuable it is to enable talented people to network in person, particularly at an early a formative stage of their careers. Many will keep in touch for years to come. This must be obvious to many, but my visit reminded me of what can often be forgotten or taken for granted.  

My thanks to the organisers for inviting me to meet these young leaders, who were so impressive and welcoming to me. And my gratitude goes out to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and the Prince’s Charities for supporting such an important and positive programme for these young leaders and the UK.

Comments are most welcome