Connecting Commonwealth LEaders


  • 5 Mar 2020 7:18 PM | John Thompson (Administrator)

    Join us for a mini pop-up in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, on Friday 13th.

    Learn more about the Commonwealth Association of Leadership, Malaysia (CALM) and the Commonwealth.

    Register here:


  • 28 Feb 2020 7:46 PM | John Thompson (Administrator)

    We're proud to announce the launch of CSC Canada 2022.  

    The Canada 2022 Commonwealth Study Conference opens on May 27, 2022, bringing together 300 of the world’s most promising emerging leaders from business, government, labour, and the community sector.

    As a CSC global alumni, you know personally the value of the Conference experience. Over two special weeks, CSC2022 members will explore leadership together through a unique program of new experiences, intensive travel, very different perspectives, and challenging dialogue with their peers from around the world.

    You can get involved by visiting the Conference website
     here to:

    • Help organize in your home country
    • Express your interest in a reunion of global alumni
    • Update your own contact preferences
    • Support CSC2022 members who may need bursaries

  • 21 Feb 2020 7:09 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    This first ever CSC Global Alumni online event was held on the 6th of February 2020 and brought together alumni from across the Commonwealth to provide insights into leadership 

    Guest Speakers Include:

    P. Balaji- Chief Regulatory & Corporate Affairs Officer of Vodafone Idea Limited, India’s largest telecom service provider and former Managing Director of Nokia India and Managing Director of Sony Mobile in India. 

    Hanna Wong Abdullah - President at CALM (Commonwealth Association of Leadership Malaysia)

    Sydney Henry- Executive Director - The Village Academy, School of  Agriculture

    Michael Wright - Commonwealth Studies Conference Global Alumni Chairman 

  • 21 Feb 2020 6:36 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    As you may know, the former programme is being redesigned and relaunched through a partnership between HRH The Duke of Edinburgh's Commonwealth Study Conferences (CSC) and The Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). Work is underway to select a new name for the program and CSC & ACU would like to get some feedback from CSC Global Alumni on some possible options. Below is a link to a survey that should take no more than 10 minutes to complete and is confidential it closes on Sunday 23 February.

    The Survey is located here:

  • 5 Dec 2019 2:38 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    CALM Pop-up – Kuala Lumpur 23th of November 2019

    Two of Malaysia’s top young leaders addressed the Commonwealth Association of Leadership Malaysia (CALM) conference in Kuala Lumpur.

    CALM President, Hanaa Wong Abdullah, says the event – themed ‘Young Millenials Leading in Malaysia’ – provided young aspiring business, community and government leaders an insight into what it takes to become successful.

    The speakers included:

    Environmental scientist, Dr Renard Siew, is a member of the UN’s Collective Climate Action Taskforce and has been recognised as one of Asia’s 21 Young Leaders by the global non-profit organisation, Asia Society.  He holds a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of New South Wales, and a postgraduate certificate in sustainable value chains from Cambridge University.

    Kim Lim, the CEO and co-founder of PichaEats, a food business rebuilding lives of refugees in Malaysia is another speaker.  In 2017 she was one of Forbes ‘30 under 30 Asia’ and ‘Prestige 40 under 40 Malaysia’.

    Nicola Campion, the Australian High Commission’s Political and Economics Counsellor who provided an international perspective on young leaders in Malaysia.

  • 5 Dec 2019 2:37 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    Dear All,

    I am back in the autumn sunshine in Johannesburg after a whirlwind week away at our fourth London CSCLeaders Alumni+ pop up and finally have a few minutes to reflect on the week that was. First off, a huge thank you to all the alumni and speakers who contributed to making the weekend a thoughtful and inspiring experience. A weekend like this could not happen if not for the generosity of all involved. For those of you who managed to join us and for those thinking of joining us in the future here is an overview of what went on. Our theme for the weekend was Redefining Leadership with a focus on leadership for empowerment, leadership for complexity and leadership for the future. 

    Our weekend began with a relaxed catch up dinner, giving everyone the opportunity to either reconnect or meet new friends. 

    Leadership for Empowerment

    We started our Saturday morning focusing on leadership for empowerment. Eleanora Gatti spoke passionately about the work she and the UN have done to uplift rural women in Myanmar. With the belied that ‘they who face the issue hold the key’ they used design thinking and technology to empower the local women and enable transformation. Anna Claire-Temple from Step Together highlighted how by empowering those who are most at risk in society to help other at risk, you unlock self-esteem and help them find the courage and strength to turn their own lives around. Chinar Shai, a visual artist from Bangalore, who is currently an artist in residency at Bluecoats in Liverpool, spoke of how as an artist it is critical to challenge the images we produce and why. Through creating art exhibitions in domestic places, she seeks to create spaces of resistance and encourage conversation. 

