Young Voices of Hope – WHT in Davos

Shortly after arriving in Zurich – hopeful, inspired and ready to host our panel.

Participating at the WHT side event to the World Economic Forum, was about first; being inspired, second; overcoming fears and prejudices and third; opening my heart to a hope in a better future.

Being inspired.

The preparation process was an incredibly nurturing learning experience. We were asked to combine our personal stories with a subject we felt passionately about, by doing this I got to know better some of my fellow scholars and alumni. I was inspired to hear from Ramon and Atherton who at early ages lost one or both parents and have devoted their lives to improving conditions of education in Mexico and health access in Africa, in a bid to do justice to the legacy of their beloved ones. I also learnt of the struggle of my fellow scholar and friend, Dana, who has decided to work towards women empowerment in Jordan; She explained to us the paradox of women not taking part of the workforce despite having equal or even better qualifications. Kapil, June and Cedric described their encounters with environmental degradation and poverty in rural India, Kenya and Zimbabwe, and how that pushed them to act. Irina told us how she has always been an environmental entrepreneur, from her upbringings in Vladivostok to her current work through a company she co-founded, Carbon Engineering.

Prior to our trip, we met in London to practice and receive advice from communication experts at AGL. Just hearing these stories and those of the rest of the team, interacting and learning from each other, made me feel inspired and humbled. Going to Davos was almost secondary to this, but it put us together and made us pour honesty and passion into words.

Overcoming fears and prejudice.

Sharing a message from Venezuela with leaders from across the globe!

The World Economic Forum at Davos is a controversial place, particularly for those who, like me, are conscious that lock-in into our unsustainable development paths is easily traceable to decisions of those attending this event. Furthermore, those of us suffering from the all too common Oxford disease – the impostor syndrome – are still coming to terms with the shock of leaving our demanding developing world surroundings to be immersed in the stimulating and at times overbearing Oxford environment. We frequently ask ourselves if we belong in this ‘hotspot’ of world intellectuals? Imagine, only to be invited to Davos? What role could we possibly play there?

I found that there was a genuine interest in listening to ‘real and fresh’ young speakers. I also found that there is not one Davos, but multiple ones, with different levels of access and with buzzing events taking place at multiple locations where stimulating conversations take place. My prejudice was in finding ‘self-patting’, accomplished leaders, that were unwilling to lead the transformations required at the local level. However, although I cannot generalize from my experience, I can say that the atmosphere at the WHT event was of conscious philanthropists and leaders across sectors who wished to be challenged and were willing to take risk and invest in change. . .

Hope in a better future.

On returning to Oxford, here with my fellow WHT Scholar, Laura Aristizabal, and another Oxford Grad student who joined in solidarity to call for democratic transition in Venezuela.

My whole pitch for the event was coming from anger and disappointment. I feel that the world is failing on climate action and this is accompanied by a sense of disappointment in how my country -Venezuela- has been allowed to slip into a state of collapse. In fact, our time in Davos coincided with massive protests in Venezuela; backing the path towards a transition to democracy. I felt, in a small way, that my participation in Davos was a contribution to this protest too. I believe the room shared my anger and disappointment. My feeling was that everyone in the room was well-aware of the scale of environmental degradation, there was no denial in the air, there was also no shying away from blame. What there was most was an eagerness for solutions, for answers, for what to do next. I was asked how to create a platform to channel the youth’s anger towards solutions on climate change. I was also asked what could be done about the corrupt Venezuelan elites and the plundering of Venezuela’s oil resources. . .

Ultimately, I found inspiration in the work we managed to produce and in the ideas that my fellow scholars and alumni are already undertaking to solve some of the most pressing issues in their home countries. I was especially moved to find a willing and empathetic crowd of experienced leaders in Davos; equally eager for solutions and to transform our reality. My anger and disappointed seems to have opened the door for some hope of a better future. . .

About the Scholar

Simonetta Spavieri

Environmental Change and Management (MSc), 2019
Pembroke College, Oxford
Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholar

Hilary Term Collections


When I think of collections, I used to think of the trinkets of stickers, stamps and marbles that I would collect as a child. Fond memories are conjured up of organising my stickers in categories in the sticker book, caring for my marbles in a big plastic case and stamp club meetings with my sister. At Oxford, “Collections” mean something very different: a meeting at the end of term, at which the student’s progress is discussed. As Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust scholars, we meet with WHT Director Alexandra Henderson and a WHT Academic Adviser, Elizabeth Roberts or Nik Kirby.

A WHT collection is a chance for me to collect my thoughts about what I have done (or should have done) and what steps I need to take in order to reach my goals, both within Oxford and beyond. It is an opportunity to reflect – which, I am guilty of not doing often enough – and regather my thoughts.  To check-in with my academic and psychological well-being.

At the time of writing this piece, I have attended one collection which felt more like a tender conversation with a caring mentor than a formal procedure. My collection experience was open, honest and full of care. I personally have found the Oxford experience taxing in a lot of ways and I have been putting on a brave face, pushing forward to try do what I need to. The collection gave me time to really consider my situation. The support from WHT that I have always appreciated so much was reaffirmed. From the beginning, WHT became a close-knit family, each of us caring and looking out for the well-being of others. When I say “each of us” I am referring not only to the cohort of students but to all the advisors as well as the other members of the WHT team. My collection experience was one where my thoughts were listened to, concerns addressed and hopes re-ignited.

