Common Purpose UK

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Common Purpose UK
Common Purpose logo.jpg
Founded 1989
Founder Julia Middleton
Type charity and company limited by guarantee[1]
Focus Education
Area served International
Employees 125
"Common Purpose" (with capitalized "P") redirects here. For concept in criminal law, see "Common purpose"

Common Purpose UK is a British charity that runs leadership development programmes across the UK.[2][3]

Founded in 1989 by its current Chief Executive, Julia Middleton,[4][5] 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.[6]

As of 2009, Common Purpose employed 125[7] staff and operated in 50 locations across the UK.[4][8]



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.[9]

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.[4][9]

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]


Common Purpose works with a wide range of organisations and individuals across business, public, voluntary and political sectors.[6][12] By January 2010, 12,000 participants were involved in Common Purpose programmes.[9]

Bursary placements[edit]

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.[13]

Education and young people[edit]

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.[14]

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.[14]

Senior executives[edit]

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.[15]

Thought leadership and campaigns[edit]

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.[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.


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.[4]

It has also run similar projects in Germany, to highlight the importance of having good facilities for the disabled.[4]

Press coverage[edit]

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 January 2009, Third Sector magazine reported that Common Purpose was to face no further action from the Information Commissioner's Office. The announcement came following ICO’s ruling in October 2008 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 what it (CP) contended were "vexatious" requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 relating to its dealings with public authorities.[20]

In relation to the Leveson Inquiry[edit]

A number of UK national newspapers ran stories implying that Common Purpose had exerted improper influence over the Leveson Inquiry, in the days preceding publication of its report. On 16 November 2012 the Daily Mail claimed that "like some giant octopus, Common Purpose's tentacles appear to reach into every cranny of the inner sanctums of Westminster, Whitehall and academia […]".[21] The following day The Sun reported on the story and quoted Conservative MP Philip Davies as saying "[t]he way [Common Purpose] has managed to get itself into the Establishment is quite extraordinary."[22] On 25 November, The Daily Telegraph too published a comment piece on the Mail's original story, characterizing Common Purpose as "[a] secretive Fabian organisation [… that] has been described as a Left-wing version of the Freemasons."[23]

Writing in The Guardian, Roy Greenslade described the Mail coverage of Common Purpose in general and the central focus on Sir David Bell in particular as, "a classic example of conspiracist innuendo," that "through a series of leaps of logic and phoney “revelations” of Bell's publicly acknowledged positions, the articles persistently insinuate that he has been up to no good."[24] Also in The Guardian, Michael White acknowleldged that, "anti-establishment bodies should be as much fair game for accountability as those of the old establishment," but said: "I couldn't help thinking as I read it that the analysis itself is a bit of a conspiracy. Delete “Common Purpose” throughout and insert “Jew”, “Etonian” or “Freemason” and you'd rightly feel uneasy."[25] In the New Statesman, Peter Wilby described the Mail coverage as, "a masterpiece of what I call “link” journalism. Show that X sits on the same committee as W who is married to Y whose cousin Z once spent a night at the house of the mass murderer V and, hey presto, X is “linked” to V and therefore to mass murder. Moreover, X probably conspired with W, Y and Z to cover up V’s crimes"[26]

Criticism of Common Purpose became widespread enough that its trustee Sir David Bell, chairman of the Financial Times from 1996 to 2009, made a statement on the charity's website rejecting alleged conspiracy theories about it. He noted that the Information Tribunal had said "There is no evidence that Common Purpose is a secret organisation" and that the Charity Commission had said "we have not received any evidence to suggest that Common Purpose is engaged in any activities that would require regulatory action from the Commission or lead us to question its charitable status."[citation needed][when?]


  1. ^ Common Purpose, Company Information. Company registered number: 3556983; Charity registered number: 1023384
  2. ^ "Bursaries to help bosses". Derby Telegraph. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  3. ^ "Unlocking leadership potential in the NHS". Health Service Journal. 20 May 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "In salute to leaders". The Economic Times. 7 May 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  5. ^ Claire Oldfield (November 2008). "Understanding strategy". Director Magazine. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  6. ^ a b Andrea Wren (30 March 2007). "Move outside your comfort zone". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Common Purpose - Company Profile on LinkedIn". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  9. ^ a b c "Common Purpose - Business Club Video". London: Daily Telegraph. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  10. ^ "Common Purpose UK - Common Purpose Methods". 29 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  11. ^ "Common Purpose - The Truth, Not The Conspiracy.". Pits n Pots. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  12. ^ "Talent management special report: market overview". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  13. ^ "Bursaries to help bosses". 25 November 2008. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  14. ^ a b "TeacherNet, Charities". 8 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  15. ^ "Common Purpose offers help to redundant executives". 18 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  16. ^ "Good leadership in challenging times: what's the secret? | Public | Public". 9 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  17. ^ "Media attacks tested me, says Dame Suzi Leather". Third Sector. 9 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  18. ^ "Diversity of representation in public appointments" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  19. ^ a b Waugh, Rob. "Elite trainer gets 11-year state freebie". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  20. ^ "Common Purpose to face no further action from Information Commissioner". Third Sector. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  21. ^ "Leveson Inquiry has momentous implications for free speech. But Mail dossier raises disturbing questions about the influence of 'people who know best'". Daily Mail. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  22. ^ "The leftie plotters with one Common Purpose... to gag the Press". The Sun. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November,.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  23. ^ "Rotherham, Hislop, Common Purpose". The Daily Telegraph. 25 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November,.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  24. ^ Roy Greenslade, The Guardian, 16 November 2012, Laughable Daily Mail 'investigation' smears Leveson inquiry assessor
  25. ^ Michael White, The Guardian, 16 November 2012, Daily Mail 'dossier' isn't all dross
  26. ^ Peter Wilby, New Statesman, 22 November 2012, Kite marks for paying tax, the end of the energy industry and Paul Dacre’s ten-foot lizards

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]