Leadership for a Sustainable Future Overview and Frequently Asked Questions



The Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy has served California and the North Bay since 2000. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Leadership Institute's mission is: To inspire, educate and connect leaders to create a model of sustainable community. We do this by providing learning experiences and opportunities for engagement which foster understanding of the interconnected importance of a healthy environment, a vital economy, and an equitable society.

Leadership for a Sustainable Future is a unique 10-month course for those who want to make a difference in their own communities and beyond. Meeting once a month for a full day, the program addresses key sustainability issues in California and the North Bay while exploring varied perspectives on leadership. The inspiring curriculum prepares participants to take on leadership roles in community, business, and civic arenas by providing a solid foundation in understanding our environmental, social, and economic strengths, opportunities, and challenges. Discover how your own daily actions can enhance your life, your community, and ultimately our world!

The classes will meet from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm on the first Friday of each month from September 2016 through May 2017. There will also be an overnight orientation retreat on August 5-6, 2016. Each session features presentations and workshops by local leaders and nationally recognized experts. Tours, hands-on exercises, and small group discussions further support your educational experience, while leadership development, change agent tools and skills building, and real-world group projects round out the program.

Course graduates join a diverse Fellows Network, now more than 450 strong. These engaged and powerful individuals represent a wide variety of backgrounds, from government and corporate leaders to small-business owners and community activists. The Fellows Network offers Leadership Institute alumni exciting opportunities for ongoing education and collaboration.


Selection for Leadership for a Sustainable Future is based on the following criteria:

  • Potential for serving in a leadership role
  • Interest in contributing to community development
  • Ability to inspire others
  • Commitment to personal and professional growth
  • Dedication to sustainability

30 to 35 participants will be selected based on information provided in the written application as well as a follow up interview. Due to this optimal class size, it may not be possible to accept all qualified applicants. 


To apply to the program, fill out the application form located here.


  • Priority Application Deadline: 5:00 pm Monday, May 16, 2016
  • Final Application Deadline: June 1, 2016
  • Interviews will be conducted between June 6 and June 10, 2016
  • Candidates will be notified of their status by June 24, 2016
  • If you are accepted into the program, a Participant Agreement will be sent to you. This must be signed and returned by July 8, 2016, to reserve your spot in the class.


Tuition for Leadership for a Sustainable Future is $2500, payable through PayPal. Further details regarding the process and timing of establishing PayPal payments will be provided upon acceptance into the program.

Tuition assistance:

The Leadership Institute believes this course should reflect the communities in which we live and work, and we are committed to making the program widely available.

  • If you submit your application on or before April 22, 2016, you will receive a 10% tuition reduction.
  • Tuition assistance is available in three categories: Income-based (subject to availability of funds), Youth Leaders (for high school students), and Latino Leaders (for those who identify as either Hispanic or Latino). Multiple categories of assistance may be applied for to cover up to 90% of tuition. To apply for Tuition Assistance, you must first apply for the Leadership for a Sustainable Future Class of 2016-2017 course. After you have submitted your online registration, you will be asked if you would like to apply for Tuition Assistance. Follow the instructions on the screen to submit your Tuition Assistance application.


Successful completion of the program includes mandatory attendance at:

  • At least nine of the ten full-day class sessions, held from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm on the first Friday of each month. Attendance at Class 1, which is the August 5-6, 2016, overnight Orientation Retreat, will be mandatory. See full class schedule below. Attendance will be measured in half-day increments. Up to two missed class sessions may be made up by attending the Leadership Institute’s Speaker Series.
  • The year-end evening Graduation Ceremony on May 12, 2017.

Participants are also expected to:

  • Allocate 8 to 10 additional hours per month to reading resource materials and participating in a group leadership project. Actual time commitments may vary from month to month and be further determined by the project selected.
  • Prepare for comfortable participation in outdoor walking tours on most class days. Special consideration will be made to include those with physical challenges. Please let us know your needs.
  • Subscribe to a private online forum for class-related communications.
  • Help plan and coordinate the student-directed graduation ceremony.
  • Abide by all accords in the signed Participant Agreement.


All classes will be held on the first Friday of each month, as follows:

     Class 1:     Orientation Retreat: August 5-6, 2016

     Class 2:     September 2, 2016

     Class 3:     October 7, 2016

     Class 4:     November 4, 2016

     Class 5:     December 2, 2016

     Class 6:     January 6, 2017

     Class 7:     February 3, 2017

     Class 8:     March 3, 2017

     Class 9:     April 7, 2017

     Class 10:   May 5, 2017

     Graduation Ceremony: Friday May 12, 2017 (evening)


Q:  What is the goal of the Program?

