Supporting the ‘Undergraduate of the Year’ awards

Shelina, Nicola and Natasha attended the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year Awards, they give their thoughts.


Shelina, Nicola and Natasha at the ‘Undergraduate of the Year’ awards

For the first time the Civil Service Fast Stream sponsored an award, ‘Future Civil Service Leader of the Year‘, which was open to all undergraduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds. The winner is given a place on the Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) and has the opportunity to shadow a Permanent Secretary for a day. 450 people applied, which far surpassed the numbers of applicants even for some of the large corporate sponsored awards!

It was amazing to see such interest and a strong argument for why we need to continue to drive engagement with students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The 10 finalists for the Civil Service Future Leader award were brilliant and some are already applying to or accepting places on the Fast Stream so we need to keep working to make sure the scheme is a welcome place for them and that the process is fair. Overall it was a great event, we hope that we can continue to attend similar events and provide the opportunity to all of you to be involved.


Hayat won the award and we look forward to welcoming those applying for the Fast Stream later this year!

Winner: Hayat Mohamed | London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London | International History

Hayat is an International History student at the London School of Economics. As the founder and President of the LSE Somali Society, Hayat has shown the ability to embrace new challenges. Hayat represents her cohort on the Student-Staff Liaison Committee, and is also a mentor to first year students living off-campus. Hayat enjoys being a Student Ambassador for Widening Participation and a Brand Manager for Teach First, as she is passionate about tackling educational inequality in the UK. Having received the highest A-Level results at her school, Hayat was awarded the Deputy Head Teacher’s Award in 2014.


Steven Adams | University of Southampton | History | Paul Blackburn | University of Hull | Management & Business |Sidrah Choudhry | University of Stirling | International Politics | Linda Epstein | School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London | Politics | Sanju Ganesan | University of Leicester | LLB Law | Charlotte Mulhearn | University College London, University of London | European Social and Political Studies | Uroosa Syed | University of Westminster | International Relations | Jason Tran | University of Warwick | Politics | Laura Waddilove | Cardiff University | Politics


Shelina at the opening of the EDIP

In early April, Shelina Hargrove had the pleasure of speaking at the opening ceremony of the Early Diversity Internship Programme (EDIP). Here are some of her reflections.

If you’d told me a year or two ago that I would be standing in front of over 100 people at this event, talking about being from a lower socio-economic background, I might not have believed you. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, but my early life and schooling have never really been things that I’ve tended to talk about much at work. Since co-founding the Fast Stream Opportunity Network with my fellow committee members, though, I’ve found myself feeling liberated and more comfortable talking about my journey to where I am now.


Shelina speaking at the EDIP opening ceremony

Speaking at the EDIP event was an opportunity to address some of the bright minds who will hopefully later apply for the Fast Stream. I explained how the Opportunity Network came into being, what our aims are and our planned activities for the future. To put all this into context, I spoke at the beginning about my story and the experiences I’d had before joining.  Some of the interns approached me afterwards, sharing that they found it inspiring to hear from someone from a similar background who was on the Fast Stream. It was great to be able to talk with them about their career plans and aspirations, as well as encouraging them to consider the Fast Stream as an option.

We would love to see the Opportunity Network model expand further, with other organisations having their own dedicated networks focused on championing social mobility. Because of this, my favourite piece of event feedback was from an intern who told me they were now thinking about starting an Opportunity Network at their university – what a great result that would be!


The Early Diversity Internship Programme (EDIP) gives first-year undergraduates from diverse backgrounds a sense of what being a Civil Service fast streamer is like. You can find out more about the EDIP here:

Launching FSON

We held our fantastic launch event in the Churchill Room at 100 Parliament Street on the 17th March. The irony of launching our networks – helping those from lower socio-economic backgrounds (SEBs)- in a space where Churchill once stood to announce the end of the Second World War was not lost on us. In many ways it personifies what we’re trying to achieve in making Civil Service more representative of the general population and helping people into old institutions we should be proud to have.

Our master of ceremonies for the launch was Gerri Clements. Many of you will have read Gerri’s fantastic article on social mobility, if you haven’t I encourage you to do so!

We started off with an introduction by Charlotte Dring, who leads on the CSON, speaking about the importance of acknowledging class differences. Charlotte delivered a challenge for us all to be open about our class and backgrounds.


Charlotte Dring introducing the networks to a full house

Nicola Hanns explained the roots of the FSON and the CSON. Both networks would never have got off the ground without great support from Gillian Smith, Head of the Fast Stream and Fast Track, and Imran Khan, social mobility champion. Nicola illustrated how the FSON is bringing a voice to those from low SEBs and is also acting as a critical friend to challenge the Civil Service in ways it can improve inclusiveness, particularly in its recruitment. One of the difficulties facing low SEB Fast Streamers is confidence building which really contrasted against the confident delivery Nicola gave.


Nicola Hanns outlining FSON’s vision

Campbell McCafferty, Director Civil Contingencies Secretariat, was our first senior leader to speak. Campbell is actually a former Fast Streamer who started in the 1990s, when the Fast Stream was certainly less diverse than it is now. A highlight of Campbell’s speech was his honest reflection on joining the Fast Stream from a low SEB in Scotland in the mid-90s; he was once described as a ‘Fast Stream social experiment’!


Campbell McCafferty delivering his personal account of social mobility

John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and the Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office, closed the speeches. John spoke very honestly about how we all hold biases and how that translates into a challenge for the Civil Service in creating a culture which allows us to acknowledge our own biases in our work without fear and trepidation. A key theme from John’s perspective at the top of the Civil Service is how we need to lead by example in every aspect of our professions within the Civil Service and outside of it. Social mobility is an issue which affects the whole of the UK and the FSON will be seeking to build partnerships with other organisations to do our part in shaping positive change in wider society.

