Dishaa, Itijah and Dao Xiang

A series of city-to-city programmes that are designed to connect future leaders across the world (all the programme names translate into English as "direction").

Dishaa patron, David Cameron

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron's message to the participants of the first Dishaa programme, January 2011

The programmes

Dishaa runs between India and the UK; Itijah between European and Arab cities; and Dao Xiang between London and Shanghai.

Mariam Al Afridi, Director, Exporters' Services, Dubai Exports

"The course curriculum and delivery were amazing. Comparing it to many leadership programs I have been to in Harvard and Wharton, this was the best! I have concrete take outs and a clear action plan of what is next."

Bringing cities, countries and leaders together

The programmes deepen the participants' knowledge by experiencing how another city or country works; gives them access to a peer-group and leaders they might otherwise never meet; and develops both their Cultural Intelligence and their ability to think creatively under pressure.

Programme objectives

The programmes will:

  • build links - at a very practical level - between future leaders across the world
  • help those leaders to work more effectively together and identify new approaches to complex problems
  • develop a greater ability to thrive in multiple cultures and build long-lasting relationships across the globe.

The programmes help participants to:

  • broaden and deepen their knowledge by experiencing how another city or country works
  • develop their Cultural Intelligence - the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures
  • build new networks by giving them access to a peer-group and leaders that they might otherwise never meet
  • develop their problem-solving and influencing skills by throwing them into a complex challenge, with a diverse group, under pressure
  • stretch their analytical and creative skills by exposing them to new approaches to innovation.
The approach

An Advisory Group of established leaders from the participating cities, regions or countries identify a common and compelling challenge for each programme which is both big (enough to be worth the effort) and small (enough to be grasped). This could be in health or transport; dealing with frustrated youth or quality in education; about internal and external disconnects; about building upwards or outwards; or struggling with water or energy.

Over a four day intervention, participants are guided through the process of creativity and innovation, and immersed into the challenge. The programmes follow a four-stage process to enable them to tackle the challenge.

Programme structure

The four days in more detail, using the first Dishaa (held in Pune, India) as an example:

Introduction to each other, the challenge and the process of innovation

The participant group discuss what they bring to the challenge (heart surgery at $1,000 - what has to change in how society operates and innovates to make this a reality?), the insights gained from stakeholder interviews, and considered leadership 'blind spots' - what prevents us from innovating? They learn more about the challenge and the process of innovation from external contributors and each other.

Immersion in the challenge

Participants spend the day exploring the different aspects of the challenge - they meet leading experts and innovators in the field, and visit organisations to gain first-hand experience and begin to form their first ideas about how they could tackle the challenge.

The process of innovation

Through external contributors and group exercises the participants practice innovation and are introduced to the principles that guide the creation of new ideas and the prototypes that flow from them.

Creating solutions

Participants work in teams to refine and develop their ideas. Through consultations with their fellow participants and research they develop their solutions to present to the Advisory Group and invite guests knowledgeable in the field of healthcare.

Group work

During the week, participants work in small diverse teams as well as participating in the larger group sessions. It is in these smaller, more intimate sessions that they learn the importance of diversity in creating new ideas. They build bridges between nations and sectors, find areas of common interest to work on together and forge relationships that will continue to develop well beyond the end of the programme.

Responses to the Challenge

After the programme participants work up, publish and then present their ideas to policy makers and leaders in the different cities. They then work on their own ideas, individually and collectively, to build connections across the world.


As different programmes are run, alumni benefit from connections with an ever-growing international community.

Alumni continue to work on the solutions to the challenges they have come up with on their programme, refine their ideas, publish reports and and present their solutions to relevant policy makers.

In addition to this, they become part of the growing global Common Purpose alumni network of 48,000 - a group of people with an exceptional range of skills, interests and leadership experiences.

Read more information about the Common Purpose alumni community.