Systems leadership for all generations

Born in a village in the Swiss Alps, The Villars Institute aims to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy and to improve the health of the planet for all its inhabitants.

An intergenerational path to a better planet

The race to net zero is an imperative for our planet's future health. There is an urgent need for innovative, entrepreneurial, and sustainable solutions. The Villars Institute aims to accelerate this through intergenerational collaboration and systems leadership.

The Villars Institute was established this year in Villars-sur-Ollon in the Swiss Alps, as a platform for systemic change and a place for intergenerational collaboration. It breaks down generational divides by bringing together talented young people with experienced professionals to share knowledge, to develop ideas and to launch initiatives.

Communities of change-makers

The Villars Institute promotes intergenerational collaboration by bringing together two new communities of change-makers: Villars Fellows and Villars Councils. Villars Fellows are dynamic, solution-oriented young people between 13 and 19 years old. They are nominated each year by educational, philanthropic and leadership organizations from around the world. The Villars Fellows program provides skills development in the areas of system thinking, advocacy, facilitation and entrepreneurship along with domain knowledge around the topics of net zero economy, nature-based solutions, and emerging technologies.

The Villars Councils are comprised of experts willing to work across disciplines for systemic change in the areas of energy transition, nature-based solutions and emerging technologies. Diversity of knowledge and lived experiences are critical for their success. Therefore, the Villars Institute actively works on ensuring diversity and inclusion in terms of generational, geographic and gender representation within the Councils.

Villars Fellows and Villars Councils Online also participate in classes, courses and conferences that provide opportunities for continuing education, collaborative learning and knowledge sharing with our partners.

Making change happen from the Swiss Alps

The Villars Institute organizes two international events each year in the alpine village of Villars-sur-Ollon: the Villars Symposium and the Villars Summit. The Villars Symposium convenes the Villars Fellows to begin their journey as future systems leaders with the support of the Institute's partners and global experts.

The Villars Summit brings together the Villars Councils and other invited organizations to develop strategies for systemic change and for shaping the agenda of major international meetings.

Lee Howell: From game-changing work at the WEF to empowering young people

The Executive Director of the Villars Institute is Lee Howell, who was the Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, responsible for its Annual Meeting in Davos from 2009 thru 2021. His love for Villars, his passion for education and his commitment to sustainability brought him to the Villars Institute. Lee looks forward to empowering all generations to address the global challenges affecting their local communities:

"In order to have serious impact, collaboration needs to be intergenerational, and transdisciplinary. So our aim is to build communities of change-makers, deeply committed to addressing the complex challenges of climate change and sustainable development through innovation and systems leadership."

The Villars Board

The Villars Institute Foundation Board comprises 5 members. The board members are:

Julia Marton-Lefevre, former Director General of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Switzerland and former Rector of the United Nations affiliated University for Peace in Costa Rica. As Chair of the Villars Institute Foundation, Julia will advise the Institute on nature-based solutions, systems leadership, and environmental governance.

David Gann, CBE, Chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. David is also Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs at Oxford University, Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Saïd Business School, and a Fellow of Magdalen College. As Vice Chair of the Villars Institute Foundation, he will advise the Institute on systemic innovation and emerging technologies such as fusion power.

Keith Tuffley, Vice Chairman, Global Co-Head of the Sustainability & Corporate Transitions Group at Citi. He formerly served as CEO of The B Team which was active in mobilising CEOs to support the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. Keith will advise the Villars Institute on energy transition, sustainable finance, and ESG issues.

Suzan Craig, Founder & CEO of Tahi Estate in New Zealand. Suzan is leading a major nature rejuvenation project on the North Island that has reintroduced over 350,000 indigenous trees to date. Tahi Estate was recently featured in the New York Times' '52 Places for a Changed World'. It also won the 2020 and 2021 Restoring Nature Awards sponsored by the Department of Conservation, for its development of a Bio Value Index. Suzan will advise the Villars Institute on carbon sequestration, revegetation, and ecological entrepreneurship.

Richard McDonald, provider of educational advisory services worldwide. Richard formerly served as Head Master and Executive Director of Aiglon College in Villars-sur-Ollon. He chaired the the board of the Swiss Group of International Schools for four years, and he is currently on the global Board of Trustees of Round Square. Richard will advise the Villars Institute on youth education, arts & culture, and leadership development.

The board of directors and the leadership team will work together with the Villars Fellows, Villars Councils and the partners of the Villars Institute to restore the health of the planet for all of its inhabitants.