John is a huge supporter of the FSON and the CSON as employee networks. He described the networks as “shining examples of what we as a Civil Service need to be like”. With the the findings of the Bridge report being fresh on everyone’s minds, John said: “the Bridge group report blew our socks off. We’re even more biased in our intake than Oxford and Cambridge. How did we do that!?”. The Civil Service has recently published its Talent Action Plan in response to the Bridge report where it has accepted all of The Bridge Group’s recommendations and we will be working closely with the Fast Stream team to ensure changes are made with representation from low SEB Fast Streamers.


John Manzoni speaking on the change the Civil Service needs to face

After four fantastic speeches we finished off with a Q&A session. On the Civil Service being London-centric, John spoke about how immense the change required is to move offices outside of London and how much has been achieved: “In 2010 there was about 220 buildings in Central London, now it is about 140, and by 2020 it will be even fewer”. The Fast Stream will be opening new Assessment Centres outside of London to make the application process more accessible to those from lower SEBs. We also had some great attendees from the Fast Track Apprenticeship Scheme and we encouraged them to setup a similar network for apprentices with our support.

Our launch was a huge success and since then we have already done so much to highlight the importance of social mobility for low SEB Fast Streamers. We have even more to come, so please share our details with anyone you think would be interested and follow us for opportunities to get involved in some really amazing outreach work.

You can sign up to our newsletter here:

Or follow us on Twitter here: @FSOppNetwork


// The CSON has since rebranded to the “Cross-Government Social Mobility Network (CGSMNet)”

Championing social mobility and inclusion

Welcome to the Fast Stream Opportunity Network (or FSON for short).

We will be formally launching the FSON on the 17th March alongside our sister group, the Civil Service Opportunity Network (CSON). You can look forward to hearing some words from our backers, finding out our next steps and, most importantly, getting to know us as individuals and as a community closer to that time.

For now, we’ve put together a little introduction to give you an idea of who we are, what we’re about and how you can help.


Who we are

We are a community that has come together to give support to others from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We formed as a group of Fast Stream peers independently coming together in late 2015 and to date have grown to over 70.

We have also supported the formation of our sister community, the Civil Service Opportunity Network, which has the same aims and values as us and provides focussed support to the needs of the wider Civil Service.

We are particularly focused on helping those from ‘poor’ – what we call ‘low socio-economic’ –  backgrounds who have not had the opportunities to develop their full potentials to be as successful as they can be in the Fast Stream.

‘Poor’ doesn’t mean you’re not financially well-off. You could come from a low socio-economic background because of a lack of support throughout school or in families, or even a lack of exposure to positive role models in professional occupational backgrounds. If you’re from a low socio-economic background you might feel disadvantaged because of any of the following:

  • Having a low income
  • Non-professional parental background
  • Regional accents
  • Education
  • Being in care
  • Having personally been, or having family, in the justice system
  • Being on benefits

There are many reasons why you might come from a low socio-economic background that leaves you feeling disadvantaged. There is no single type of disadvantage.

We are completely inclusive communities; if you want to contribute to making a difference then you are free to follow, join and participate in the work we do. You can follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our email updates to see what we are up to. We will regularly send opportunities for you to get involved and we’ll share our individual stories so you don’t feel alone in your experiences.


Fast Stream Opportunity Network – @FSOppNetwork

Civil Service Opportunity Network – @CSOppNetwork


Just go here and fill out your details:


What we will do


We want to promote the diversity of potential individuals across the Civil Service have and break the stereotypical image of a ‘Fast Streamer’. We want to celebrate and champion differences in background and the variety of skills that brings to the Civil Service. We will do this by:

  • Supporting outreach work, targeting socio-economically disadvantaged groups.


We want to remove any barriers – including psychological – to entry and progression as a result of someone’s background. We want to break the vicious cycle of disadvantage by ensuring people are able to gain new experiences, face stretching challenges and advance their development because they have the potential to go further. We will do this by:

  • Working with stakeholders such as Civil Service Resourcing to improve the Fast Stream experience for this group including the application process, training and postings.


We envision a Civil Service that is truly representative and better integrated with wider society. We want to see a Senior Civil Service that role models diversity. Conscious and unconscious bias must be addressed wherever it is, such as with regards to accents, education and background. We will do this by:

  • Working with partners with similar aims.
  • Representing this group of Fast Streamers to partners.


All Civil Servants should feel comfortable being themselves and truly able to bring their whole self to work. All Civil Servants must have good awareness and understanding of difference and diversity and the barriers that people can face. We will do this by:

  • Facilitating socials, support groups and targeted learning and development opportunities.
  • Support similar work in other development opportunities such as the Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme


How you can help 

If you want to get involved all we need is a commitment to our purpose.

We want to foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness and openness. This will mean an environment where anyone can be honest and not subject to judgement of any kind. We must all avoid being dismissive of the experiences and views of others and encourage contributions from everybody.

Where experiences are shared we ask that Chatham House rules be observed unless otherwise stated. Individuals will be able to state their consent if they’re happy for experiences to be associated with them personally, or if they would prefer their experiences to not be shared at all, and those wishes must be respected at all times.

We are just getting started so there will be plenty of opportunities to get involved.

The FSON community will grow and change in line with the needs of Fast Streamers who face socioeconomic disadvantage. The network welcomes feedback and input from its membership at any time.


Get in touch

You can leave a comment below, send us a message on Twitter or if you prefer you can email confidentially.