Common Purpose Methods

Common Purpose programmes use experiential learning methods, conventions and techniques to encourage communication and provide insights into leading in different settings.

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Common Purpose programme conventions

To help our participants to get the most from their experience with Common Purpose, we ask them to respect the following conventions during the programme.

These "rules of engagement" have evolved over many years and have proved their worth in helping us to deliver high quality courses. So if you come on a Common Purpose programme or attend any of our events we will ask you to adhere to the conventions listed at right.

How Common Purpose educates better leaders


Chatham House Rule

The Chatham House Rule was devised at Chatham House (the home of the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London*) in 1927 and was refined in 1992 and 2002. It is an internationally recognised and respected way of conducting meetings and it reads as follows:

"When a meeting is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed"

This does not mean that the discussions are secret, although this is how it might appear at first sight. In fact (and in practice), the Chatham House Rule is there to encourage everyone to speak freely. Speakers can - and do - talk openly and truthfully about issues in their community, challenges in society or their own leadership dilemmas. They are also able to speak as individuals and express views that may not be those of their organisations. In these conditions, real issues or concerns can be aired, genuine debate can flourish and deeper learning can be achieved.

Programme techniques

Common Purpose deals with real life issues and insights, so our programme are neither classroom nor lecture based. We go beyond standard leadership models and learn instead from the successes and failures of leaders from all sectors. This takes participants out of their familiar environment so that they re-examine why, when and how they lead, but roots them in reality so that they can translate their learning back into their daily lives.

Our programmes are best described as experiential learning. This encourages individual participants to take responsibility and be actively involved in their own learning in a structured way. Participants are thrown into unfamiliar situations with fellow participants from very different backgrounds. They are challenged to analyse the task, the environment and their own, and fellow particpants', responses. They carefully reflect - together and individually - on the experience so that they can use this as a basis for future action.

Common Purpose staff create a learning environment in which people can both 'have' an experience and 'know' it as they are put into different situations and draw learning from them. Given the diversity of the Common Purpose participant groups, there is a real exchange of knowledge across traditional boundaries.

Many tried and tested experiential learning techniques are used - such as facilitated dialogue, peer coaching and role play. We put great care into developing courses tailored for each participant group in each local area.


This approach allows participants to practice leadership as they go and, because the experience is so close to reality, it is easier to transfer the learning into reality. For many it is a delight - after many experiences of learning by sitting, listening and modeling - to learn in new ways. Participants also enjoy the local nature of the experience as well as the challenge to look outwards on Quests. By using experiential learning techniques we also make the diversity of the participant group an essential and exciting - rather than frightening - factor in the learning process.

All our courses run under the Chatham House Rule to encourage free debate.

Participants are also asked to abide by the Common Purpose conventions.

Programme staff

Every Common Purpose programme is led by a member of Common Purpose staff.

We are known for the energy and commitment of our staff, the breadth of their backgrounds and experience, their professionalism and their ability to work with very diverse groups of participants.

Programme staff are supported by a Curriculum team who are constantly innovating on course content and drawing new ideas from across all sectors, whether this is the arts or the health sector, the corporate world or the creative world.

Together they design and develop powerful and exciting experiential learning.

"As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others."

Bill Gates
Philanthropist and founder of Microsoft