Common Purpose

Itijah is a leadership development programme that expands, enriches and energises relations between European and Arab cities.

The programme

Itijah, meaning "direction" in Arabic, brings together leaders from European and Arab cities to learn and work together in a fresh and exciting way, and as a result develop innovative approaches to new - and old - problems.

The programme is aimed at people in the mid to senior stages of their career with a track record of leadership and success in their fields and professions. They explore the context of the challenge in greater detail before working up ideas (whether big or small) to feed back to the Advisory Group.

To date, we have run three programmes - in Abu Dhabi, Amman and Doha. 107 future leaders (41% of them women) have taken part from cities as diverse as Abu Dhabi, Alexandria, Amman, Amsterdam, Benghazi, Budapest, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London and Manchester, and Tripoli.

Who is it for?

The participants

Itijah helps participants to:

  • grow as leaders, by exposing them to people who lead differently
  • develop their Cultural Intelligence by showing them how another country or city works, then throwing them into a difficult task with a very diverse group
  • build new networks, by giving them access to participants and contributors they might otherwise never meet
  • stretch their analytical and creative skills, by exposing them to a new approach to innovation
  • develop their influencing skills, by putting them in front of senior decision makers to present their findings.
Who has attended Itijah before
  • a strategy consultant from an international professional services firm
  • a programme lead in the health service
  • a desk editor in the national media
  • a programme manager in the public sector
  • a freelance producer and artist
  • an asset manager in the petroleum industry
  • a programme officer for a world leading economic development organisation
  • a senior sales consultant for a large engineering company.
Richard Goodfellow, Partner, Addleshaw Goddard LLP

"The concept of Itijah is inspiring and when we see future generations, they will find it extraordinary that people who have never met from such diverse backgrounds can reach quick and innovative consensus on some of the hardest issues that Arab and European culture face."

The Challenge

The Annual Challenge

On each programme, the participants are immersed in a challenge and work together to come up with ideas and recommendations relevant to the challenge.The challenge is set by the Itijah Advisory Group and is always:

  • a compelling issue for leaders that is common to both the Europe and the Arab world
  • significant and wide-reaching in its impact but contained in its focus to ensure the participant group can explore and present feasible and meaningful solutions.

Each year another challenge will be selected for that year's participants to investigate.

This year's Itijah Challenge

Past challenges include:

  • 2014: For every 10 million euros invested in legacy events, how can we ensure that 100 direct jobs are generated by and for young people in business and social enterprises?

  • 2013: "As water becomes increasingly scarce the importance of how it is managed grows exponentially. What innovative solutions can be developed to create a balanced ecosystem within cities that would lead to a 40% increase in effective water management by 2030?"

  • 2012: What would it take to multiply the number of young people who create new businesses using ICT and social media?

Ideas produced by participants

In 2014, Itijah led to the creation of the following new innovative ideas:


A legacy event turned into an opportunity to create lasting memories and relationships between the host and the visitors by sharing personal time and resources. Hosts will offer accommodation, barbecue parties, cultural excursions like boating, exploring the desert, hunting with falcons, etc. to visitors. Visitors will experience an unforgettable time together with their hosts.


The project has two main objectives; encouraging young Qataris to follow local mentors in becoming ambitious achievers and (later on) role-models in six fields of excellence ("I am Qatar") and changing the international perception of Qatar standing "just" for energy into a world class hub for art & culture, modern technology and sports ("Made in Qatar"). Some of these youth will start projects that have the potential to become global organisations with outlets, factories, research centres and laboratories around the Middle East, but inspired by Qatar.

World Event Platform

This is an online database that uses Big Data technology to provide information about jobs, business, training and events for countries that are hosting world events. The platform with contain the lessons learnt from previous events in other countries and will also include a live platform of business, trends, jobs etc that are ongoing. The platform will provide a beneficial tool for governments, job seekers, organisations (private, public and not-for-profit sector organisations), enterprises and the main players such as FIFA and the Olympics in order for them to share and improve for every world event.

New Industry

The aim is to bring attention to the solar industry in Qatar and to research and develop the manufacturing capabilities of the country. To do this they will make solar energy a priority in every Qatar 2022 project and bring multiple stakeholders from Qatar and the Solar Industry together. Solar energy is already big in Qatar with panels being used to power air-conditioning for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Application process

The dates for the next Itijah programme have not yet been set.

The process

Applications are invited from exceptional leaders in the mid stages of their careers who are keen to develop as they move towards more senior roles within their organisations or sectors. Applicants need to demonstrate:

  • a track record of leadership
  • ability to work with a diverse group to solve complex problems
  • commitment to engage with wider society/public life
  • interest in the UK/India dimension of the network.

All applications are reviewed by the Itijah Advisory Group after which some applicants may be invited to an interview.

The cost

No information currently available.


Applicants who cannot pay the full fee should not be deterred from applying. There are a few part-scholarship places available for applicants who can demonstrate a clear need for financial assistance and who are unable to meet the full fee. Requests for scholarships can be made via the application form but if you would like to discuss this further then please contact the Itijah team.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or would like any more information, please get in touch. 

Alison Coburn
Chief Executive
Common Purpose International

T: +44 207 608 8128