What We Do

One of the first centers of its kind, CPL continues to set the standard as a premier training ground for emerging public leaders in the United States.


Principled, effective, and just public leaders are essential if we want to build more prosperous societies. Across every sector, the Center for Public Leadership is training exceptional leaders in the skills and habits that enable them to work collaboratively to address complex problems that affect public well-being.

Our co-curricular student programs foster a strong peer community of emerging leaders focused on the public good; build key skills and awareness needed to address complex social problems; and offer opportunities for leadership practice through a range of field experiences. Research and scholarship generated by CPL’s Harvard faculty affiliates builds knowledge around the theory and practice of public leadership; creates tools and knowledge for practitioners; and supports the advocacy of strong democratic and civil societies.

Student Fellowships and Leadership Development Programs

Empowering our graduate students to take next steps in their professional lives remains at the core of what we do. Our 11 graduate student fellowships are bolstered by the strength of relationships built in small cohorts and student-led immersion experiences. Our leadership development workshops—offered to all students at HKS—focus on building critical foundational skills like negotiation, communication, teaming, and cultural humility. Our fellows leave Harvard with the professional and moral underpinnings for careers in key positions across a wide range of public leadership and service roles.

Social Innovation and Equity

This era of heightened socio-political unrest—the persistent challenges of systemic racial and social injustice, growing economic inequality, and accelerating climate change—requires us to think in new ways about public leadership.

In 2013 CPL merged with the
Hauser Institute for Civil Society, continuing the institute’s critical work of translating bold ideas into practice. Drawing upon the academic research and real-world expertise and insights of Harvard University faculty and top social enterprise practitioners, our Social Innovation + Change Initiative and the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice are driving social progress and equity across sectors. The Initiative for Responsible Investment examines the practice of responsible and impact investing, and theory around the social purpose of finance. And the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Collaboratory equips all of our practitioner-leaders doing critical work with the broader negotiation and conflict resolution skills to get it done.


“In an age as fluid and uncertain as ours, leaders must prepare for what has not yet been imagined…Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership is one of a handful of places where prospective leaders at all stages in their careers can study both leadership as a part of a great university and develop their own capabilities. It is a place for people who realize that the most visionary leader must acquire specific skills and habits. It is a place for pragmatic dreamers." -Warren Bennis