The Cumberland Lodge symposium, 'Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives', on 1-3 December 2019, connected and inspired young people from across the Commonwealth.

These discussions were convened in partnership with the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), the British Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat, to give young people a platform to generate and present innovative ideas and recommendations for future projects across the Commonwealth.

The symposium responded to the fact that more than 60% of Commonwealth citizens are now aged under 30, by celebrating the positive role that young leadership can play in promoting social cohesion in the world today. It developed recommendations on two of the main themes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Rwanda in June 2020: ICT and Innovation and the Rule of Law.

International influence

We gathered 57 young leaders and students from 25 Commonwealth countries, with 13 guest speakers and facilitators, for three days of open discussion and intercultural exchange at Cumberland Lodge, in Windsor Great Park. Participants represented a diversity of faiths and beliefs, and fields of study.

Participants were selected from the Commonwealth Youth Council and Commonwealth Youth Networks, through the Cumberland Lodge and Commonwealth scholarship schemes, and on the basis of their active participation in ACU activities and other Commonwealth events and projects, around the world.

Members of the Commonwealth Youth-led Taskforce were also present at the symposium, and will take the ideas and recommendations that emerged to discussions at the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Rwanda, as part of CHOGM 2020, this summer. Outputs from the symposium will also feed into discussions at the British Council’s Going Global 2020 conference in London, in June 2020.

Impact report

A short report on the key recommendations, outputs and impact of this symposium is available to download from this webpage, or in print, on request, by emailing

Transformative experiences

'Commonwealth Futures: Youth Perspectives' has already inspired many to take action in their own lives.
Nabeela Mowlana (from Sri Lanka), told the ACU afterwards: ‘The programme widened my world view and showed me the scope to create change outside of my current organising circles. This is something I have taken into my job, where I support young people to organise social action projects and campaigns in their own communities.’ 

Another young participant, Catherine Mingxi Ge (from Australia), said: ‘These valuable insights gained at the symposium have furthered my commitment to continuing to empower youth, from facilitating discourse on this issue, to running workshops and volunteering at not-for-profit organisations.

'I have already published an article in Lawyers Weekly, one of the most-read publications in the legal field in Australia, sharing the knowledge gained at the symposium with the goal of inspiring more young people to take the lead in building a more just and cohesive society.’ 

Another participant, Abhilash Vishwanathula (a Commonwealth Scholar from India, studying an MA in International Development at LSE) successfully applied to our Emerging International Leaders programme on the back of the Commonwealth symposium, in order to continue his connection with our work. 

Here’s how the discussions inspired some of the other young leaders and international students who took part in the symposium and gave us their anonymous feedback afterwards:

‘I felt personally inspired and motivated by all the discussions happening at Cumberland Lodge. The conference absolutely helped to facilitate new networks and allowed for an atmosphere of learning and collaboration, conducive to discussion and innovation.’

'Engaging in meaningful discussions with passionate young people from across the Commonwealth left me feeling inspired, energised and confident about our future.'

‘To sum up the experience, I would not be doing it justice to describe it as anything other than life-changing and awe-inspiring. I had always thought of the Commonwealth as a legacy of empire, not as a mechanism for addressing inequality or a platform for supporting other countries.’

‘Cumberland Lodge changed my perspective on a lot of things: my eyes have been opened, my work ethic and drive has been transformed.’

‘Spending time with passionate young people from across the Commonwealth left me feeling recharged and inspired. It was incredibly energising… Likewise, the conversations within our focus groups also broadened my thinking and honed my creativity, as we shared our unique perspectives and worked together to formulate innovative yet pragmatic policy recommendations that will feed into the Commonwealth Youth Forum and CHOGM 2020.’

JP Rangaswami, presenting on ICT Innovation