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The Future we Want: the most important questions for leaders in the current crisis and beyond

The Future we Want is an initiative of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), designed to promote a global conversation amongst leaders about our long-term collective future.

We are inviting leaders in business, government, civil society and academia to identify and debate the critical questions that need to be answered in order to enhance our understanding and improve decision-making to secure the Future we Want.


The shock to the global system caused by Covid-19 means that the decade earmarked for delivering transformational change to get our climate on track for net zero by 2050 and deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals takes on wholly new possibilities. The pandemic has revealed the lack of resilience in a system that has already failed to meet the needs of millions of people, and is unprepared for future shocks driven by climate change and environmental degradation. It has also shown us how quickly and dramatically we can change our behaviours under pressure. 

This raises big questions about our established economic and societal norms and the steps we must take in order to emerge as a stronger and more resilient society; questions that leaders must now identify and address in order to build a sustainable future. 

Through this new initiative, CISL is inviting its global network of leaders from business, government, civil society and academia to pose and debate the big questions they think need answering if we are to collectively chart a course towards the future we want.


What is the Future we Want leadership platform?

In the light of the Covid-19 disruption, what are the most important questions that could enhance our understanding and improve decision-making in business, finance and government to help secure the future we want?

Through our work over the past 30 years, we have seen the positive impact of leaders across business, government and finance coming together to engage, debate and discuss with open minds the best routes to tackle global challenges. We have seen the impact of leadership that takes stock of the changing context, asks difficult questions that recognise the scale of change required, and seeks solutions equal to the challenge. Now, as we tackle one of the biggest global crises of our time, this approach is needed more than ever to ensure we do not sleepwalk into the next crisis; to ensure we, collectively, emerge from this stronger and more resilient, and ready for the road ahead. 

As a first step in this new initiative, CISL is inviting its global Network of leaders from business, government, civil society and academia to pose the questions they think need answering if we are to ’build back better’.

Our aim is to crowd-source questions from our Network that illustrate what is in the forefront of the minds of thousands of leaders at this particular moment; to inform and improve the quality of the debate; to shine a light on the choices that need to be made, both now and in the long term; and to explore some of the possible ways forward.

We are looking for questions which address system-level problems and lend themselves to healthy and transformational debate and discussion that will influence decision-makers now and in the future. 

Every question will be of interest to us as part of our research, and we will select questions in different categories to form the basis for a series of discussions and debates that CISL will host throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021.


What do we hope to achieve?

We will use the valuable insights yielded from the Future we Want to help inform our work for decision-makers in a range of organisations, including:

  • Multidisciplinary and informed perspectives that explore trade-offs and solutions associated with key strategic decisions that will be made by government, business and finance as economic activity resumes after Covid-19.
  • Insight into the impact of Covid-19 on key sustainability issues such as decarbonising the economy, restoring and protecting nature, and addressing inequality.
  • A repository of the strategic questions and potential solutions for leaders in the post Covid-19 reconstruction, informed by consultation with CISL’s international Network.
  • A steer for the wider academic research agenda on some of the biggest topics of our age.

Ultimately, we aim to provide a platform for leaders to debate and discuss the most important choices facing us as we build back better, to deliver the future we want. 


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