The impact of our programmes

Riaz Shah, Partner, EY

"Common Purpose’s proposition around leadership and Cultural Intelligence is cutting edge, speaking to the heart of the leadership challenge of society today."

In 2017, Common Purpose delivered programmes for 5,060 leaders

In 55 cities

They came from 116 countries

Representing 1,182 organizations and 55 universities

They join over 75,000 Common Purpose Alumni worldwide

Adirupa Sengupta (Chief Executive, Common Purpose Asia-Pacific and Interim CEO India) talks us through Common Purpose's impact in 2017.

Impact on Professionals

Senior leaders

We deliver programmes for senior leaders who hold established leadership roles.


of senior leaders say our programmes have helped them develop inclusive leadership skills
96% say they are better able to Lead Beyond Authority
87% say they have grown their Cultural Intelligence


of senior leaders say our programmes have helped them gain broader networks
95% say they are better able to work in collaboration
93% say they are better able to build relationships


of senior leaders say our programmes have helped them make better decisions
93% say they are better able to thrive in complexity
93% say their ability to confront blind spots has improved


of senior leaders say our programmes have enabled them to drive bold innovation
92% say they are able to think the unthinkable
94% say they are better able to leverage diversity

Charles Asiedu, Managing Director, Ecobank

Prior to CSCLeaders 2016, Charles Asiedu, Managing Director at Ecobank, Malawi, was searching for ways to create a bigger impact – not only in his organization, but also in society. That year, his home country Malawi had faced severe hunger crises following adverse weather conditions, which negatively affected the production of maize, the staple food of the country. That meant having to import cereals at prohibitive costs in order to feed the population.

During his time on the programme, Charles, who was a quick thinker and used to acting immediately, saw the need to slow down and assess the problem to find an effective solution. He decided to take on the hunger issue using the things he learned about collaboration at CSCLeaders.

“I engaged the government agency responsible for the food procurement and suggested a collaborative approach involving the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the agency and Ecobank to resolve the food crisis. We brought the partners together and, after sharing what role we each thought we could play, together we designed a solution. Now we are mobilizing $50 million to support the importation of maize to help feed eight million Malawians. Prior to CSCLeaders I wouldn’t have thought more broadly about bringing in other partners to handle the crisis.

“Collaboration – I thought I knew it and practiced it but now I understand the real meaning and potential impact on society.”


Nyimas Azizah Airin Aziz, Development Manager Group, PT Bank Negara Indonesia (Persero)

Airin leads a team tasked with implementing social and developmental projects for Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), in Sumenep, East Java.

As task force leader, Airin holds multiple roles requiring her to build teams with the skills to work effectively in diverse communities. This is where learnings from the ASEAN Leaders Programme strengthened her hand.

“Leveraging the experiences and knowledge that I gained from participating in the ASEAN Leaders Programme, I had a new confidence to lead and manage the team to become the best performance achievers in East Java (a National area) for Micro Financing for Farmers, as well as for distributing Farming Cards. As a result of the programme, I was more open to listening to ideas from others within the team, and outside; to identify and locate bottle necks; and ensure a win-win strategy for all. Initially, the challenges to implement the programme appeared insurmountable, but by building trust, maintaining a constant flow of communication, and continually engaging with diverse parties, we pulled it off.”

According to Airin, recognizing the benefits of engaging with diverse groups of people, was a key learning from the programme, and a game changer at work. It drove her to develop a model framework to collaborate with multiple, influential groups, and community leaders, across sectors governing farming practices in Indonesia.

“I’m glad I was a part of the ASEAN Leaders Programme. It enriches your experience and learning journeys, helps you get to know more about yourself, improves the quality of your life, as well as teaches you how to influence, deal with, and engage better with those around you.”

Felix Loh, Chief Executive, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

"Through CSCLeaders, I have seen that the most innovative solutions are usually high-touch (human touch). We have observed that when the design team involves everyone from the horticultural, marketing, procurement, engineering as well as the frontline staff, it often results in more robust and creative outcomes."

