Blog: New Year brings new opportunities

Published: 2 Jan 2020

Blog: New Year brings new opportunities

New Year in the WCMT office is one of the most exciting moments in our year. Our Fellowship Director Tristan Lawrence looks ahead.

January is the month when we interview candidates for this year’s Fellowships, and first meet the inspiring individuals who will be chosen to travel the world seeking solutions for the UK’s current challenges. 

This month we will interview 262 candidates at our offices in Westminster, for 150 Fellowships. These are the shortlist, already selected from a total of 1,409 applications. So whilst many will find it a nerve-wracking moment, they have already achieved a great deal to get this far.

"This month we will do 87 hours of interviews, make 204 cups of tea and 51 pieces of cake."

For our small team of 13 staff, the practicalities of interviewing so many people can pose some challenges. In total, the number of visitors passing through - candidates and interviewers – will exceed 300. That means 16 applicants a day, 4 days a week, for 4 weeks, and it equates to doing 87 hours of interviews, making 204 cups of tea and serving 51 pieces of cake. The constant stream of people is quite a logistical challenge, for which preparations began back in May last year.

Despite the challenges, the interviews are my favourite time of year at WCMT. It is fascinating to witness the variety of people and projects that grace our offices, and to get a first glimpse at what will be our 2020 cohort of Churchill Fellows. Fellowships are available to any and all resident British citizens over the age of 18, and it is great to see applicants who reflect the amazing diversity that Britain has to offer. Every applicant has had a personal journey that brings them to this point, one that may have started at an early age. Although each candidate’s story will be different, they will be united by one thing – a passion to make change happen and improve life for people in the UK.

It is not just the incredible range of individuals that makes the interview process so interesting. Each candidate also brings an extraordinary project, offering a unique solution to a challenge the UK is facing. Often their project or idea has been formed by years of understanding and experience, and, in many instances, a personal connection.

Listening to candidates speak about their communities and professions, and the challenges they face, is a learning experience for us. Often it exposes the gaps in one’s own understanding. From novel approaches to preventing suicide, to the challenges facing rural communities, there will be a huge range of project topics. Applicants can apply in one of 12 categories and these reflect all areas of our society: education, health, science, arts and culture, enterprise, the environment and more - the whole gamut of life in Britain.

The interviews are a humbling experience. Hearing from passionate individuals, who show enormous dedication to improving the UK, forces one to take stock. But as well as humbling, they are also deeply inspiring. Each interview is a source of personal inspiration, a reminder of the extraordinary things that Churchill Fellows accomplish, and the power of a single individual to achieve transformative change.

To apply next year for a Fellowship, sign up for our application alerts. Applications reopen on 30 April 2020.