About Us

Common Purpose

A not-for-profit organization founded in 1989, we deliver face-to-face and online leadership programmes for multiple generations of leaders: from students in universities to senior leaders in organizations and society.

We live in a world full of complex problems. These problems cross boundaries – yet most leaders do not. Common Purpose is devoted to developing leaders who can cross boundaries. Between geographies, generations, sectors, specializations, backgrounds and beliefs. Both at work and in society.




participants annually


cities globally

Rooted in cities

Common Purpose delivers leadership programmes in over 200 cities worldwide. We believe leaders who cross boundaries make cities work better; and cities that work better will be better at dealing with their own problems, and the world’s. Find out why cities are so important to us and which cities we work in. 

Working globally

We work out of four global hubs:

  • London (covering Europe and MENA)
  • Johannesburg (covering Africa)
  • Singapore (covering Asia-Pacific)
  • Chicago (covering North and South America)

A number of Common Purpose entities operate under a licence agreement with the Common Purpose Charitable Trust. Each has its own independent Board.

Find out more about our country licensees: 
IrelandTurkeyUSSouth AfricaHong KongGermany


Common Purpose is completely independent and non-aligned. Independence is at the heart of what we do; without it, we wouldn’t be able to convene incredibly diverse groups from across different boundaries. 


Our independence is made possible because of our funding model. As a not-for-profit social enterprise, we recover our costs through programme fees paid by participants, their employing organizations, or by other organizations who commission our programmes such as businesses, universities and foundations.

We are committed to ensuring that they are open to all and not simply to those who can afford the full fee, which is why ability to pay is not part of the application criteria. We maintain a bursary fund for people who are unable to meet the full fee.

The Common Purpose Charter

The following is the Common Purpose Charter. It guides all our work across the world.


In every society, there is an invisible, vital 'space'. It lies between the individual and the state between the immediate responsibilities facing each individual and the institutional responsibilities of the government.

It is a place where people come together and act for the greater good. And it is open to everyone, from every sector of society.

In an unhealthy society, this space is empty. People leave the decisions to governments. They are active in their private lives, but passive towards the world around them.

In a healthy society, this space is full. It teems with individuals, businesses, community organizations and political groups. It is alive with energy and entrepreneurial activity. People hold institutions and the powerful to account. They oppose and propose. And, free from the short-term pressures, they can think and act for the longer term and in the wider interest of society.

At Common Purpose, we have a passionate belief in the importance of this space. In our view, this is at the core of society. Active not passive. Involving the best leadership from all parts of the community.

Read an article on 'Civil Society' written by Sir Ralph Dahrendorf for the Common Purpose magazine.


Our aim is to fill this space with as many people as possible – people who may not see themselves as leaders in a traditional sense – and to give them the inspiration, skills and connections they need to be effective.

To encourage all kinds of people into it – and to see all kinds of initiatives come out of it.

To discover new leaders in the bustling crowd – and to show the lone voices that they are not alone.

We develop leaders who can lead beyond their direct area of authority. Who can lead partnerships as well as organizations. Who can sustain broader perspectives and who are confident in making connections between quite different groups of people and reconciling different worlds.

We believe that they will then be able to counterbalance the forces of fragmentation in society, getting communities to work better together. They will be better at using and combining scarce resources. And though they may only seldom produce huge shifts, they will deliver the accumulation of many small ones from which most change emerges.


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

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

Professional teams create innovative and ingenious ways of working to ensure that all Common Purpose activities are high quality, stimulating, imaginative and fun.

The internationally recognized Chatham House Rule is respected on all programmes as an aid to free discussion. We draw on the widest possible variety of sectors, areas, beliefs and social groups. We would only exclude cities, organizations or individuals if they deliberately promoted the use of violence, opposed freedom of speech, or incited hatred on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and mental or physical disability.

We aim to be self-financing but work hard so that inability (as distinct from unwillingness) to pay is not a barrier to involvement in our activities.

Common Purpose staff behave as leaders themselves, delivering quality, taking risks, building on successes adapting and evolving as society does. They seldom give up. 

Common Purpose Ethical Standards Policy

Safeguarding Policy

Charitable status

The Common Purpose Charitable Trust was established as a charity in 1989.
It is registered with the Charity Commission under the Registered Charity number 1023384.

The Common Purpose Charitable Trust and Common Purpose UK charitable objects are described in its governing document as:

"the advancement of education for the public benefit and in particular but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing to educate people, from a broad range of geographical, political, ethnic, institutional, social and economic backgrounds in constitutional, civic, economic and social studies with special emphasis on civil and social awareness and responsibility in the United Kingdom and elsewhere".

You can view our entry on the UK Charity Commission website's Register of Charities.