Emerging leaders

We run programmes for emerging leaders in the early-mid stages of their career.


of emerging leaders say our programmes have helped them develop inclusive leadership skills
92% say they are better able to Lead Beyond Authority
90% say they have grown their Cultural Intelligence


of emerging leaders say our programmes have helped them gain broader networks
93% say they are better able to work in collaboration
93% say they are better able to build relationships


of emerging leaders say our programmes have helped them make better decisions
88% say they are better able to thrive in complexity
94% say their ability to confront blind spots has improved


of emerging leaders say our programmes have enabled them to drive bold innovation
88% say they are able to think the unthinkable
97% say they are better able to leverage diversity
Professor Monder Ram OBE, Director, Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham

“Common Purpose is the organization par excellence, with the mission to put diversity at the heart of the leadership debate. What it does in practice—and in terms of walking the talk—is bring people from different communities, different sectors, different generations together to address the challenge and opportunity of leadership. I can’t conceive of any organization that does that better.”

Leslie Perry, UK Head of Conduct Risk, UBS

Leslie joined the streetwise mba programme last year, a programme that develops leaders to become inclusive and agile, with the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) to work more effectively with diverse colleagues.

“The programme was very important because that put a framework around our discussions and what we cover. What I think that Common Purpose did so well was ensuring the diversity of the group of people they put together.”

Throughout the streetwise mba, participants explore CQ. They use the Core and Flex® Framework to digest their learning, explore their own cultures and translate this learning into leadership behaviours.

“I think I’m so open minded, I try to be politically correct. I try to be sensitive to other people’s views and opinions, so I did not think I really needed to work on anything. But only because I had the streetwise mba experience I realized that I sometimes have more bias than I realize. Even in the expectation that I’m expecting people to act the way I do.

“One important aspect that I took away was the importance of not assuming that you’re getting it right and the value of having courageous conversations with people to evaluate whether or not your attempt at being culturally sensitive is even working.”

Ololade Raji, Senior Manager, Accenture

Ololade’s passion is to find solutions to address the prevalent hunger epidemic in African cities. He leads a team of analysts, who explore opportunities to create an African Agricultural Exchange Programme to assist entrepreneurs in Nigeria. After participating in the Africa Venture, Ololade used collaborative and leadership skills developed on the programme to pursue his interest in regenerative agricultural practices further, with investments in local crop farming. The programme also enabled him to develop his Cultural Intelligence to work fluidly and flexibly across Africa.

“Emotional intelligence is vital for personal development but Cultural Intelligence is more important for effective leadership.”

Ololade also owns fish farms in Iyesi-Otta, located in the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria. Here, he has made considerable efforts to understand local upstream farming pain points; become an active player in the sector; and to deploy the use of technology to provide workable agricultural solutions. In these efforts, he found his learnings on Cultural Intelligence helpful as he worked together with multiple people, with varied levels of knowledge, and expertise.

In the coming months, Ololade has fixed his eye on new targets—food processing, and harnessing industry knowledge to help reduce food-waste, and optimize the food production process. Like with his achievements in past ventures, Olalade aims to leverage diversity and utilize collaborative work in order to make these new targets a reality.

Impact on Organizations

Norman McKinley, Executive Director of UK Operations, British Red Cross

“Leadership development is a critical part of the British Red Cross Inclusion and Diversity strategy. One of the steps that we have taken to promote this has been through a partnership with Common Purpose to deliver development programmes on inclusive leadership and Cultural Intelligence. Taking part in the streetwise mba and an online version of this programme has helped our emerging leadership to take courageous steps to work effectively across boundaries, and has created more dialogue about inclusion across the organization.” 

BNP Paribas partnered with Common Purpose to create Connections—an experiential learning programme for its senior leaders. The aim of the programme is to help leaders cross boundaries to become better equipped to drive bold innovation.

Connections provided an opportunity for BNP Paribas employees to engage with senior leaders from a range of cross-sector organizations in Hong Kong and Singapore. The programme provided participants with insights into building an innovative mindset by learning from organizations operating within this crucial hub.

“BNP Paribas is undergoing transformation and change as we march towards our 2020 ambitions. The need to culturally transform and prepare our employees is critical for connectivity and innovation in this journey.

“Connections allows our leaders to have a first-hand exposure through real-life examples and immersions with industry leaders and organizations who have experienced disruption or are disrupting. The learning on Cultural Intelligence and the benefits of collaborations are absolutely invaluable in building our bank for the future. We believe this programme has opened new avenues in the minds of our people to be able to re-think both the present and the future.”

