Common Purpose is 30

What will our legacy be? 


In 2030, Boston will be 400 years old and looking into its 401st year how will you shape your city’s future? What will be your legacy? Join Boston401…

The world is full of boundaries: between sectors, specializations, geographies, generations, backgrounds and beliefs. Boston, too, is full of boundaries and will not reach its true potential until we break through them. Boston401 aims to do this by bringing together the next generation of young, diverse leaders to establish relationships, facilitate crucial conversations, and collaborate around future solutions and address the question:  “What will we make our city known for by its 401st birthday?” 

The first program will be run in partnership with Boston University and will take place at their new Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground from April 16–18, 2020.

Kenn Elmore, Associate Provost and Dean of Students, Boston University

"Boston is a unique blend of a vibrant and historic city that truly lives up to its Hub nickname – we take the lead in science, politics, social change and innovation, among others. Now it’s time for us to make sure our vibrancy doesn’t grow stale, for our young people to feel that they can be full participants in a city, for us to maintain our status as the world’s hub of knowledge and ideas. The Boston401 program is a new way for us to engage around this charge."

Why Boston401?


What happens on the program?

Over three days, Boston401 participants will brainstorm, test, refine and present their visions for Boston. In the process, these young leaders will explore different geographic areas of the city to learn from established public, private, and non-profit leaders. They will investigate key issues, hold difficult conversations, and collaborate around tangible solutions for Boston.

On each program, around 50 established leaders from across the city will serve as group advisors, speakers and immersion hosts. They will be supporting the participants of Boston401 – and in doing so they will see the city through the eyes of others.


Over the next ten years, a diverse alumni group of over 1,000 leaders will emerge from the program who can think beyond today to forge Boston’s path for tomorrow. As advisors to established leaders in the city, they will express their vision for the city through local media and help shape Boston’s future. By 2030, ten big ideas will have emerged from the program from these young leaders which will be supported by established to make them a reality. Furthermore, Boston401 alumni will lead the initiative moving forward and cultivate the next group of young leaders with the same charge to look beyond the beginning of Boston’s fifth century. 


The application process for Boston401 involves answering three questions about your passion for leadership and your city. These questions can be answered by whichever means feels most comfortable to you, be it written, video submission, a piece of artwork, song or photograph – however you best feel you can express your desire to take responsibility for the legacy of Boston.

Boston401 is a partnership between Boston University and Common Purpose.

Boston401 will be Common Purpose’s second US legacy program. In April 2019, Common Purpose ran Chicago200, partnership with the Chicago Community Trust that asked a similar question of young leaders in the city. We convened an extremely diverse cohort of 18–24 year olds from across the city, for a powerful leadership experience that brought together established leaders with young Chicagoans and challenged them to work together to develop their vision for the city as it turns 200 in 2037.The curriculum also drew on perspectives from across different communities, sectors and generations of Chicago’s leaders, including a diverse range of immersions, from Chicago PD to an urban farm to Groupon. Click here for more information on Chicago200. 

Click here to see other legacy programs around the world.

Frank Lawrence Jr, Participant, Chicago200

"The program provided me with insight into Chicago’s young leaders and how those individuals were impacting change. I grow inspired at the thought of the program and am thankful to have had the opportunity to participate. I believe this will impact Chicago's future in significant ways.”


How much? FREE

Who can apply? Young leaders aged 18-24

When and Where? April 16–18, 2020, Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, Boston University