Dishaa, Itijah & Dao Xiang

We run a series of programmes that connect future leaders, across the world, to tackle challenges which are common and compelling, and big (enough to be worth the effort) and small (enough to be grasped).

The programmes encourage participants to work in new directions to develop innovative approaches to new (and old) problems, which is why the names of all the programmes mean "direction" in different languages. Participants will present their findings to many different audiences over the following year.

We run Dishaa between India and the UK. We run Itijah between European and Arab cities. And we run Dao Xiang between London and Shanghai.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's message to the participants of the first Dishaa programme, January 2011


Bringing cities, countries and leaders together


The programmes will:

  • Build links - at a very practical level - between future leaders across the world
  • Help those leaders to work more effectively together and identify new approaches to complex problems
  • Develop a greater ability to thrive in multiple cultures and build long-lasting relationships across the globe.


The Ventures challenge framework

The programmes help participants to:

  • Broaden and deepen their knowledge by experiencing how another city or country works
  • Develop their Cultural Intelligence - the ability to thrive when working in and with different cultures
  • Build new networks by giving them access to a peer-group and leaders that they might otherwise never meet
  • Develop their problem solving and influencing skills by throwing them into a complex challenge, with a diverse group, under pressure
  • Stretch their analytical and creative skills by exposing them to new approaches to innovation


"The course curriculum and delivery were amazing. Comparing it to many leadership programs I have been to in Harvard and Wharton, this was the best! I have concrete take outs and a clear action plan of what is next."

Director, Exporters' Services, Dubai Exports

Hear from Paul Grover, Regional Director, WYG who attended the inaugural Itijah Venture in April 2012 about what he has done since.

Setting and tackling the challenge


The approach

An Advisory Group of established leaders from the participating cities, regions or countries identify a common and compelling challenge for each propgramme which is both big (enough to be worth the effort) and small (enough to be grasped), be it in health or transport; dealing with frustrated youth or quality in education; about internal and external disconnects; about building upwards or outwards; or struggling with water or energy.

Over a four day intervention, participants are guided through the process of creativity and innovation, and immersed into the challenge. The programmes follow a four stage process to enable them to tackle the challenge:

common purpose approach

"I found it really interesting and valuable to work amongst such a diverse group of individuals. The framework of the programme, to learn from each other as leaders whilst working on an actual challenge, enabled us to practise some of the learning along the way. Dao Xiang also explored creativity and innovation in a way that was particularly memorable. A truly unique approach."

Senior Manager, Central Government Agency

What happens on a programme?

The four days in more detail, using the first Dishaa (held in Pune, India) as an example

Day one: Introduction to each other, the challenge and the process of innovation
The participant group discussed what they bring to the challenge (heart surgery at $1,000 - what has to change in how society operates and innovates to make this a reality?), the insights gained from stakeholder interviews, and considered leadership 'blind spots' - what prevents us from innovating? They learned more about the challenge and the process of innovation from external contributors and each other.

participants on Dishaa

Day two: Immersion in the challenge
Participants spent the day exploring the different aspects of the challenge - they met leading experts and innovators knowledgeable in the field, and visited organisations to gain first-hand experience and begin to form their first ideas about how they could tackle the challenge.

participants explore the challenge

Day three: The process of innovation
Through external contributors and group exercises the participants practiced innovation and were introduced to the principles that guide the creation of new ideas and the prototypes that flow from them.

common purpose innovation process

Day four: Creating solutions
Participants worked in teams to refine and develop their ideas. Through consultations with their fellow participants, and research (on the internet or conducted over the phone) they developed their solutions to present to the Venture Advisory Group and invited guests knowledgeable in the field of healthcare.

Throughout the four days

During the week, participants worked in small diverse teams as well as participating in the larger group sessions. It is in these smaller, more intimate sessions that they learn the importance of diversity in creating new ideas. They build bridges between nations and sectors, find areas of common interest to work on together and forge relationships that will continue to develop well beyond the end of the programme.

After the programme

Participants work up, publish and then present their ideas to policy makers and leaders in the different cities. They then work on their own ideas, individually and collectively, to build connections across the world.

Read the report from the first Dishaa



As different programmes are run, alumni benefit from connections with an ever-growing international community.

Alumni continue to work on the solutions to the challenges they have come up with on their programme, refine their ideas, publish a report and and present their solutions to relevant policy makers.

In addition to this, they become part of the growing global Common Purpose alumni network of 40,000 who are a group of people with an exceptional range of skills, interests and leadership experiences.

common purpose alumni

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Visit our CQ section to find out how to develop and assess your CQ.

Find out more.