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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

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The 21st Century will be shaped by system shocks. From population growth and urbanisation, to climate change and Covid-19, social, environmental and economic factors have never been more important.

Families are uniquely positioned to drive this change. They often have the longest planning cycle in the economy, with considerable efforts to prepare for the operating context in 2050 or even 2100.

Building on CISL’s work with family members and families over the past few years, we will launch our inaugural Multi-Generational Leadership Programme in March 2022. This will convene individuals from some of the world’s most influential families to find ways to understand these system shocks, identify what it means for their family and find ways to proactively deliver a sustainable economy.


"The more progressive families are consciously investing in themselves – building their capacity to lead change, but also learning how to unlearn, how to let go of their prevailing worldview or legacy behaviours, accepting the need sometimes to challenge the status quo, and taking stock of their values, their purpose and the contribution that they make to society through a fresh look at the notion of stewardship.”

Dame Polly Courtice DBE, LVO, Emeritus Director and Senior Ambassador, CISL


Watch CISL Founder and former Executive Director, Dame Polly Courtice, at the Family Business Conference in February 2021.


The Leadership Programme

The Multi-Generational Leadership Programme will convene an exclusive group of influential families to help them understand social, environmental and economic changes, the consequences on value and the impacts on their family and its stakeholders. The programme will focus on building the leadership capabilities for participants to proactively deliver a sustainable economy.

The programme is designed in three parts to optimise the learning experience:

  1. Exclusive online sessions with experts over the duration of the programme. Each session will be designed to be interactive, meeting the learner’s needs, advancing strategic thinking in key areas such as financial stewardship, climate change, income inequality and exploring key debates which will inform the quality of the societies in which we live.
  2. Work with peers in group assignments. Each group will meet four times over the duration of the programme in order to share ideas, test thinking and advance practice in a key area. Groups will be facilitated by an expert Cambridge Tutor and the topic will be agreed early in the process.
  3. Engage in deep immersive experiences. We recognise that each family member has different needs. Over the duration of the programme, participants will be able to engage in up to five one-to-one sessions with subject matter experts of their choice. These powerful sessions aim to help participants sharpen their thinking about big questions facing society, the implications for their own family and to inform their leadership practices.

In total, we anticipate that the programme will take 45 hours of learning.

To learn more, please download the brochure


Who should attend?

Families are complex. This programme is focused on family members who are not currently involved in the family business – individuals who are sometimes called future owners, next generation or family elders.

Participants should have:

  • Be a member of a globally influential family
  • Have had a leadership position – or be expected to take on a significant role – within the family, the family business or the community
  • Hold an undergraduate degree
  • Be proficient in English
  • Be willing to participate in an academic environment


Timeline and format

The programme will be held over a period of six months, with a start in March 2022, and will include a gala dinner in Cambridge, restrictions permitting. Over the course of the programme, participants will have allocated up to 45 hours of learning time through a combination of online sessions, group assignment work and one-to-one conversations with experts.


Learning outcomes

The programme will combine a range of learning formats in order to engage participants. By the end of the programme, participants will have:

  • Deepened their understanding of key social, environmental and economic indicators, including climate change, population growth and social cohesion;
  • Improved their systems thinking, identifying how key indicators such as food, energy and water interconnect;
  • Evaluated the implications of these changes on business value;
  • Explored key changes in the global economy, including shifts in the economic paradigm and the difference between ‘value’ and ‘values’;
  • Examined the implications on families and family business;
  • Assessed the dynamics of families, looking at issues beyond financial stewardship to consider issues such as purpose, governance (including owner succession) and approaches which hold families together;
  • Shared their personal experiences as well as those of their family, exploring new expectations from stakeholders;
  • Identified effective ways to lead in the new context; and,
  • Reviewed the role of family wealth and family businesses in the new context, exploring key issues including agency and leadership.

Ultimately, these outcomes will enable participants to become more effective leaders in the 21st Century.


Advisory Group

This programme is informed and supported by an international Advisory Group. These individuals will draw on their wealth of experience to inform the programme design and contribute to the programme. 


Who delivers the programme?

For over 30 years, CISL has delivered education programmes for some of the most influential individuals and organisations. We combine academic excellence, industry expertise and influential thinking to ensure the content is suitable, diverse and stretches thinking, shapes behaviours and informs practice.

This programme will be delivered by CISL’s international network of Senior Associates, Fellows and guest contributors with additional insights from members of the Advisory Group.


Key topic areas

The programme will build on four key themes, each selected to enhance the strategic thinking of participants so that they can be more effective in leading the transition to a sustainable economy:


“Families must in parallel address internal issues which can become greater derailers than the challenges of the external environment. Families must ensure that they themselves are sustainable. Family continuity can be undermined without adequate preparation for succession.” 

Iraj Ispahani, Founding Advisor to the Multi-Generational Leadership Programme


1. Building Human Capital

The changing social, environmental and economic context requires different strategic thinking and new knowledge. Remaining viable – or sustainable - requires many individuals to update their worldviews and ‘unlearn’ their perceptions about the economic context. Quite simply, issues such as climate change, Covid-19 and an increasing human population present risks and opportunities which have never been experienced.

2. Families in the 21st Century

Families hold disproportionate capability to lead the transition to a sustainable economy through the way they deploy assets, the causes they support and the behaviours they adopt and advocate. The programme will examine the changing purpose of the family in the new context identifying how it can deploy assets in ways which are authentic and proactively support the transition to a sustainable economy. In doing so, we will assess the legacy of the business, identifying how assets can be passed to the next generation in a better state.

3. Financial Stewardship

Value is changing in the new context, with issues such as climate change presenting new risks and opportunities. This will affect all sectors and geographies. For families, the rate of change in the new context will pose fundamental challenges for financial stewardship. Impact investment may help this, but more strategically important questions will need to be asked about the role of families in being active owners of capital.

4. Stakeholder Relationships

Families have complex internal relationships and increasingly difficult relationships with the communities where they operate. Anticipating and responding to stakeholder expectations – especially in an interconnected world – will be essential to mitigate risk, identify future needs and support innovative ways to transition to a sustainable economy.


"Political risk and asset protection – in an increasingly troubled world, risks to wealth and business owners are increasing – can a Circular Economy mindset help in the development of robust risk management?"

Philip Marcovici, Founding Advisor to the Multi-Generational Leadership Programme


Participation will be £9,500 per person. This includes:                                          

  • Participation in a series of online discussions and expert presentations;
  • Participation in a small group project working with a Cambridge Tutor on a strategically significant question;
  • Selection up to five experts for one-to-one consultations.
  • Invitations to two annual networking debate and discussion, followed by a gala dinner.
  • Ongoing involvement in the initiative for its duration (expected to be 10 years). 

Travel, accommodation and other costs for other activities will not be included.



All nominations are subject to a robust vetting procedure to ensure delegates meet the criteria and that the cohort is a suitably diverse group.

To apply, please complete the registration form. To learn more, please contact Nicole Gray


Our executive education programmes offer senior leaders insight into innovative, commercially compelling ways to address global trends. They build the leadership capacity and skills to generate action.


Nicole Gray, Project Coordinator

Contact Nicole