Taking the lead in leadership development

The newly established UNESCO Chair on Leadership, Innovation & Anticipation and Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Stavanger (UiS) have together with partners been awarded 4.8 million NOK to develop a new Master’s of Strategic Design & Leadership.

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With an ambition to take the lead in leadership development and change the way we talk about and practice leadership, UiS and partners are setting out to co-create a world-leading master’s programme in support of regional, national, and international leadership competencies and capacity.

The 23 private and public sector partners representing industries such as energy, technology, health, finance, design, and aquaculture, all acknowledge the need to establish new ways of developing and leveraging the leadership capabilities and capacity required in support of innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable development, and the green shift.

The challenge

The world is facing extreme challenges that require urgent action (IPCC, 2021). New services, products, technology, business models, behaviour, and skills must be developed at great speed. The UN's sustainability goals, demographic change, and the green shift are knocking on the door, while traditional education, and ways of leading and managing this development, often fail to keep up.

The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Competence’s initiative 'Measures for increased work relevance' (2021), which UiS and partners successfully applied for, states that universities have "a particularly important social mission in educating candidates who meet the skills needs of working life", and identified that "Good access to the right competence… is important for safeguarding the economy and welfare, ensuring innovation capacity and adaptability, and contributing to meeting major societal challenges ”.

A view shared by the 23 partners is that this need is only covered to a very small extent by existing leadership development and educational offerings which are still very much characterized by traditional subject areas and pedagogy, silo thinking, and often outdated issues and solutions.

The solution

As the only Norwegian university in The European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU), UiS is committed to open and inclusive collaboration with other educational institutions and industry to help define and solve both current and future challenges. The UiS UNESCO Chair and Faculty of Social Sciences therefore wish to help solve the stated challenge together with partners through the development and delivery of a unique, fit-for-purpose, practice-based master's programme in strategic design and leadership (part-time; 90 credits), delivering on the needs of students, industry, and wider society.

Whereas existing leadership development programmes are typically aimed at formal leaders, and design programmes at individuals seeking a specialist design education, the intention of this new initiative is to develop and deliver a study programme for all those with an interest in contributing to the leadership process together with others across roles, specialisms, departments, sectors, and industries – ranging from senior formal leaders to trainees - using design methodology and tools.

The programme will not compete directly with already existing MBA-programmes that typically consists of more traditional courses such as economics, finance, HR, marketing, strategy, management, and leadership as a formal role in support of continuous growth and profit maximisation.

This new future-oriented programme is intended to be more inclusive and diverse in its approach with a focus on purpose beyond profit, economics of mutuality, and knowledge, skills, methods and tools that are relevant to a greater number of people.

Specific competence development and details around these will be truly co-created with partners in preparation for delivery in 2023.

The initiative is coordinated by professor and UNESCO chairholder Rune Todnem By who can be contacted on rune.t.by@uis.no

Strategic Design & Leadership partners

Text: Rune Todnem By