Jade discussing with fellow scholars

I believe that collections are at the heart of WHT’s Programme. They offer real, meaningful, all-round support to the scholars through pragmatic reasoning, practical actions and kindness. I left the collection with the conviction that I can overcome, summit and make my WHT family proud.

About the Scholar

Jade Weiner

South Africa
Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), 2019
St Anne's College, Oxford
Weidenfeld-Hoffmann/Chevening Scholar

(Video) Young Voices of Hope: WHT Panel at the World Economic Forum (WEF 2019) in Switzerland

Trust Chairman, André Hoffmann, speaks about the vision for the Scholarships and Leadership Programme in the Sustainable Development Goals tent (World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland).

Under the panel title, “Young Voices of Hope: Perspectives from the Latest Wave of Emerging Leaders, scholars and alumni shared The most challenging issues facing their countries of origin and how their time at Oxford and within the Leadership Programme, has inspired and equipped them to be the driving force behind solutions. A full video from the panel is available here.

En route to Davos, WHT Scholars met and interfaced with global leaders and changemakers on behalf of the Trust. Pictured here with Nobel Prize Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi , who shares the prize with Malala Yousafzai, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Joseph Ssentongo (Uganda, 2016, OxfordWeidenfeld and Hoffmann) spoke of the youth unemployment crisis in his home county, “5 out of 6 young people are unemployed – we need to leverage this wasted potential for good”. Another scholar, Dana Qarout (Jordan, 2019, Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann) spoke about the importance of redefining womanhood as more than motherhood in Jordan – and unlocking the power of women in the labour market. Finally, alumni entrepreneurs Atherton Mutombwera (Zimbabwe, 2017, Louis Dreyfus – Weidenfeld and Hoffmann – Saïd), Cedric Maforimbo (Zimbabwe, 2018, Louis Dreyfus – Weidenfeld and Hoffmann) and Irina Fedorenko (Russia, 2016, Hoffmann) retold their own experiences developing rapid diagnostics tests for Africa’s most pervasive diseases, turning weeds in Zimbabwe into pesticides and harnessing drone technology to replant the world’s forests in response to climate change.

WHT Scholars and Alumni pictured with WHT CEO, Alexandra Henderson, upon the group’s return from a successful trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Scholars and Alumni used this opportunity to launch a landmark campaign to raise funds for the Leadership Programme. Read the full press release here.

About the Scholar

Laura Stewart

(), I am not a scholar
, Oxford

Essay Writing Workshop

I am very glad to have attended the essay writing workshop that the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust (WHT) organized for scholars at the beginning of Michaelmas term. The workshop was taught by Nik Kirby, a philosopher and Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, which is where I am studying for a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP). Nik has impressive talent for clear teaching and engaging presentations. The essay writing workshop was especially helpful because each participant knew that we needed a little “something” extra before fully embarking on our Oxford journey.  

Regardless of our prior experiences, Oxford presented a new atmosphere, complete with fresh challenges, particularly in the realms of academic writing. The workshop “was a great introduction to the Oxford way of thinking and a great tool to prepare us for writing outside Oxford because it helped us learn how to structure our ideas more fluently,” said Alfredo Ortega Franco (2019, Guatemala, Master of Public Policy, Oxford-Weidenfeld/Chevening), one of the current scholars. Like every other event organized by WHT, from the moral philosophy seminars to the enterprise challenge project, the essay writing workshop was the best way to help scholars prepare to embark on their academic journey at Oxford.

While I had some idea of how to write an academic essay, it was distant and dated; back to my years as an undergraduate. The workshop was really helpful in reminding me how to write academic passages, rather than short activity reports, the writing style I have gotten used to throughout my working years. The first essay of this term I wrote was a Philosophy paper for my Foundations class in the MPP program. I had never written a Philosophy paper before, not even in college! Writing that essay could have been a huge challenge; a challenge I might not have been able to overcome easily, without the techniques I learnt during the essay writing workshop.

Scholars brainstorming essay ideas. 

During the workshop I learnt some specific techniques that would be of great help not only to write for classes but also for my career in the future. For example, introducing a boarder issue and clearly narrowing it down to the exact question one intends to answer, are techniques that might be easily overlooked if a student is not comfortable with academic writing. These skills are also essential points of departure for those of us who might still be settling back into university life. In addition, supporting one’s argument clearly and concisely is crucial to an essay’s success.

One of the most useful methods that I learnt during the workshop was the “They say, I say,” format, which proved very helpful for writing my philosophy papers. These are skills that will not only be useful for me while completing my degree at the Blavatnik School of Government but will also surely be of great help for my career, well beyond my academic life. 

Becoming a stronger writer is just one of my goals here at Oxford, but it is a central one. I firmly believe that we all must be able to make clear decisions on how to communicate our thoughts and express our ideas in writing. As Dr. Priyadarshini Tripathy (2019, India, Global Health Science and Epidemiology, Weidenfeld-Hoffmann/Chevening) said, “The essay skills seminar increased my competency in writing an essay by compiling my ideas and framing them around the hypothesis.”

We never want to be lost in translation.

About the Scholar

Pashtoon Atif

Master of Public Policy (MPP), 2019
St Peter's College, Oxford
Weidenfeld-Hoffmann and Annenberg Scholar