Common Purpose Student Experiences

HKU-Common Purpose Leadership Development Programme


The HKU-Common Purpose programme is an immersive experience that takes students out of their comfort zone and into a new city to develop their Cultural Intelligence (CQ): the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

  • Launch: Hong Kong, 15 – 16 March, 2017
  • Online Learning Platform: March – June, 2017
  • Manila Immersion: Manila 5 – 15 June, 2017
  • Project Implementation: Manila, 19 – 30 June, 2017
  • Jamboree: HKU Reading Week October, 2017 
Chan Huk Chun, Student, The University of Hong Kong

“Very impressed by this programme. I have met with different leaders from various sectors; this makes me more confident and know much more about the community. I am ready to be a leader now.” 

Learn more about the HKU - Common Purpose programme below

Programme Agenda

In March you will join the 100 selected students on campus for a one-day launch workshop. The workshop will prepare you for the Programme ahead; setting out the objectives and key milestones in the months between March and October. You will be placed into a pre-assigned group of 10 students from various backgrounds and disciplines; you will continue to work with this group throughout the entire Programme. You will also be matched with and meet your group’s Mentor: invited HKU alumni who will each support a group throughout the learning journey.

You will be invited to join Common Purpose’s online learning platform which will form your online base throughout the programme. To prepare for your immersion into a new culture, you will first complete an online module on Cultural Intelligence – the leadership approach that underpins your immersion in Manila and informs your learning through the subsequent phases.

Following the Cultural Intelligence online module, and in advance of your immersion in a new city, you will be introduced to the Common Purpose signature technique - ‘Power Dynamic’, and will begin to analyse the Power Dynamic of Hong Kong. This approach to understanding cities as systems will be picked up during the immersion in Manila, and is a tool for understanding a place that you can apply throughout your future lives and careers.

Days 1: Arrival, introduction to Manila and Power Dynamic

You will explore the power dynamic of the city, developing your own power maps of Manila that you will compare and contrast with the ones you produced for Hong Kong. You will see first-hand the issues the city is facing and engage with the key stakeholders who are working to address these issues. Each group will speak with their Mentor via video-conferencing, to agree shared objectives as a group during the two weeks of immersion and the subsequent two weeks of project implementation.

Days 2-3: Immersion into Manila’s urban issues

Over two days of immersion visits, you grapple with some of Manila’s most pressing challenges and latest innovations in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Days 4: Immersion in Manila's rural hinterland

To enrich your understanding of Manila, you undertake two days of immersion visits in the rural areas surrounding the city, contrasting rural with urban. With this first-hand insight, you will understand the pressures on the urban centre: the world’s most densely populated city. You will experience a complete contrast with the city itself, and understand the relationship and influence each space has over the other.

Day 5: Idea generation, testing and benchmarking

Following the immersion element, you will be guided through Common Purpose’s idea generation process, whereby in groups you distil all of the learning from the immersion phase and identify potential projects that would address your group’s chosen issue. You then take your ideas back out into the city to test and benchmark them, collecting feedback from the different sources you interview.

Days 6-7: Free time

Time off to explore Manila and the surrounding area.

Day 8: Masterclasses on project management

You participate in masterclasses on project management and planning, facilitated by experts from a range of fields, including professional services, the voluntary sector and the Civil Service. Based on the feedback you received during testing, and your understanding of the reality of planning a project, your group selects one project that it will take forward. 

Days 9-10: Project development

Each group has two days to gather more information, conduct interviews, visit different areas of the city and do independent research as necessary to finalise their project idea. Your group will have another video-conference with your Mentor, to update them on their learning so far and to outline the project they are planning to implement.

Day 11: Presentations and feedback

On the final day of project generation and development, the groups take it in turns to present the project that they are going to implement in the subsequent weeks. As part of the programme’s social media reach, each group will record a one-minute video launching their project concept, that would be shared by the students themselves and the University. In preparation for the next group-led phase, you will be guided through a facilitated reflection and feedback session – reflecting on your learning over the past two weeks and offering feedback to one another to enable you to work effectively as a group in the weeks that follow.

This is the time when you implement the projects you have been preparing the two weeks prior. You will keep your Mentors, the Gallant Ho Centre and the University of Hong Kong’s student community up to date with you progress through sharing updates on social media.

Your group will have two weeks to implement your project in Manila, sharing your progress via social media as you go. You will hold weekly video-conferences with your Mentor to check in on progress and troubleshoot challenges you might encounter.

Shuo Qian , Student, Peking University

“For me, this programme was an opportunity to see the reality and to be immersed within a country and its culture. The standout memory for me must be the session on Cultural Intelligence (CQ) on the first day of the programme. Although what we discussed seemed to be a simple model, it had a lot of relevance for us throughout the remainder of the week.” 

Mustak Ayub, Student, University of Oxford

“A unique opportunity to learn about the limitless options of leadership and bring positive change to society.” 

Common Purpose impact

Maria Natasha Tjahjadi, Student, National University of Singapore

“One of the most intense things I’ve done but also the most satisfying.” 

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 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.” 

Application process

To learn more about how to apply to the programme, please refer to the application timeline on HKU’s webpage, or go directly to the application form by clicking apply.