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Common Purpose: the perils of being closed

Some years back I went on a course run by Common Purpose, during which over a year a group of us made visits to schools, prisons, newspaper offices and the like, and took part in discussions all in the pursuit of civil leadership.
It was pleasant enough, and a chance to meet people from different sectors and professions, but I was never clear quite how we became “leaders” (or that I wanted to).
The Common Purpose founder Julia Middleton evidently had strong views on how things should be done, so it definitely wasn’t in my experience a very bottom-up sort of organisation. There was an online system which Common Purpose “graduates” were occasionally exhorted to use, but it was (and is) very Web 1.0 and behind a login.
Back in 2004 I did have some discussion with staff about how blogging might be useful as part of their communications and work with groups … but the open style didn’t appeal. I said I couldn’t see how you could develop innovative projects for public benefit unless you were prepared to engage publicly, and wrote Effective civil leadership won’t develop behind a login.
Last year the then manager of the online network contacted me and others to say the organisation was being targeted by critical bloggers, and accused of being a secret society promoting a whole range of evils. What should they do? My advice was simple – open up, start blogging back. Encourage your staff and graduates to do so. Still didn’t appeal. (see correction at the end of his post)
I’ve just received a note from Common Purpose alerting me to a programme tonight on Radio 5 live (podcast here), with an accompanying article on the BBC site, quoting former naval officer Brian Gerrish, who leads a campaign against Common Purpose:

It’s a secret society for careerists. The key point is that the networking is done out of sight of the general public.
If you actually look at the documented evidence as to what Common Purpose is doing, they are clearly not just a training provider. They are operating a highly political agenda, which is to create new chosen leaders in society.

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