A: The program goal is to offer an inspiring curriculum which prepares participants to take on leadership roles in community, business, and civic arenas. The course provides a solid foundation for understanding our environmental, social, and economic strengths, opportunities, and challenges to assist participants in discovering how their daily actions and decisions can enhance their lives, their community, and ultimately our world!

We accomplish this by providing current and historic information about a broad range of issues that impact sustainability (the ability of a system or organism to replenish itself). The course will provide leaders and potential leaders with tools and resources to implement and support policies and actions that are environmentally sustainable, economically sound, and socially equitable. Perhaps most importantly, the program provides a network of associates with whom to remain in contact and thereby continue the lively exchange of ideas that characterize the Leadership Institute's programs.

Q:  How is this program different from other leadership training programs?

A: This is an educational program for current and potential leaders addressing policy creation, project development, and community action which will enhance sustainability. We provide role models for leadership in both public and private sectors and access to those leaders through our guest speakers. The course explores varied perspectives on leadership and delves into illustrations of change agent tools and skills.

Q:  What knowledge, skills, or experience should I already have to make the best use of the course?

ATo make the best use of the course you will come with good study habits and some experience in leading groups: e.g. setting priorities, analyzing problems, exploring possible solutions, and communicating ideas clearly through various methods. It will help if you have some basic knowledge of local and regional sustainability issues and current efforts to mitigate them.

Q: What knowledge, skills, or experience can I expect to gain?

A: You will gain a broad understanding of sustainability challenges relating to a wide variety of issues including but not limited to climate and energy, sustainable food systems, water, ecosystems and biodiversity, transportation, land use, health, education, economic prosperity, and civic engagement. You will also have the opportunity to develop and work on projects which have the potential to influence community action and public policy in your chosen field of interest. These projects and programs will allow you to demonstrate leadership and practice your change agent skills.

Q: What involvement, if any, is expected after completing the training?

A: Upon completion of the course, you will have the opportunity to participate in a lively Fellows Network which provides educational opportunities, informal gatherings, and other forums for exchanging information and discussing current issues. You will be encouraged to stay engaged with the Leadership Institute and contribute your knowledge and other resources to our ongoing curriculum development and outreach.

Q: I already know about sustainability, so why should I take your course?

A: Wherever you are in your knowledge of sustainability, you will be able to expand that knowledge and apply it to the local civic and business environment. You will learn more about the people who are making a difference in our communities, and you will have the opportunity to discuss with them the most urgent issues. You will see first-hand the venues – organic farms, schools, water and energy systems, redeveloping downtowns, etc. – that serve as models for local sustainability. 

Q: How will this course help me better serve my organization?

A: All organizations benefit from increased access by their leaders to intellectual, political, and social resources. This course will help you understand how policies and programs get established, who establishes them, and why. It will also show how you and your organization can more effectively influence decisions which are key to your mission.

Q: Will this program help me get a job?

A: The old adage says “It's not what you know but who you know” that matters in job selection. This program offers both information, the what, and access to decision-makers in a wide range of fields. The rest will be up to you.

Q: What is the estimated time commitment in addition to the scheduled class times?

A: There will be several hours of required reading for each class and a practical, hands on, homework activity may be assigned as well. The bulk of your time outside class will be spent working on and implementing the leadership project developed by the team you decide to join.

Q: Where will the classes be held?

A:  Each class is held at a different location throughout the county. The sites are chosen to highlight or reflect the topic of the day. The classes are held in comfortable classrooms which encourage a collaborative learning environment. 

Q: What does a typical class day look like?
A: The classes are primarily lecture format with blocks of time set aside for Q & A and small group activities. The presentations are given by regional and national experts, and a guided tour is offered on most class days to illustrate the topics covered. Time is also spent on leadership development (through direct instruction and group activities) and working on the leadership projects.

Q: I've heard there is a project required for this class. What does that involve?

A: The leadership project teams are formed near the beginning of the class year. Topics are chosen based on the unique interests of each group, and the teams will meet for a portion of each of the remaining class days to design and implement their own project or projects. There is a great deal of flexibility within these groups, and the students are responsible for coming up with the most effective ways and means to address the specific topic(s) they choose to work on. Each team defines the project’s scope and implementation methods, and how often they meet outside of class depends on the needs of the team and the requirements of the project. Class 10 will showcase the accomplishments of the project groups through displays and presentations.

Q: When will I have time to interact with and learn from Institute fellows and classmates?
A: The small group activities and leadership projects provide time in class for informal interaction and networking. Discussions also take place between classes in a private, online forum. We encourage you to talk to as many people as possible during the breaks and lunch and to attend other Leadership Institute functions to get the most out of the Fellows’ Network.