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Common Purpose is a British-founded charity that runs leadership development programmes around the world.[2][3]

Common Purpose UK
Common Purpose logo.jpg
FounderJulia Middleton
Typecharity and company limited by guarantee[1]
Area served

Common Purpose UK is a subsidiary of Common Purpose.[4][5]

Founded in 1989 by its current Chief Executive, Julia Middleton,[6][7][8] 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.[9]

As of 2015 Common Purpose ran local programmes for leaders in cities across the world, and its global programmes bring together leaders from over 100 countries across six continents.[10][11]

As of 2009 Common Purpose employed 125[12] staff and operated in 50 locations across the UK.[7][13]




Common Purpose has run a range of leadership development courses which it claims offer participants the inspiration, knowledge and connections to help them become more active and engaged in society.[14] These courses ran in 11 countries worldwide as of 2010, and seek to build organizational capacity by increasing the number of individuals who are actively involved in shaping the future of the area in which they work and who subscribe to Common Purposes's values.[7][14]

The courses were conducted under the Chatham House Rule[15] to encourage free discussion amongst participants.[16] This has caused some people to voice suspicions that the organisation has a hidden agenda.[17]


Common Purpose works with a wide range of organisations and individuals across business, public, voluntary and political sectors.[9] By January 2010, according to a video prepared by Common Purpose, 12,000 participants were involved in Common Purpose programmes.[14]

Education and young peopleEdit

Your Turn was a leadership programme for Year 9 students that was conducted in 2010 in five regions throughout the UK, and challenged young people to think in new ways about their area and their world.[18]

CHANGEit was a 2010 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.[18][dead link]

Senior executivesEdit

What Next? was a 2010 course run by leadership development organisation Common Purpose and the Said Business School to help redundant executives identify opportunities to continue to use the experience they have accumulated during their careers.[19]

Leadership campaignsEdit

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 entitled "Diversity of Representation in Public Appointments".[20] 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.[citation needed] In January 2010, Common Purpose Chief Executive, Julia Middleton, published interviews with 12 leaders from the private, public and voluntary sectors, including Sir David Bell and Dame Suzi Leather about the qualities needed for good leadership in challenging times.[21]


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. It has also run projects in Germany, to highlight the importance of having good facilities for the disabled.[7]

Press coverageEdit

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.[22] 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.[22]

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 the 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.[23]

Leveson Inquiry controversyEdit

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. These stories centred on the role of Inquiry member Sir David Bell, who was both a trustee of Common Purpose, and had set up the Media Standards Trust (a lobbying group which presented evidence to the Inquiry) together with Julia Middleton. Moreover, the Media Standards Trust set up and provided funding for the lobbying group Hacked Off, which also presented evidence to the Inquiry. Bell resigned from the Media Standards Trust when he was appointed a member of the Inquiry. On 16 November 2012 the Daily Mail, reporting these links, 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 […]".[24] 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."[25] On 25 November, The Daily Telegraph too published a comment piece on CPUK, noting that the Rotherham Director of Children's Services, Joyce Thacker, heavily criticised in the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, was a member of CPUK, and noting that Common Purpose had been described as "[a] secretive Fabian organisation [… that] has been described as a Left-wing version of the Freemasons."[26]

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" and went on 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."[27] This opinion was shared in an article in the New Statesman by Peter Wilby.[28] Also in The Guardian, Michael White acknowledged 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."[29]


  1. ^ Common Purpose, Company Information. Company registered number: 3556983; Charity registered number: 1023384
  2. ^ "Bursaries to help bosses". Derby Telegraph. 25 November 2008. Archived from the original on 14 January 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Unlocking leadership potential in the NHS". Health Service Journal. 20 May 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Common Purpose Charitable Trust Overview". Charity Commission. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  5. ^ "Common Purpose subsidiary information". Charity Commission. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  6. ^ "25 Years of Success and Mistakes". Huffingdon Post. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d "In salute to leaders (Interview with Julia Middleton)". The Economic Times. 7 May 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  8. ^ Claire Oldfield (November 2008). "Understanding strategy". Director Magazine. Archived from the original on 21 September 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  9. ^ a b Andrea Wren (30 March 2007). "Move outside your comfort zone". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  10. ^ "Julia Middleton Speaker Profile". TEDxEastEnd. Retrieved 6 August 2015.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Common Purpose Partner page". FutureLearn. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  12. ^[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Common Purpose - Company Profile on LinkedIn". Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  14. ^ a b c "Common Purpose - Business Club Video". London: Daily Telegraph. 21 January 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  15. ^ Alexander, Ruth (8 March 2009). "A secret society?". BBC News. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  16. ^ "Common Purpose UK - Common Purpose Methods". 29 March 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  17. ^ "Common Purpose - The Truth, Not The Conspiracy". Pits n Pots. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  18. ^ a b "TeacherNet, Charities". 8 January 2010. Archived from the original on 19 February 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  19. ^ "Common Purpose offers help to redundant executives". 18 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  20. ^ "Diversity of representation in public appointments" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  21. ^ "Good leadership in challenging times: what's the secret? | Public | Public". 9 March 2010. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  22. ^ a b Waugh, Rob. "Elite trainer gets 11-year state freebie". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  23. ^ "Common Purpose to face no further action from Information Commissioner". Third Sector. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ "The leftie plotters with one Common Purpose... to gag the Press". The Sun. 17 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  26. ^ "Rotherham, Hislop, Common Purpose". The Daily Telegraph. 25 November 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  27. ^ Greenslade, Roy (16 November 2012). "Laughable Daily Mail 'investigation' smears Leveson inquiry assessor". The Guardian.
  28. ^ Wilby, Peter (22 November 2012). "Kite marks for paying tax, the end of the energy industry and Paul Dacre's ten-foot lizards". New Statesman.
  29. ^ White, Michael (16 November 2012). "Daily Mail 'dossier' isn't all dross". The Guardian.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit