On Friday 23 February the CSC hosted the annual Connect and Collaborate Event and welcomed over 350 Commonwealth Scholars to the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London for a day of talks and discussions centred on development impact.

Connect and Collaborate 2024 provided a showcase of what Scholars can achieve through cooperation and hard work as alumni keynote speakers Dr Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts (The Commonwealth Secretariat) and Dr Shakir Mohamed (Google DeepMind) both demonstrated in their talks. The event also saw Scholars participate in development-themed discussion panels and collaborative workshops while exchanging ideas throughout the day.

A very modern Commonwealth

The event was opened by the CSC Chair, Professor Robin Mason, who celebrated the expertise and diversity of the Scholar community, which this year represents 28 different Commonwealth countries, and helps to enrich UK higher education and address development challenges across the world.

In her keynote address which followed, Dr Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts, a double Commonwealth Alumnus (2007 and 2016) and Research Manager for the Commonwealth Secretariat, discussed the significance of the modern Commonwealth as a catalyst for good in the world. Dr Terri-Ann spoke about the role that Scholars play in restoring broken connections and harnessing the energy of Commonwealth communities to co-create peaceful and sustainable futures.

‘Shared values, strong institutions, and resilient people equal common wealth and common good.’ – Dr Terri-Ann Gilbert-Roberts

Reflecting on her scholarship experiences and career, Dr Terri-Ann spoke about the vital role that Scholars play in restoring broken connections and harnessing the energy of communities to co-create peaceful and sustainable futures.

Focusing on the issues

After the morning keynote, Scholars attended development-themed discussion panels which each corresponded to a CSC development theme and convened expert speakers from a range of sectors.

The panels discussed different topics including the barriers to sustainable science and technology solutions, supporting LGBT+ rights campaigners, and galvanising the entrepreneurial sector for sustainable economic development.

Building a networking narrative

In the afternoon session, Scholars had the chance to enhance their collaboration and communication skills during an interactive workshop on Networking Narratives.

The session focused on building networks across disciplines and country contexts to enable Scholars to work effectively in different sectors and apply their knowledge to solve complex problems.

The session was led by trainers from AccessEd to help empower Scholars’ to fulfil their potential after their scholarship.

The future of AI

Following the workshop, Scholars watched a specially recorded message by Minister Mitchell, Minister of State for Development and Africa at the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) ahead of the keynote address by Dr Shakir Mohamed.

In his keynote, Dr Mohamed, Commonwealth Alumnus and Research Director at Google DeepMind, spoke about the capacity of artificial intelligence (AI) to bring about positive change in the world. While acknowledging the risks of misuse, Dr Mohamed highlighted how AI had become a powerful tool in climate forecasting and other areas of development.

‘The responsibility of the pioneer is to centre people, help spread knowledge widely, and work with uncertainty.’ – Dr Shakir Mohamed

Dr Mohamed finished by calling on Scholars to forge collective movements for change, utilising AI to increase learning and equity in societies across the world.

Celebrating Scholars’ achievements 

The event concluded with a performance by the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Choir to celebrate Scholars’ achievements and a reception for Scholars and invited guests.

The CSC was very pleased to welcome special guests from the FCDO, UK Parliament, and Commonwealth high commissions to this year’s event.

To see the photos from this year’s event, please visit the CSC’s Flickr channel.