The first Commonwealth Study Conference was held in the United Kingdom in 1956. It was, in the words of its founder, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, “an extraordinary experiment”. It set out to provide an opportunity for high potential individuals from many different countries and all walks of life to leave behind their usual roles and, together, examine the relationship between industry and the community around it. The purpose was not to produce high sounding resolutions and weighty conclusions but to challenge the participants’ assumptions and preconceptions: to give them the chance to examine real situations and issues arising from the interaction of businesses, their employees and the communities in which they operated.
The Conference members were, at Prince Philip’s insistence, to be “people who appeared likely to be in the next generations of leaders so that when the time came for them to take important decisions they would have the benefit of what they had discovered on the Study Conference to help them”.
The impact of that “great experiment” on the 1956 members resulted in them demanding additional Conferences so that others could benefit. With the essential involvement of Conference alumni, the first Commonwealth Study Conference was turned into a continuing series of Study Conferences, organized every six years.
Although the basic structure of the CSC program has not changed since 1956, changes have been made in the light of experience and advice from alumni. The first event was three weeks and 300 participants, but with greater time pressures and leaner organizations, this was reduced to approximately two weeks and 200 to 300 members.
For a detailed story of the Conference, you can find attached the 50th anniversary celebration book, Leadership in the Making, co-authored by Ian Anderson and Joel Ruimy and released at Buckingham Palace.