The Pale Blue Dot – Sustainable Leadership Course

Our task is to look at the world and see it whole - EF Schumacher

The Pale Blue Dot is an established, locality-based, leadership development course. The course has run 4 times in Bristol. Facilitated by Martin Sandbrook, an experienced complexity and systems thinker, you will explore, as a cross-system group, new approaches, in particular systems thinking and action experiment, to become more effective at tackling the increasing complexity and uncertainty of the fast-changing system that is your City or local area. This course can be tailored to meet your requirements.

The Pale Blue Dot is us – our earth.


The title comes from a photograph taken of the earth from deep space, where our planet appears as a tiny blue dot in the vastness of space. Carl Sagan, of NASA, coined the term Pale Blue Dot, pointing out that this is the only home we have, encouraging us to work together to realise our potential by working with, rather than against each other, to change the nature of our conversations. His idea is deeply systemic, so we created this course to help develop a new kind of leadership, rooted in an understanding of how to work together in complex systems and uncertainty.

This course is for a group of people from a locality, probably a City region. It can be designed around your local needs.

To illustrate, In Bristol, groups have included leaders from all sectors – public, third and private sectors – looking for a better way to relate to one-another, as they bump into each other while interacting in the complex system, which is the City of Bristol.

The courses have started with an introductory full-day session (10am-4pm), followed by a series of up to five 2-hour sessions, each 3 or 4 weeks apart (these have usually been at 8.15am). With a new idea introduced at each session, this structure allows participants to deepen their learning, cycling between reflection and action, experimenting in the system with new ideas, before sharing learning at the next session.

We have also run a two-day version of this course for key representatives from a cross-sectoral partnership. The first day introduced systems ideas and practice, while the second day, two weeks later, consolidated learning and prepared participants to apply systemic approaches in their lives and work.

How will you benefit? 

Pale Blue Dot is designed to provide you with the tools to pioneer new, more effective, leadership approaches, to deal with complexity and uncertainty.

Nina Skubala of Business West says “If you are fed up of your organisation approaching each task, problem and issue in silos with limited success, I would highly recommend you consider taking the Pale Blue Dot course.  It’s a chance to reflect on your own management style in a non-judgemental way, talk through and try new approaches and test out new ways to address problems.

You need a Pale Blue Dot in your area?

We can offer this programme in any city, or wherever there is group interested to learn together. If what is written here chimes with your needs, and you would like to discuss how to make it work in your area, please contact Martin Sandbrook

For a taster of Martin Sandbrook’s ideas and approach, see