Angelo Pinto, Regional Head of Learning & Development, and Head of APAC Campus, BNP Paribas

ECE Projektmanagement G.m.b.H. & Co. KG partnered with Common Purpose to create and run “Who, if not me – step up to take responsibility”, a series of leadership workshops for all ECE management levels (in cooperation with one of ECE’s partners in management consulting). The aims were to emphasize the substantial connection between leadership and self-responsibility and to develop ECE’s leadership culture more towards cross-departmental and entrepreneurial thinking.

Members of all management levels and divisions participated in the various workshop groups. The ability to listen to other leaders’ needs from within the company, learn from each other, share perspectives and build a common understanding of leadership responsibilities across organizational borders were key to the concept. Experiential learning methods provided unexpected insights into social organizations focusing on issues such as homelessness, poverty, mental or physical health and end-of-life-care. In unfamiliar contexts, ECE leaders were equipped with new impulses for their daily work and gained a broader sense of leading beyond their formal authority.

“As a Common Purpose graduate, I have been in touch with Common Purpose for many years. Their vision of ‘Leading Beyond Authority’ is inspiring and perfectly matched my expectations regarding an innovative leadership programme for our management. Graduates are more likely to critically reflect on their leadership. Besides, they turn out to be more passionate about taking responsibility – for themselves and others. Their feedback was enthusiastic. They highly recommended the programme to others and so we finally ran 15 workshops. “Who, if not me” made a significant contribution to ECE’s leadership development.”

Barbara Hatzer, formerly Head of HR Development & Marketing, ECE Projektmanagement G.m.b.H. & Co. KG , Hamburg

Ilka Dunne, Leadership, Culture and Young Talent, Corporate and Investment Banking, Rand Merchant Bank

“Common Purpose has partnered with us on a range of programmes for the bank, including our NGO leadership network, our Manager Programme and on various team sessions. Common Purpose is an organization with a long track record in running deep and meaningful engagements around leadership, both in society and within business, and this experience shows clearly in the quality of the work they deliver. They are always open to co-creating a programme that truly fits the place, system and people and therefore are able to deliver initiatives that deliver on some of the most subtle of outcomes.”

In 2017, we ran experiential online programmes for organizations including

British Red Cross
JPMorgan Chase
University of Hong Kong

“Great thought provoking online Cultural Intelligence programme. My take away is: ‘always seek alternative stories’ #DevelopingCQ”
Dave Spencer, College of Policing, UK

92% of participants that took part in the British Red Cross online programme said they felt better equipped with the skills to create an inclusive culture

In 2017, Common Purpose partnered with JPMorgan Chase India to create an experiential and immersive learning experience for its leaders. The aim of the programme was to give them the opportunity to deeply engage with non-profit organizations in India.

The leadership programme incorporated experiential learning and a unique curriculum that blends online and offline methods to help the participants start thinking differently, and outside their own areas of specialism and formal authority. The virtual phase consisted of two half-days using a virtual platform. The online programme helped them to understand how to work better with the non-profit sector and set the context of the non-profit sectors in India and the socio-political impact of their work.

Feedback posted by participants included:

“This programme taught me to appreciate the ability of people to work and achieve in a highly constrained environment.”

“The bonding with others during the course of the programme has opened my eyes, mind and heart to cultural differences. The immersion workshop at the sites with the NGO has also helped me identify and acknowledge the extensive diversity in our culture. I am better prepared to handle cultural differences now.”

“I have seen value in seeking multiple views and thoughts, especially from a diverse group who have the ability to come up with something very radical and different.”

The JPMorgan Chase India team worked with SNEHA (Society for Nutrition Education & Health Action), a non-profit organization that works with women, children and public health and safety systems. SNEHA shared their thoughts on the collaboration with JPMorgan Chase India:

“The JPMorgan Chase team was instrumental in providing SNEHA with excellent inputs in key domains of finance and HR. Their inputs on the cost effectiveness of our mobile health van service will also be very useful to inform government on the effectiveness of such a model.”

