Common Purpose (UK)

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Common Purpose UK is a British charity that runs leadership development programmes across the UK.[1][2] Common Purpose UK was founded in 1989 by current CEO, Julia Middleton, a published author and expert on leadership.[3][4] Its aim is to improve the way organisations and society work together by developing all kinds of leaders through a programme of diverse challenges and approaches.[5]

Common Purpose employs 150 staff and operates in 50 locations across the UK.[3][6]


Accessed May 2012: [7]


Common Purpose runs a range of leadership development courses that offer participants the inspiration, knowledge and connections to help them become more active and engaged in society.[8]

Its courses run in 11 countries worldwide and aim at improving the way organisations work by increasing the number of informed individuals who are actively involved in shaping the future of the area in which they work.[3][8]

Experiential Learning

The format for Common Purpose is not to run classroom based courses. Instead, participants are encouraged to step outside their usual environment and grapple with real-life problems at first hand.[8]

Mark Cowgill, managing director of Bradford-based ISP firm Exa Networks, found himself "in prison" for the "crime day" of the programme.[5]

"What I gained from this experience in a business sense might be indirect, but in a social sense it was priceless - and like any business, Exa Networks exists in a social setting."[5]


Common Purpose works with a wide range of organisations and individuals across business, public, voluntary and political sectors.[5][9] By January 2010, 12,000 participants were involved in Common Purpose programmes.[8]

Chatham House Rule

Its courses are conducted under the Chatham House Rule to encourage free discussion amongst participants.[10] This has caused some people to raise suspicion about the organisation.[11]

Bursary Placements

Common Purpose offers bursary placements to help bosses of small and medium-sized business get through the economic downturn by enabling firms to make new contacts and secure more work.[12]

Education and Young People

Your Turn is a leadership programme for Year 9 students that is conducted in five regions throughout the UK and challenges young people to think in new ways about their area and their world.[13]

CHANGEit is a collaboration between Common Purpose and Deutsche Bank. It has been designed to recognise the achievements and ambitions of young people between the ages of 11 and 18 who want to speak out and create positive change.[13]

Senior Executives

What Next? is a course run by leadership development organisation Common Purpose and the Said Business School that can help executives identify opportunities to continue to use the experience they have accumulated during their careers.[14]

Thought Leadership and Campaigns

In January 2010, Common Purpose Chief Executive, Julia Middleton, interviewed 12 well-known leaders from the private, public and voluntary sector, including Sir David Bell and Dame Suzi Leather about the qualities needed for good leadership in challenging times.[15][16] The interviews were broadcast on video-sharing website YouTube.[17]

In July 2009, Common Purpose was commissioned by the Government Equalities Office to conduct an online survey of individuals in leadership positions and produce a report titled “Diversity of Representation in Public Appointments”.[18] Subsequently Common Purpose and the Government Equalities Office set up The About Time Public Leaders Courses, designed to support the government’s aim to increase the diversity of public body board members and the pool of talented individuals ready to take up public appointments. The schemes were formally launched in January 2010.[15]


In July 2008, Common Purpose introduced a project in Bangalore, India, which took 50 people from different sectors, e.g. IT and banking, and encouraged them to share local and international knowledge in order to solve problems associated with trading in a recession.[3]

It has also run similar projects in Germany, to highlight the importance of having good facilities for the disabled.[3]


In February 2010, Pits n Pots reported that Common Purpose is planning to provide ways for its alumni to connect online and continue to broaden their horizons.[11]

Related Issues

In May 2008, The Yorkshire Post revealed that Common Purpose had been granted free office space at the Department for Children, Schools and Families in Sheffield in 1997.[19] A DCSF spokeswoman said the free office accommodation had been given in line with the policy of the then Education Secretary David Blunkett, a Sheffield MP, who had wanted to build better links with the local community. But Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, criticised the relationship between Government and Common Purpose as well as the fact it did not put the content of its training in the public domain.[19]

In August 2008, Common Purpose was featured as a primary concern in a Parliamentary document entitled 'Eurosceptic Campaigns Alleging the Abolition of Westminster'[20]

In January 2009, Third Sector reported that Common Purpose was to face no further action from the Information Commissioners Office. The announcement came following ICO’s ruling in October 2009 that the charity was unlikely to have complied with the provisions in the Data Protection Act on processing personal data when it compiled a list containing the personal details of people who had made requests under the Freedom of Information Act relating to its dealings with public authorities.[21]


  1. "Bursaries to help bosses", Derby Telegraph (25 November 2008). Retrieved on 2010-04-27. 
  2. "Unlocking leadership potential in the NHS", Health Service Journal (2008-05-20). Retrieved on 2010-04-27. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 In salute to leaders. The Economic Times (7 May 2008). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  4. Claire Oldfield (November 2008). Understanding strategy. Director Magazine. Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Andrea Wren (2007-03-30). "Move outside your comfort zone", London: The Guardian. Retrieved on 2010-04-27. 
  6. Common Purpose - Company Profile on LinkedIn. Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  7. Common Purpose (UK) Trustees, organizational web page, accessed May 16, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Common Purpose - Business Club Video", London: Daily Telegraph (21 January 2010). Retrieved on 2010-04-27. 
  9. Talent managment special report: market overview. Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  10. Common Purpose UK - Common Purpose Methods. (2010-03-29). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Common Purpose - The Truth, Not The Conspiracy.. Pits n Pots (2010-02-17). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  12. Bursaries to help bosses. (2008-11-25). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  13. 13.0 13.1 TeacherNet, Charities. (2010-01-08). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  14. Common Purpose offers help to redundant executives. (2010-03-18). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Representation in public life. Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  16. Good leadership in challenging times: what's the secret? | Public | Public. (2010-03-09). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  17. Media attacks tested me, says Dame Suzi Leather. Third Sector (2010-03-09). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  18. Diversity of representation in public appointments (PDF). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Waugh, Rob. Elite trainer gets 11-year state freebie. Yorkshire Post. Retrieved on 2010-04-27.
  21. Common Purpose to face no further action from Information Commissioner. Third Sector (2009-12-08). Retrieved on 2010-04-27.

Further reading

External links