Global Leader Experiences

Global Leader Experiences (GLEs) run for university students in Magnet Cities across the world, where large numbers - from at least 100 nationalities - of the world's talent convene to study. Over four days, students become street smart and develop the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) they will need to be global leaders.

Common Purpose runs GLEs in partnership with one university and corporate partner in each of 50 Magnet cities.


On a GLE 100 students from at least 25 countries address an annual challenge eg  "What makes a city smart?". Students go out - together - into the Magnet City to:

  • learn from leaders from in business, government and NGOs
  • discover how a city works and doesn't work
  • develop Cultural Intelligence as they learn from each other
  • generate innovative solutions to the challenge which are presented to city leaders.

As the same challenge is tackled in each Magnet City across the world students can connect with each other through the year to exchange ideas and collaborate.



92% of students rate the leadership learning as 'excellent value for time'



"Most problems spread across boundaries, yet most leaders stay within them. We run Global Leader Experiences across the world to ensure that the next generation of leaders are better at crossing boundaries, be they geographical, sectoral, generational or between beliefs."

Julia Middleton, CEO, Common Purpose Charitable Trust

students on a global leader experience

"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. This has important implications and raises questions about our current systems for those of us involved in educating and developing our future global citizens."

Rakesh Khurana, Dean, Harvard College

"Common Purpose and its University Partners have been working together for many years. The result is this very clever idea and at the right time. And we have the capacity to make it happen - this is very exciting."

Jonathan Donner, Chairman, Common Purpose Student Experiences and Vice President, Global Learning and Capability Development, Unilever

Common Purpose brings to Global Leader Experiences its brand, scale, know how, content and networks. And convenes a partnership with...

Magnet Cities

students in a magnet city
The Magnet Cities provide the context for the learning. The leaders of the Magnet Cities generously share their time, knowledge and experience. And the city provides the backdrop for the Challenge which the students will address while on the GLE.

Examples of recent challenges

Heart surgery at $1,000 (USD) - what has to change in how society operates and innovates to make this a reality?

How can we produce a step change in the interface between the private, public and not-for-profit sectors?

As water becomes increasingly scarce the importance of how it is managed grows exponentially. What innovative solutions can be developed to create a balanced ecosystem within cities?

Magnet cities in which we have run so far...

  • Boston
  • London
  • Oxford
  • Edinburgh
  • Mumbai
  • Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Shanghai
  • Dubai
  • Johannesburg

University Partners

university students on a global leader experience
In each Magnet City we work with a University Partner. The University hosts the programme, identifies the students from across the Magnet City. And provides speakers and contributors who know the city or the issues surrounding the challenge.


"We provide an excellent education for our students but it is challenging to prepare them fully for life beyond the university. Common Purpose gave our students incredible exposure to the challenges of broader society, and helped our students to begin learning from their international peers on campus"
Professor Rob Moore, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Partner universities to date include...

  • Harvard
  • University College London
  • Oxford
  • Edinburgh
  • IIT Bombay
  • National University of Singapore
  • Hong Kong
  • Fudan (Shanghai)
  • Heriot-Watt (Dubai)
  • Wits (Johannesburg)

Corporate Partners

students on a global leader experience
The third key partner is the Corporate Partner. They provide funding for the GLE, give the students access to employers and provide Group Mentors and speakers. This last - far from being a burden - is one if the most powerful benefits for the sponsor because their own leaders develop Cultural Intelligence through the experience.

"All of our leaders enjoyed the opportunity to work with the students and we were very proud to sponsor and host it. What began for many as 'yet another item in the calendar' soon became so compelling that Group Advisors gave up additional time from their busy days to continue coaching their groups."

Hayden Majajas, D&I Director, BP, Asia-Pacific

Partner sponsors to date include...

  • Diageo
  • BP
  • Goldman
  • DP World
  • Weir Group
  • Santander
  • Power Corporation of Canada
  • Prudential

Students want:

  • To be global leaders now by developing their skills and Cultural Intelligence

  • To change the world using street smart know-how to bring fresh solutions to complex problems

  • Networks with the breadth of relationships needed for success today

Magnet Cities

students in a magnet city

Magnet Cities want:

  • Engaged students
  • Future ambassadors
  • Thriving universities
  • Students to stay on

"A unique opportunity to learn about the limitless options of leadership and bring positive change to society. I cannot think of any other way of connecting so many young people from different parts of the world to learn from each other so effectively."

Mustak Ayub, Student, University of Oxford and Participant on a GLE in Oxford 2012

University Partners

student on a global leader experience programme

University Partners want:

  • To stand out
  • To be ever more international
  • Their students to succeed
  • Their Magnet City to succeed

"We attach huge importance to the development of a broad range of skills and competences which will help students develop fully as global citizens. In the context of this aspiration, Common Purpose's courses offered an exciting, different and insightful experience to our students"

Professor Christine Ennew, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Nottingham

Corporate Partners

students on a global leader experience programme

Coporate Partners want:

  • Access to this new type of global talent
  • Brand association
  • To develop their senior leaders as Group Mentors
  • Access to innovation

"Too often university students almost behave like armies of occupation in a city. They leave after years of study knowing as little about the city as when they arrived. And they miss the opportunity to learn from studying alongside students from many other countries."

Andy Coxall, Director, Common Purpose Student Experiences

Our Global Students Team is based across a number of countries and has a shared passion to develop the next generation of student leaders


Picture of Andy Coxall

Andy Coxall
Director, Common Purpose Student Experiences

Picture of Genevieve Barr

Genevieve Barr
Course Manager

Picture of Kirsten Johnson

Kirsten Johnson
Course Manager

Picture of Sophie Campbell

Sophie Campbell
Course Project Manager

Picture of Dr Elsbeth Dixon

Dr Elsbeth Dixon
Chief Executive, Common Purpose South Africa

Picture of Archana Bhaskar

Archana Bhaskar
Course Manager, Common Purpose Bangalore

Picture of Ann Donner

Ann Donner
Principal, Ann Donner Consulting



To enquire further about Global Leader Experiences, or to apply, please contact:

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.