The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School is dedicated to excellence in leadership education and scholarship. Through teaching and research, we are preparing this generation with the insights and practical skills necessary to address the world's most pressing problems.


Thirty years ago, operating with with the simple belief that effective leadership is essential for social and economic prosperity, Leslie and Abigail Wexner launched the Wexner Israel Fellowship program with the goal of bringing promising civil students from Israel to study at Harvard Kennedy School.

2000: Fifteen years later, through a generous gift from the Wexner Foundation and under the leadership of Harvard Kennedy School faculty David Gergen, Ron Heifetz, Barbara Kellerman, and Dean Joseph Nye, the Center for Public Leadership (CPL) opened its doors. CPL is now home to eight named student fellowship and almost thirty faculty affiliates engaged with leadership scholarship practice across campus and in the global arena. The center serves almost a quarter of the HKS student population through our full-tuition fellowships, and offers a robust leadership development curriculum to all students enrolled at HKS.

2013: The Behavioral Insights Group (BIG) at CPL is launched by CPL co-director Max Bazerman and former HKS academic dean Iris Bohnet. Featuring active involvement of top Harvard behavioral science scholars, including Cass Sunstein, Sundhil Mullainathan, Todd Rogers, and Francesca Gino, BIG helps leaders create environments that promote more ethical decision-making to advance the well-being of society.

2014: Amplifying the impact of our research portfolio and establishing our role as a leader in the social entrepreneurship and philanthropy arena, CPL merged with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations—the first merger of two centers in the history of Harvard Kennedy School. Created over 15 years ago by founding donors Rita and Gustave Hauser and now operating as the Hauser Institute for Civil Society, Hauser is home to the New World Social Enterprise Fellows program and is CPL's hub for NGO leadership development. Sustain Arts, the Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI), and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) are all part of the Hauser Institute.