    Saturday afternoon saw us travelling to Finsbury Mosque, known for its troubled past and community-based present. Imam Kojbar provided a great deal of food for thought as he described the process they went through to reclaim the mosque, build trust in the community and become a hub for their people. 

    No Saturday would be complete without our tradition of a good shared Indian meal and we headed for Tayyab’s to enjoy exactly this. 

    Leadership for Complexity

    On Sunday we engaged on the topic Leadership for Complexity, spending time with leaders working in the world of technology. Emma Fryer, Associate director of TechUK, highlighted how one needs to think about leadership to create partnership when dealing with multiple players and multiple mandates. Tim Kimball, CTO at Aire Labs, challenged us to think about how understanding our biases helps us to better lead ourselves and those around us. Dr. Terri Simpkin, Managing Director of Mischief Business Engineering brought to life the current complexities of people leadership in a rapidly changing world and Rija Javed, CTO at MarketInvoice, gave us a glimpse into some of the leadership complexities that arise when working with the generational gap. 

    Our afternoon then gave us time for conversation and sharing around our own leadership journeys as alumni. We ended our afternoon together with a early dinner alongside the Thames in the afternoon sunlight and a rousing rendition (as per tradition) of Happy Birthday to Ian. 

    Several alums then headed to PWC to welcome the new cohort of CSCLeaders as they finished their first day of the 2019 London programme. 

    Leadership for Tomorrow 

    Monday saw us travel to Coutts Bank to engage on the topic of Leadership for Tomorrow. Peter Flavel, CEO of the bank shared the people journey Coutts Bank has been on to become future fit while maintaining its historic roots. The 690th Lord Mayor of London, Charles Bowman, shared leadership insights from a project he initiated whilst Lord Mayor. Entitled The Business of Trust, it highlighting the critical role that trust plays in business today and what this means for building leadership at all levels in society. We then engaged in conversation with Nicholas Watts, Chair of the Independent Forum of Commonwealth Organisations to understand the Commonwealth landscape. 

    We rounded off the morning sharing some thoughts on the ingredients needed to build a dynamic CSCLeaders alumni community before going on an archivist’s tour of the rich 300-year history of Coutts Bank and an opportunity to enjoy the gardens that fill the rooftop balconies of this iconic building. 

    We finished the afternoon with a visit to Marlborough House to again engage with the new cohort of CSCLeaders about to start their study tours across London. In amidst all this activity we also found time to chill out, eat good food, catch up and laugh (a lot).

    All in all, a fabulous weekend with new and old friends exploring, learning sharing and growing together. Looking forward to our next chance to get together.

    Warm regards,

    Ilka Dunne

    CSC Leaders 2015'

  • 5 Dec 2019 2:29 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    CALM Pop-up – Kota Kinabalu 15th of December 2018

    The second CALM pop up was held in the spectacular tropical setting of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. 

    The Malaysian co-founder of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning organisation ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) was the key-note speaker.

    Dr Ronald McCoy urged the CALM members and guests to maintain the campaign to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

    He said the number of nuclear weapons had fallen from a high of 68,000 in 1985 to about 15,000 today.

    “The use of one nuclear weapon could kill hundreds of thousands of people – one nuclear weapon is one too many,” said Dr McCoy.

  • 5 Dec 2019 2:27 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    Commonwealth Study Conference (CSC) and Emerging Leaders’ Dialogue (ELD) Alumni Pop-Up Event

    Melbourne – October 11, 2018


    “Leadership and character”

    In Australia in recent times, the relationship between “character” and “leadership” has been spectacularly highlighted.  We live in an age when the expectations and scrutiny of leaders has never been higher, and yet the foundational character of our leaders has all too often been found wanting. This has created a leadership gap, between perception, expectation and reality.  There have been some very public and noteworthy examples of this in 2018:

    • The recent demise of Australia’s deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce
    • The public humiliation and sacking of Michael Smith, the Captain of Australia’s Test Cricket Team and two other players.
    • Two Royal Commissions – one into the institutional abuse of Children and the other into the behaviour of our Banks and Financial Institutions has led to sackings and even criminal charges against a number of high profile leaders and undermined trust in the institutions they represent.

    And yet, in the midst of this there are a number of examples of Leaders with questionable character… who continue to ‘lead’ strongly, seemingly immune to the scrutiny of others and the critique of their character.  President Trump is often cited as an example, but there are many others.

    Against this backdrop there a number of important questions for Commonwealth leaders to consider, not just if they wish to survive, but if they wish to thrive in leadership.

