Generation Rising

The priorities and perspectives of 11,000 global young leaders

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In an age of globalisation, rapid change and hyperconnectivity, what do aspiring young leaders want the future to look like? What are their most important policy priorities, and what do they expect of leadership? Are there significant differences in attitudes between young leaders from across the world?

Common Vision worked with the British Council to understand the most important priorities for global change amongst aspiring young leaders aged 18-35 from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

We conducted qualitative analysis of 10,755 applications to the British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme, a global network which aims to enable young leaders from the around the world to develop their expertise, connect and discuss major global policy challenges. As well as giving their views on key global challenges, applicants were asked to define the characteristics of ‘good’ leadership.

In terms of young leaders’ policy priorities, there was striking similarity across countries. ‘Education’ and ‘sustainability, climate change and the environment’ were both among the top five priorities across all countries. ‘Addressing poverty and inequality’, and ‘promoting gender equality’ were also key issues.

The expectations and definitions of good leadership were also notably similar amongst participants. In all 11 countries, ‘working with a team’ – including mentions of teamwork, co-operation and shared goals – was the most frequently mentioned characteristic. The importance of a leader to have or to articulate a ‘vision and strategic purpose’ was also regularly cited.

This snapshot of the priorities and perspectives of almost 11,000 aspiring future leaders provides important insight into the shape of future global policy leadership. It is encouraging that, across the world, young people that aspire to be the next generation of leaders have coherent and aligned priorities for global change.

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Key questions

What policy issues do the aspiring young leaders from around the world care about the most? What qualities and characteristics do millennials expect from leadership? How do young leaders perceive their personal skills and opportunities?


Global vision thematic analysis: Our research team conducted an inductive analysis of an open text question (limit 500 words) put to all the applicants of the Future Leaders Connect Programme: ‘Please tell us about one major global change you would like to see over the next five years. How will this impact your country?’ We identified 29 themes and then manually coded all responses based on this thematic framework. Multiple themes were applied to some responses that mentioned two or more main themes.

Perceptions of leadership keyword analysis: We conducted an inductive analysis using responses to the open text question: ‘What does leadership mean to you? What are the characteristics of “good leadership” or “bad leadership”?’ Using the 1,000 most frequently used keywords in each of the country samples, a manual analysis identified 19 keyword ‘groupings’ each consisting of approximately 20 indicative words.

Confidence in personal skills and opportunities: We analysed applicants’ self-assessment scores in relation to 19 pre-defined skills areas, weighting these in relation to each individual’s average score, in order to indicate their confidence on each skillset in relation to their overall personal confidence.


The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It works with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society.

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Details of the British Council’s Future Leaders Connect programme are available here: