Policy Idol finalist Bakht Baryar tells his story

Bakht_PolicyIdolBakht Baryar was a final year BSc Political Economy student at King’s College London and a finalist at Policy Idol 2015.  His pitch titled “An anchor in Africa: the value of the state of Somaliland” won Bakht the award for Best Delivery at the competition.  In this blog post, to coincide with the launch of Policy Idol 2016, Bakht tells us why he decided to enter the competition and what it was like to take part.  You can read the details of Bakht’s pitch and watch his winning three minute pitch online.

When I entered Policy Idol 2015 I never believed that I could pitch an idea as unique as ‘Somaliland’s Independence’ on a public platform. Especially since a lot of people can’t even locate it on a map.  But Policy Idol was open to ideas from any field and any discipline – as long as it could be defended with a solid evidence base – so in April 2015 I found myself on stage at the final explaining the benefits of an independent Somaliland.

During the competition process I discovered a new me.  The training provided by the Policy Institute inspired my confidence and boosted my communication skills – something I believe played a big part of my success in the competition.  The skills in public speaking that I developed are immensely valuable to my personal and professional life. In particular, learning how to condense a complex idea into a 3 minute pitch without losing its core concepts or compromising on clarity.

The journey I took to the final of Policy Idol 2015 was tough but rewarding. The day of the first stage heat I was frantically practising my pitch in a hall of residence’s computer room. I could not decide what to wear and I managed to delete my presentation slides 45 minutes before I had to give my pitch! I quickly put another one together but I was certain that I wouldn’t get through the heat. But once I got in the room I was surprised by the friendliness of the judges and the atmosphere lifted my confidence.

After getting through the heat stage and being invited to the final, I started practising everyBakht_policyidol2 day to make sure I knew every detail of my pitch.  The day of the final came and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious. The Great Hall was packed with a lively audience and the set-up of the room was creating a great atmosphere.  My pitch ended up going really well and when the judges announced the results, I could not believe I had won the prize for best delivery, it was absolutely amazing.

Taking part in Policy Idol was originally the idea of one of my lecturers, who thought it would be a great opportunity following an internship I had just completed in Somalia. Based on this, I decided to pitch the idea that an independent and recognised Somaliland would serve as an anchor of peace and stability for East Africa. I focused on the role the United Kingdom could play to secure its strategic and economic interests in Africa by building on the colonial era ties with the local people of Somaliland.  Through this I believe that the British government could play a stabilising role bringing peace and prosperity to one of the world’s most volatile areas.

The experience of competing in Policy Idol has helped me develop critical thinking and communications skills. It improved my research skills and taught me how to communicate an idea in a short but captivating presentation. I would urge anyone at King’s to take part in the next Policy Idol to take advantage of the great opportunities that are on offer.

Policy Idol is a great idea and the credit for such a successful event has to go to the team at the Policy Institute at King’s. I hope that as the competition grows it will be extended to include applicants from other universities as it would be interesting to see students or staff from King’s pitch their skills against their contemporaries from other institutions.

Find out more about Policy Idol 2016 here.

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