About Us

Common Purpose

Common Purpose – the heart of leadership development.

Participants gaining insight into design, technology and innovation at a Jaguar Land Rover factory

The heart of leadership development

Founded in 1989 as a not-for-profit social enterprise, Common Purpose now runs local programmes for leaders in cities across the world, and our global programmes bring together leaders from over 100 countries across six continents. This year, 4,000 leaders will become Common Purpose alumni.

Our programmes give participants the inspiration, skills and connections to become better leaders, both at work and in society.

Where we operate

Common Purpose runs programmes in individual cities where we convene leaders across old and new divides. We also run programmes in cities for university students to prepare the next generation of leaders. We do this from Johannesburg to Edinburgh, from Bangalore to Budapest.

We also take this wider: connecting cities through global programmes, run across continents, where leaders from different parts of the world come together, learn together and work together.

Just as we enable leaders in a city to join forces to tackle common problems, these global Common Purpose programmes enable leaders from across the world to do the same with global problems.

What we provide

At its simplest, Common Purpose gives people from different backgrounds, sectors, geographies and generations the inspiration, skills and connections to become better leaders at work and in society.

Why skills?

Because leaders find they need to appreciate how a system works before they can change it. They need to understand cities: how they work, and don’t work.

They also need to understand leadership: how it works differently in different cultures and sectors; across generations and geographies; and as they lead diverse teams of colleagues and stakeholders. And, if they are leading partnerships, how they adapt their approach to leadership.

Why connections?

Because you can’t produce complex change on your own. Complex change addresses complex problems and complex problems cross boundaries of all kinds. So leaders who want to address them have to cross the boundaries as well.

To do this successfully, they need networks: with a depth that is not created by exchanging business cards, but through relationships, often painstakingly built. And with enough breadth that leaders can widen their horizons and see what others see.

Why inspiration?

Because leaders who step out of their own space into uncharted territory will find it a difficult road, with a lot of blocks to negotiate. It is always easier to turn back than to carry on. That’s why inspiration is important.

People need it now more than ever because so many have lost belief that things can change. And lost sight of how much a few good people can achieve if they can overcome their differences and work cleverly together, avoiding the waste of effort and resources that otherwise drop through the gaps between them.

Bhaskar Bhat, Managing Director - Titan Industries, Tata Group

"Common Purpose is, above all, about collaboration - between government, NGOs and corporate sectors. This unique combination has the maximum potential to drive radical change and Common Purpose provides a platform for sharing and learning across these sectors."

The Common Purpose film

With thanks to Ridley Scott Associates for its support in producing this film.

Always independent

As we grow and create a consistent educational experience within and across many different countries, Common Purpose remains independent and non-aligned.

We are always balanced and we owe no historical or other allegiance to any other group. Our independence is reflected in our people, governance, finances, partnerships, behaviour and curriculum.

We draw on the widest possible variety of sectors, backgrounds and beliefs. We would only exclude cities, organisations or individuals if they deliberately promoted the use of violence, opposed freedom of speech, or incited race or religious hatred.

Common Purpose aims to be self-financing, but we work hard so that inability (as distinct from unwillingness) to pay is not a barrier to involvement in our activities.

Knowledge Hub

This is where we gather deeper thinking on subjects like leadership, Cultural Intelligence and cities. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us.