Generating ideas, connections, and action

Leadership and Networks Examples Series: Emerging Leaders Innovate Across Sectors


As part of the Leadership for a New Era project, we are exploring programs and initiatives that are developing the leadership of networks, communities and regions and accomplishing significant results with fewer resources.  In the following weeks we will present short summaries of some of the examples we have reviewed:



ELIAS, which stands for Emerging Leaders Innovate Across Sectors, is a global innovation and learning community that focuses on regional platforms for facilitating multi-stakeholder innovation across entire systems. Coming together around specific thematic and geographic concerns, key players across the sectors of government, business, and civil society embark on a shared sensing and innovation journey in order to deepen their understanding of their current systems and to discover and prototype new ideas and collaborative opportunities that could take the system forward on the best possible path.

ELIAS was co-created by the Presencing Institute, the MIT CoLab, and the MIT Leadership Center, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. It has more than a dozen global partner institutions in business, government, and civil society, and it has sponsored multi sector change initiatives in both the global South and the global North.


The purpose of ELIAS is to prototype and help advance inclusive and sustainable global economic, environmental, and social changes in a more intentional way—mainly by developing mechanisms for innovating on the scale of the system as a whole.

ELIAS was launched in 2006 with a network of global partners, including BASF, BP, JAC-Anhui (China), the Industrial Federation of Paraná (Brazil), InWent (German Ministry of Development and Cooperation), the Indonesian Ministry of Trade, Nissan, Oxfam Great Britain, the UN Global Compact, UNDP, UNICEF, Unilever, the World Bank Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund. In March 2006, 27 high-potential young leaders from these organizations went on a year-long innovation and learning journey (while continuing to work in their home institutions) that included intensive training in how to use a new set of tools for innovating within established systems. These tools include co-sensing and co-creating emerging future opportunities through deep sensing journeys, strategy retreats, idea creation, and rapid-cycle prototyping of their ideas in order to explore the future by doing.