Impact on Students and Universities


We partner with leading universities and global organizations to run leadership programmes for students.


of students say our programmes have helped them develop inclusive leadership skills
94% say they are better able to Lead Beyond Authority
95% say they have grown their Cultural Intelligence


of students say our programmes have helped them gain broader networks
97% say they are better able to work in collaboration
96% say they are better able to build relationships


of students say our programmes have helped them make better decisions
93% say they are better able to thrive in complexity
93% say their ability to confront blind spots has improved


of students say our programmes have enabled them to drive bold innovation
91% say they are able to think the unthinkable
96% say they are better able to leverage diversity
Rakesh Khurana, Dean, Harvard College

"In our ever more complex and interconnected world which has no obvious historical parallel, Common Purpose has developed a breakthrough idea about the importance of Cultural Intelligence (CQ) in order to navigate both this new world and its contradictions. It has important implications and raises questions about our current systems for those of us involved in educating and developing our future global citizens."

Abi Rajkumar, Student, The Australian National University

In 2017, Common Purpose partnered with Westpac Bicentennial Foundation to deliver a bespoke seven month leadership programme as part of the Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship.

One of these scholars, Abi Rajkumar, a student at the Australian National University, was interested in understanding the significant role culture plays in cross-state negotiations, and how to ensure positive change for individuals across the globe.

“As an Australian with Sri Lankan heritage, I’ve never quite been Australian enough, or Sri Lankan enough, to identify completely with either nationality—I finally realized I was not alone. Sharing stories of embarrassments, uncertainty and moments of clarity made me realize how important it is to make a conscious effort to understand the idiosyncrasies of other cultures, and varying understandings that have stemmed from differing contexts. Not understanding one another, and not actually trying to, continues to tear our societies apart. In a world plagued by genocide, racism and ongoing abuses of power, culturally intelligent leadership is not just useful—it is vital.

“Our personal understandings of truth and reality that we hold so close to our hearts can be deeply destructive to our ability to see the world in different lights, our ability to lead, and to ensure better outcomes for a collective. Perhaps my biggest take away was understanding that leading is about caring. Sometimes, that simply means standing back and listening to what is happening around you.

“In just four days, we made the conscious effort to ‘try on different leadership shoes’. We learnt from each other, we helped each other face some of our biggest fears and amongst all the craziness, we grew closer together—and I couldn’t have been more wrong about how powerful a leadership programme can be.”

“Westpac is delighted to be partnering with Common Purpose to deliver the Westpac Asian Exchange Leadership Programme. Working with an organization who truly values the importance of cross-cultural intelligence has enabled us to design a development programme that nurtures Asia-capable leaders of the future. Seeing the impact the 2018 programme has had on the Westpac Scholars demonstrates how valuable immersive learning can be. In Singapore they had a rare opportunity to develop their Cultural Intelligence in a very practical setting. Also having the chance to reflect on themselves and their leadership capabilities was highly valuable. After just four days there was a marked difference across the entire group.”

Susan Bannigan, CEO, Westpac Bicentennial Foundation 

We worked with 55 universities, including

Harvard University
King’s College London
National University of Singapore
University of Chicago
University of Hong Kong

2,702 students participated in our programmes

“I can use the skills I have learnt to be more inclusive and a better leader. This will help me make more informed decisions and take into consideration the perspectives of different people.”

Nuradila Sadimin, Student, National University of Singapore

Jason Lane, Executive Director, SUNY Academic & Innovative Leadership Institute

“SUNY partners with Common Purpose to provide a unique leadership experience for students to build relationships with each other and learn how to drive innovation in the New York City environment. As a result of the Global Leader Experience, our students examined their own biases, strengthened their individual leadership networks and created new relationships that have outlasted the weeklong programme. The experience proved to be transformational for the student participants.”

Joy Pamnani, Student, University of Hong Kong

“I was a participant of the University of Hong Kong - Common Purpose Leadership Development Programme this summer. This programme truly changed my life: it gave me exposure in leadership and provided opportunities to explore a new city and to meet wonderful people.

“I’ve learnt about myself as a leader and experienced different contexts in which to practice leadership. It was much easier to be a leader back in high school, because not many people were eager to take up the responsibility. In addition, we all came from similar backgrounds and communication was almost never an issue. This programme was a chance to communicate with people across cultures, with different academic backgrounds and walks of life in general. 

“More than learning about myself, I really cherish the friendships I’ve made along the way. For me, opening up to a group of people has always been an obstacle in forming friendships. The programme gave me an opportunity to spend more time with other students and I found myself opening up to a group of friends.

“I am so grateful for the wonderful friendships I know I’ll cherish for life. I’m grateful to the Common Purpose team and the University of Hong Kong team for organizing this programme.”

“International opportunities are so important as they broaden our students’ horizons. HKU students are likely to work and live in mainland China and overseas after they have graduated, and we want to prepare them for that. We’re committed to developing our students’ leadership skills, and the leadership dimension of the Common Purpose offering, with a focus on leading across boundaries, really delivers on that.”

Ian Holliday, Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning), The University of Hong Kong

Impact on Cities and Society

Shajan Miah, Founder, Teach Skills International

Shajan Miah lost his beloved sister, Khela Begum, when she was only 12 years old. The terrible tragedy has shaped his life’s mission – to inspire a new generation of young people of Bangladesh as a tribute to his sister.

In November 2015, Shajan attended the Pakistani and Bangladeshi Diaspora Leaders Programme. The programme, supported by the British Council, is focused on helping the many Bangladeshi and Pakistani diaspora leaders to build their capacity to contribute to development in their home countries.

The programme provided Shajan with the opportunity to create an inspiring vision and set clear, compelling goals to achieving his mission. He became inspired to take risks and step out of his comfort zone.

Shajan decided to take a six-month career break after the programme ended. He spent that time in Bangladesh to set up the non-profit organization Teach Skills International, an educational agency that provides talks, workshops and full-day activities for schools, colleges and university students. It aims to teach students the skills they need for the jobs of the future. Over the past few years, Teach Skills International has engaged 140 schools in Bangladesh and developed a partnership with other non-profit organizations and the Bangladeshi government.

“I understood that to be a great leader it was vital that I was on the ground using my leadership skills, resources and commitment to drive and deliver the best results for all stakeholders. It was brilliant to explore my own current challenges during the programme. I really appreciated the support from the other diaspora leaders and finding out about their ideas too helped provide me with some new insights.”

Will Somerville, UK Director, Unbound Philanthropy

“We supported Common Purpose because we were impressed by their programmes for diaspora leaders. What was most inspiring was the quality of the people taking part, and the way that the programmes unleashed their creativity and new energy to tackle the challenges in their communities in the UK, and their countries of origin. The value that diaspora leaders can bring was really evident.”

In 2017, we delivered programmes for leaders from African, Syrian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi diaspora communities

Over 3,000 leaders opened their doors and volunteered their time to contribute on our programmes

Seán Mullan, Founder & Director, Third Space

“Back in the “noughties” my life in a Dublin suburb was quiet and reasonably predictable. I had worked for twenty years in leadership of a faith community and in a variety of voluntary roles in the community sector. Then in my forties I felt I was “doing my bit” and enjoying it. I was keen to lead and open to challenge but safe in my familiarity with a sector I understood.

“An invitation to one of the early Common Purpose programmes in Dublin in 2005 changed that. I was exposed to the city as a whole, to sectors I had never given much thought to and to people I would normally never have met. I worked with leaders from finance, government, education and business and discovered how little I really knew about the city. That programme proved to be a wind of change that led me in a new direction.

“Six years after the programme finished I opened the doors of a social enterprise centred on hospitality. Third Space seeks to change the city around the table. It is a financially self-sustaining business that mixes top-notch urban hospitality with many additional community benefits. These include space for local community initiatives, social employment programmes, financial support for small causes in the area and a welcoming “hub” for the local workers and residents. With 25 staff and hundreds of regular customers in our two venues, Third Space crosses the sectors of the city and exists to promote the wellbeing of the city. And I’m still meeting people from across the city’s many sectors—they’re coming through our doors every day.”

RONALD ARCULLI, Senior Partner, King & Wood Mallesons, Hong Kong

"Common Purpose is quite unique in that it provides a cross-sector platform to engage, empower and inspire people from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors to combine efforts and make cities work better."

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