    • How important is ‘character’ to leadership?
    • Does it matter at all?
    • What is meant by ‘character’?
    • Is ‘character’ a fixed state, or can it be developed in leaders?  If so, how?
    • Can the character of individual leaders, shape the character or organisations?
    • How can leaders recover from moments where their ‘character’ has fallen short?
    • What role do cultural norms and cultural intelligence play in shaping and understanding character?

    Speakers for the event included:

    • Rev’d Tim Costello – Chief Advocate of World Vision Australia
    • Dr Janine Kirk – Chief Executive, The Prince’s Trust Australia
    • Ms. Cath Brokenborough - Executive Lead, Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation at Lendlease
    • Mr. Daniel Jackson – Author & Head Coach, Leader Who Inspires

  • 5 Dec 2019 2:26 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    CSCLeaders Alumni+ Pop-up London May 2018

    Between the 18th and the 21st May 2018, a group of CSCLeaders alumni came together in London to reconnect and re-engage. The weekend allowed us to rekindled old friendships and make some new friends. Hopefully leading to further opportunities to solve the wicked problems facing us all in our own leadership journeys and our own projects.

    This, our third alumni+ pop-up, was again entirely made up of contributions from the alumni group and through the course of the weekend we got to engage with alumni from not only the UK programme but also people from ELD programmes and a long-lost friend from the original London programme (who heard about our pop up via a facebook group). Our alums had come from as far afield as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and Germany (and Scotland and Ireland).

    The weekend was jam-packed with activities, conversations, visits and speakers. Starting on Friday we all met for a drink in the Duke of York Bar, followed by dinner up the road at the King’s Head. This gave everyone a chance to meet, reconnect and catch up on news.

    Thanks to Mike Wright and the two Ian’s, Saturday morning took us out to Elephant and Castle to see Lendlease’s ground-breaking project: Elephant Park. Inspired by the words of their founder Dick Dusseldorp, “Companies must start justifying their worth to society, with greater emphasis placed on environmental and social impact rather than straight economics,” there is little doubt of their vision and passion in bringing about sustainable living and working spaces.

    This also gave us a chance to hang out at The Artworks Elephant a dynamic container structure, housing great places for a quick bite and some browsing (oh, and a photo op in the park). My greatest take-out from the morning was a considered comment around the notion of being enlightened and how this is tied to time and place. This definitely left me considering the value of suspending judgement. Thanks to Mike for organising the visit but also for giving us a glimpse of the royal wedding and the kiss!

    We then went on to the Migration Museum at the Workshop. Liberty (what a fitting name) talked us through their current exhibition: 7 migration moments that changed Britain. How amazing to pause and reflect on our varied roots as an alumni group and just how that brought alternative perspectives to our time together. Sivanandan’s quote: “We are here because you were there” cemented this for me. It also gave us pause to consider how to continue finding ways to ensure the diversity of our group. Thank you to Claire for the inspired idea and the arrangements.

    Drinks at the local with the FA Cup blaring in the background was a natural place to pause for a bit before heading to Tayyab’s for dinner.  Firoz Patel always manages to find us the best spots for an Indian feast and a birthday sing-a-long (even when he is fasting)!

    On Sunday morning we regrouped at PWC where we got to spend time with Martin Kulungu-Banda. In sharing the three key issues that keep him awake, ensured that we are all now left awake thinking about 1.5: the fact that we need 1 and a half planets to sustain our current consumption patterns; 8: the fact that 8 human beings control more than 50% of global wealth; and the spiritual divide: the incredible number of human beings depressed or suicidal due to a lack of purpose and meaning in their lives. This definitely spurred our thinking about the importance of the Commonwealth in seeking to find answers to these wicked problems.

    Ronak Gopaldas then joined us to share his thoughts on the five key tensions that will shape Africa in 2018 and beyond. Highlighting that Africa is not homogenous, he challenged the often binary thinking when it comes to matters of politics, economics, generational differences, geopolitics and technology. We reflected on his ideas numerous times during the rest of the weekend in particular the facebook vs. the facelift generation, the power of tech to democratise and the difference between Big ‘L’ and little ‘l’ leadership. I personally took away his point about some groups being “too influential and too powerful to not do anything.”

    It was a pleasure to get to hear the incredible strides Andrew Larpent has made since 2013 in bringing to life his Commonwealth Study Conference idea. CommonAge is making a real difference in bringing the topic of the aged to the fore in order to develop an Age Friendly Commonwealth. I would recommend everyone reach out to him for a chat about this project. 

    The morning’s engagements gave us lots to play with as we spent the rest of the afternoon tussling with the question: What might a modern commonwealth look like and what role could we play in its future? Some key thoughts included:

    • creating a cultural change in the commonwealth through building community and sharing stories;
    • ensuring the commonwealth was the stage and not the play;
    • moving from aid to trade (the role of microfinance through the Commonwealth).

    On Sunday night we met the 2018 CSCLeaders group. It was exciting to hear their reflections on their first day and to fondly remember and share our own day one experiences of the programme.

    On Monday we got to engage in conversations around the work of Blue Coat and in particular Blue Room and the Out of the Blue project, an innovative initiative that partners disabled adults with children from disadvantaged backgrounds through the power of art. We collectively generated some thinking on how the project could expand its influence by sharing its learnings more broadly. Thank you to Mary Cloake (we missed you) and Caroline Marsh for organising. 

    The rest of Monday focused on leadership, looking specifically at leadership resilience and resource in times of complexity. A number of our alumni shared their own vulnerabilities in this space allowing for rich sharing and insight before Claire Hayward provided us with a moment of pause to find ways to engage our own internal resources in times of leadership crisis.

    The weekend then closed with a trip to Marlborough House to meet with Baroness Scotland and HRH, The Princess Royal, Princess Anne. All in all it was a whirlwind weekend and I truly hope that everyone has left with food for thought.

    Again, one of the strongest messages from the group was not to let this engagement fade, and a commitment was made by all in the room to be back in London to regroup in time for the 2019 CSCLeaders Programme. Please make a note in your diaries for next year! As soon as I have dates I will post an RSVP link for those who would like to join us.

    To further support the alumni, we plan to continue and start doing the following:      

    1. Continue to grow the broader CSC alumni network. This network includes all people who have been part of the CSC family since the programme first started in the 1950’s. We are therefore re-running our database survey. Please could you send out the following link to all alumni you might still be in touch with.
    2.  A call was made to host some additional alumni+ pop ups in other parts of the world. Chris Hartley is planning a pop up in Kuala Lampur in October this year and information about this will be sent out shortly. An additional pop up in South Africa will follow on from this in due course.
    3. All alumni in attendance have committed to hosting their own smaller alumni connection sessions. These pop ups will look to bring together locals in their own home towns.  After all alumni+ is all of us.
    4. We are exploring ways to keep the alumni connected more fluidly via social media. A small team of alums are working on this and we’ll give you an update as this progresses.

    Although these are small steps we hope that through them the alumni will continue to grow into a thriving engaged group. Through leveraging our social capital we hope to make a greater impact in the world. We would like to thank Common Purpose and the UK Trustees for always being so willing to support our efforts and PWC for always finding us a space to work. We deeply appreciate all the support we get. Looking forward to 2019!

    Warm regards

    Ilka Dunna

    CSC Leaders 2015

  • 5 Dec 2019 2:24 PM | Peter Laurent (Administrator)

    Greetings from Sri Lanka.

    The CSC Alumni + weekend events were brilliant. The first Alumni event I have been invited to since my CSC programme in 2006.

    Thirty Alumni flew in from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Pacific, UK, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, others joined us from Hong Kong. A number of us stayed for the AELD meeting, some came just for the weekend.

    At the close of the event we were asked to sum up the day in one word. Many of us used the same words:

    Connections, Challenging, Inspiring, Lessons, Powerful, Provocative, Encouraging, Reconnection, Exciting, Friends, Determination, Ideas, Empowering, Compassion, Connecting.

    The Sunday was like a mini Commonwealth Study Conference: there were inputs; we learnt; we were challenged; we shared; we worked together. We laughed, we ate and drunk and we emerged strong friends.

    The external inputs were of a very high calibre and the venue was outstanding. Although we all got to Hong Kong ourselves, we definitely would have paid to attend such a first-class programme.

    Amongst others, we heard from the Australian Consul General to China on security and trade, diplomacy and regional issues, North Korea and Trump. The Chairman of Swire China and former CEO of airline Cathy Pacific, briefed us on the unheralded changes to the Communist Party and the power of Chinese execution skills. A HASSALL architect detailed the Chinese infrastructure (China poured more concrete in three years than the US did in the 20th Century) and what makes a city great – “a unique cuisine and a football team”.

    The progress of many Alumni in their careers was outstanding and certainly fulfilled the promise of their CSC programme identification. We heard a brilliant summary on robotics and artificial intelligence from one Alumni, watched a moving film on modern day slavery sex trafficking and heard about an international campaign by another Alumni. Others helped guide and facilitate the day.

    We also spent some time thinking about the future of CSC programmes worldwide and the various Alumni experiences. We discussed what lies at the heart of these events and how to take these forward with a new generation of champions and leaders.

    We agreed to work together to include more Alumni from all CSC programmes on similar Alumni events and to meet again. Provisionally London in May, KL in October!

    A big thank you to Chris Hartley from Australia who invited us all, organised the speakers, the great venue and the catering.

    Thank you and come and see me in beautiful Sri Lanka soon.

    Marissa Jayamanne. 

    CSC Alumni 2006


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