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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Future we Want

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 in business, government, civil society and academia about our long-term collective future.

Together we are exploring 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. 


Global call for leadership questions

In May 2020 CISL invited members of its international network to identify the biggest questions to be addressed by decision-makers in order to find in the pandemic an unparalleled opportunity to shift towards a sustainable economy. The Future we Want call for questions invited participants to allocate questions to one of five categories - changes to our economic models, leadership, protecting and restoring nature, decarbonisation, and social inclusion - pinpointing tensions in the system, with a view to informing how the post-pandemic world can be sustainable. We received nearly 1,000 questions from our global network, with many calling for decision-makers to think holistically about the consequences of their actions. 


Future we Want leadership discussions

These questions informed the Future we Want leadership discussion series with leading thinkers from business, finance, government and academia. Approaching this from a systems perspective, these debates aim to shine a light on the choices that need to be made, both now and in the long term for the future we want.


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. We look forward to having you join us in unpacking the critical questions that move us towards the Future we Want.