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We prepare a new kind of leader

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We have an opportunity to redesign our ways of working and living so that all people – across generations and around the world – may thrive. As the global population climbs toward 10 billion, our current heavy use of natural resources to fuel development no longer works. With our current take-make-waste economic model, we would need more than three planet Earths to elevate the 2.8 billion people living with less than two dollars per day to middle class living standards, and even more to support a thriving global population.1 But through high leverage strategies, including circular economy, transformative partnerships, and metrics of progress beyond GDP, we can transition to new sustainable systems that ensure intergenerational well-being now and into the future.

To do so, we need a new kind of leader.

We need leaders who are systems thinkers, collaborators and change agents – leaders who understand the complexities of social-environmental challenges and know how to navigate volatile and uncertain contexts, nurture relationships across divides and create enabling conditions for emergent solutions.

The Change Leadership for Sustainability Program prepares students and professionals to be this new kind of leader, capable of radically accelerating the transition to a sustainable society. Participants in our programs learn how to design and implement transformative solutions and strategies that emerge from a fundamentally new understanding of themselves, others and the natural world.

Our coterminal master’s program and executive education programs integrate theoretical and conceptual knowledge with practical skills and tools to develop mindsets, knowledge, and competencies in three critical areas:

1. Understanding Complex Social-Environmental Systems
2. Understanding Decision Making and Strategies for Leading Change
3. Designing Innovations with Impact at Scale

Element 1: Understanding Complex Social-Environmental Systems

Students develop a “systems perspective”, deepening their awareness of the dynamic and interrelated nature of social-environmental systems. They explore tools to measure, map, and model five capital assets – social, natural, human, manufactured, and knowledge capital – and learn to understand complex interactions, including potential feedbacks, thresholds, and unintended consequences. Students identify leverage points and opportunities for interventions to have a transformative impact.

Element 2: Understanding Decision Making and Strategies for Leading Change

Students examine the roles of diverse actors who influence change in social-environmental systems and explore strategies to align decision-making and behavior with sustainability. They explore mindsets and attributes of transformative leaders and the strategies and approaches of organizations advancing sustainability across sectors. Students develop skills in decision making in complex and uncertain contexts, use metrics and evaluation approaches aligned with sustainability goals, cultivate leadership orientations, and practice effective communications and storytelling approaches.

Element 3: Designing Innovations with Impact at Scale

Students learn how to intervene in complex systems for transformative impact by exploring frameworks and tools from systems thinking, design thinking, social cognitive theory, behavioral economics, and partnership strategies. They develop practical skills in mapping complex systems and designing creative, high-leverage interventions that realign systems with the goal of intergenerational well-being.

The coterminal master’s degree in Sustainability Science and Practice is available to eligible Stanford undergraduates as a Master of Science or Master of Arts. Executive education is offered through online courses, open-enrollment programs hosted on campus, and customized programs for individual clients.

1 - Waste to Wealth

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