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Inspiring Northern Ireland's Future Leaders - An Academy Story

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Great Victoria Street is the spine that runs through the centre of Belfast.  It has a strong history of learning, connected at one end by the Georgian Royal Belfast Academical Institution and leading to the iconic Queen’s University at the other.  It is therefore fitting that CS Local should choose this location to launch Northern Ireland’s very first Future Leaders Academy in the magnificently gothic surroundings of the Assembly Buildings Conference Centre.  

a beautiful gothic building with a large clock tower reaching up into the blue sky.
Assembly Buildings Conference Centre

On 16 September 2019, the regular chiming bells of the Fisherwick Place clock tower, joined the nervous chatter of the 50 delegates that made up the inaugural Future Leaders Academy Class of 2019. 

Very much like the old building itself, the Academy is the result of many years of work by various teams and individuals who have all taken on the planning and delivery of academies across the UK;  each time bringing their own regional flourishes, making sure every academy is unique and personal to those who are fortunate enough to attend. The Northern Ireland academy was no different, as a cross-departmental project team dedicated their time and energy into ensuring that the programme would not only honour what has gone before, but would bring a bit of ‘Norn Iron’ (How people in Northern Ireland refer to their wonderful little country) to this staple in the CS Local catalogue.

Beyond the project team, the Northern Ireland Academy was supported by a community of volunteers from across various departments.   This network of help was on hand to share resources, both materials and time, to ensure our academy had everything it needed to succeed.  One group of volunteers worthy of special recognition were our facilitators, who came from near and far and poured so much of themselves into the week.  They were the one constant for the delegates. A trusted helping hand throughout the week. A voice of encouragement and inspiration as well as at times a modest usher and timekeeper.

Six delegates are standing at the front of the room trying to solve a problem that involves balancing a large stick across all of their fingers.
Collaborating and problem-solving.

However, the true stars of the week were the academy delegates themselves.  Despite the diverse backgrounds and work experiences; the various personal and professional reasons for applying; the apprehension, tension and sometimes cynicism born from previous bad experiences with training ‘courses’ or a lack of self-confidence, each delegate brought a desire to improve themselves and the Civil Service they each represent.

This attitude, paired with a programme designed to push delegates out of their comfort zones, testing skills, challenging perceptions and demonstrating the reality of inspirational leadership, made for a powerful combination.  Grounded in the Civil Service Vision the delegates were empowered to see the bigger picture and grasp the understanding that, regardless of grade, they each have a valuable part to play in making A Brilliant Civil Service.

A large table with the four leaders sitting behind with a power point presentation behind them
The Leadership Panel Q&A

As the week progressed, the growth in confidence was tangible.  And at the conclusion of a very tiring week, the delegates were fired up, equipped to return to their own places of work, ready to embark on the next chapter in their leadership journey.  

Over the next 9 months, the delegates will confront the challenge of balancing everyday work pressures with the experience of working on their academy projects.  Whether these projects achieve what the delegates hope they can, will only be revealed in time. What is certain however, is that through their incredible attitude and determination, the Class of 2019 have the potential to achieve a legacy that rings out across the Civil Service like the Fisherwick Bells ring out across Belfast.

all the delegates, facilitators and project team standing in staggered rows in front of a screen which says "Welcome to the first CS Local NI Future Leaders Academy".
The Academy Class of 2019

If you are interested in being a delegate or volunteering at an academy, or you would just like to find out more information, please contact the CS Local team in your area.


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  1. Comment by Sonia Preston posted on

    Well Done Lynn and Neil on your amazing first Academy. Sonia

  2. Comment by Gill Straiton posted on

    Looks great - and fab photos ! Well done !! Exiting times ahead for all the Academy Families

  3. Comment by Karen O'Connor posted on

    Excellent article and it truly was a fabulous event!

  4. Comment by Anne Jackson posted on

    Hi from Manchester to academy delegates in Belfast. I also have just completed the academy week and what an amazing inspirational event it was! Seeing this post made me realise the vast expanse of the Civil Service and how amazing it would be to share experiences.
    Hope you agree?

  5. Comment by Liam Duell posted on

    Fantastic, I could read about these stories/events all day every day.

    Fired up!

    (from NEYH facilitator)