Young Thought Leaders 2024


The Young Thought Leaders Programme is an initiative by the Henry Jackson Society, which aims to identify and celebrate promising young talent in the world of thought leadership on security and foreign affairs.

We work to promote new research from individuals of exceptional promise in our areas of focus: securing our societies at home; and advancing the free world.

Since its foundation, the Henry Jackson Society has worked tirelessly for the principles and alliances that keep societies free. As we continue to carry this vital work forward, we are delighted to take this opportunity to celebrate the talent, passion and insight of a new generation.


In 2023, to inaugurate the Young Thought Leaders Programme, the Henry Jackson Society published a paper by Sophia Browder, a young student who conducted a wide-ranging analysis of the rising levels of political criminal poisonings in recent years.

Sophia’s comprehensive paper offered a valuable resource to policymakers, with recommendations on how both dissidents and health systems can manage the dangers.

This year, we are seeking applications from interested authors on a new topic: what we call the Big Question. Initial proposals will be considered and a shortlist will then be asked to write a draft paper of 5,000 words, which will be judged by a panel including Professor Brendan Simms of Cambridge University. The author with the best paper will have their report professionally edited and published and it will be launched at an event in the Palace of Westminster in December 2024.


Young Thought Leaders 2024: The Big Question

In an increasingly dangerous geostrategic environment, and as a new anti-democratic axis begins to form, how should liberal democracies renew the post-war global institutions to support freedom, human rights and democracy?

This is a broad question with many possible approaches. We are looking for proposals that address a single, focused aspect in a practical and original manner.

For example, one approach would be to pick an existing institution (eg, the UN, or NATO), and to suggest a specific programme of reform and ideas for how these might be implemented. These can be radical, but they must be practical and you must be able to show why these reforms would help better defend the democratic world.

Another approach would be to call for a new institution. Perhaps a new grouping of democracies, or as has been proposed, an economic NATO to counter Chinese authoritarianism. Or perhaps a more recent initiative, such as the AUKUS defence pact, can be expanded into a wider role. As above, the important thing is to propose an original, detailed and workable plan to make your idea, whatever it is, a reality.

Initial proposals are a maximum of 800 words. They should present both a focused idea that answers the question and also your plan for how you would conduct additional research to expand the proposal into a 5,000-word paper which makes detailed recommendations for the implementation of your idea. For example, last year Sophia Browder analysed historical poisonings to show there was a recent rise, and then studied individual case studies in order to develop recommendations on how to protect dissidents in the future.

Explain your methodology. Will you conduct interviews, or study previous reform initiatives? Is there some quantitative data you can draw on or collect? Will you compile insights from existing literature in a new way? How can you use research to show a reader why this idea matters now and that your reform agenda is workable?

We also want to hear why you think your idea should be a top priority for the free world, and why publishing your report could make a real political impact and gain media attention.


Entry conditions

  • Applicants must be aged 18-25 years. They must have turned 18 by midnight on Sunday 9 June 2024 and not have turned 26 before midnight on 31 December 2024.
  • All entries must be written in English.
  • All entrants must be able to travel to Westminster in December 2024 for the launch of their paper if selected.
  • Entrants are responsible for all conflicts of interests they may have. By entering they declare that they have no conflicts of interest, that their entry is original and their own work and that, if selected, the Henry Jackson Society is free to publish and publicise the report under the entrant’s name, and that the entrant will agree to take part in person in the public launch event and assist with any media opportunities that may arise as a consequence.
  • Entry is by submission of a proposal through the online entry form by midnight on Sunday 9 June. Those shortlisted will be notified on Monday 1 July, and the shortlisted entrants will be asked to write a draft paper based on their proposal of no more than 5,000 words (not including footnotes), which must be submitted by midnight on Monday 30 September. Judging will take place in October, and the decision of the judges is final. You accept that if you are selected as the winner you will work with the Henry Jackson Society to edit and refine your draft paper to prepare it for publication.



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