Growing up on the streets of Hackney with friends falling into the wrong company, Elorm Haligah (Politics, 2011) had other ideas about what life had to offer. Today, a high-flying advocate for political and social change, he is a role model for the young people he helps support both in the UK and Africa.
Elorm’s success story was kick-started at a Nottingham summer school and enabled by a Sutton Trust scholarship – opportunities built on a foundation given to him by parents who believe in the power of education.
“My parents didn’t have the chance to go to university but they always wanted a different life for me,” said Elorm. “I saw a notice about The University of Nottingham summer schools, which give young people the chance to try university for a week. I was lucky to get a place when someone dropped out. The experience completely changed my life – I discovered politics and knew that was what I wanted to study.”
After graduating, Elorm began to work in Parliament as a political researcher alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Nottingham’s first black female Lord Mayor Merlita Bryan and Tottenham MP David Lammy. He then joined Elevation Networks – an award-winning employment charity which provides diverse career opportunities with top employers for young people from under-represented backgrounds – and has quickly risen to become Head of Diversity and Employability.
“I applied to Elevation Networks after hearing they were opening an office in the Midlands. I’m passionate about helping young people from all backgrounds to develop the skills they need to succeed. Within a few months of starting, I was promoted to Regional Manager, overseeing the programmes within the whole of the Midlands region.
One thing I’d advise everyone to do is to get a mentor, even if it’s not necessarily someone you’re in contact with. Study someone you admire, their life and achievements, assess what skills have got them to where they are today and then see what you need to achieve yourself.”
“Now I’m part of a senior management team strategising and advising various organisations on a diversity agenda, and looking at ways in which we can help people from disadvantaged backgrounds get into employment.
It’s been absolutely amazing sitting around tables with executives from some of the biggest organisations in the world – such as Deloitte, Barclays and PriceWaterHouse Coopers – and saying: this is what we need to do. And they listen.”
Inspired by his work with Elevation Networks in the UK, Elorm has now branched out to set up his own social enterprise working with children on the streets of Ghana. The Young Pioneers Network (YPN) was founded in 2015 to help develop the political capacity of young people in Africa.
“We launched our first programme earlier this summer to help kids in Ghana become more responsible citizens, to think about what’s going on in their country and what and how they would change things,” said Elorm.
“I’m determined to run an annual programme – the next step is to get a senior politician in the same room as them so they can hear their suggestions.
Meeting young people is always inspiring. You think you know them, and assume things about them because of their background, but they have ideas and opinions which blow you out of the water. They are very intelligent and have a lot to offer.
Ghana is not a bad place in comparison to other countries, but I think some of the older generations are already set in their ways, so I want to start with young people. I believe one day that I can help to transform a generation, both in the UK and Ghana. And if I don’t live to see the fruits of my labour at least someone else can continue the work. That’s my hope and dream.
There are still many challenges ahead in both countries, but there are a lot of people who are passionate about making a genuine difference.”