On Purpose

Associate Programme


The Associate Programme is a year-long programme that transforms your career. It’s a way to learn on the job, doing real work in purpose-led organisations, while at the same time going through an intensive learning programme with a community of like-minded professionals.

  • Placements: you work in two different organisations over the course of the year and get hands on experience. Here are some examples of the work you could be doing.

    Our placement hosts
  • Training: experts in their field, from diverse sectors, share their knowledge and experience with you every Friday afternoon.

    Meet our trainers
  • Mentors & Coaches: you meet a mentor fortnightly, who guides and challenges you to add value to your placement. You meet an executive coach every quarter, focusing on your long-term development. 

    Meet our mentors
  • The community: we bring together our growing community though our collaboration platform, engaging events and a close social network

    Meet our community

What our Associates say


What you get out of the Associate Programme

  • £22.5k

    Salary per annum, for a year packed-full of training and personal development.

  • 2 x 6 months

    Placements, delivering projects in different purpose-driven organisations

  • 284 hours

    of training, mentoring, coaching and a residential to support and inspire you.

Our placement hosts

You work in two purpose-driven organisations for six months each on organisational priorities, & are expected to quickly make a difference. Placement hosts are social enterprises, social divisions of for-profit companies or commercially-minded charities.

Application process

We recruit separately for our April and October programmes. The application process has two steps: first, you submit an online application; if we think you might be a good fit for the Associate Programme, we'll invite you to an in-person interview.

Who we look for

  • Motivation and persistence

    The ability to turn ideas into reality and seize opportunities. To challenge yourself and set goals and to know when to compromise or to involve others. 

  • Interpersonal skills

    Convincing, bringing in and inspiring others, whilst also dealing with conflict effectively and sensitively. 

  • Attitude and mindset

    Retaining high expectations, an open mind and an eagerness for new experiences; being pragmatic, self-sufficient and comfortable with changing situations. Ability to articulate your commitment to work in the social enterprise space. 

  • Problem-solving

    Structuring and breaking down complex problems into solvable elements, whilst not losing sight of the big picture; comfortable with quantitative analysis and mental arithmetic.

Case studies


Associate Programme FAQs

What sorts of things will I be involved in as an Associate?

Associates can help with discrete projects as well as learning about the day-to-day running of the organisation. For example, at HCT Group our Associate developed and implemented the first framework for measuring social impact with the Deputy CEO, and our Associate at O2 created and launched O2Learn together with the Head of Brand Strategy. Roles at Comic Relief have been more open ended seeing Associates managing the character Monkey and its merchandise. Here's are more detailed description of what work you could be doing in your placements.

What support will I get?

In each placement you will be assigned to one nominated manager who will help ensure that both you and the placement organisation benefit from your experience. You will meet this manager at least once a week. In addition, On Purpose provides help through mentoring, the training programme and your peers.

Do I get to choose my placement?

On Purpose works with both our Associates and our placement hosts to determine which Associates will work with each placement over the course of their year on the Associate Programme. We take your background and interests into account, as it might be that you want to make use of your existing skills and experience, or to try something different.

On Purpose allocates placements through a two-stage matching process which takes into account Associates’ and placements’ preferences and finds a combination that works for the entire group, ensuring each Associate works with two placements and vice versa.

Will I gain some insight into the placements the other Associates are on?

Yes, during the Friday training sessions, time is set aside for Associates to share their experiences and learn from each other. This is often one of the best ways to learn and we will help and encourage Associates to share their experiences. We also make sure that you have the opportunity to meet people from other placement organisations.

Will I get time off?

Yes, you will get a normal UK holiday allowance.

Does On Purpose prefer people from the private sector?

No. On Purpose is designed to provide opportunities for anyone who has at least two years’ work experience, regardless of what sector that experience is in. We look for people who have the potential to become leaders. Whatever sector you have worked in, you will bring valuable experience and insights.

Will I get paid?

You will be paid £22,500 per annum pro rata as a living allowance. This will be adjusted because the programme lasts for a little under a year. The fact that you have half a day of training will, however, not affect this amount.

Why only £22,500? I currently earn much more than this!
On Purpose believes that it is right to reward high-calibre people appropriately. However, many organisations in this sector are able to attract volunteers for free, so £22,500 pro rata is a big commitment for them.

On Purpose offers a unique combination of on-the-job experience, rigorous training by both professionals and academics and access to powerful networks. The mentoring and coaching add an extra layer to create a comprehensive learning experience beyond that of other academic or training programmes.

We believe that we are striking the right balance by ensuring On Purpose Associates have enough to live on and not making it prohibitive for all kinds of purpose-driven organisations to take part.

Where will the projects be?

All of the placements will be in or around London. If you have to commute out of London on a regular basis, the placement host usually allows you to work from London some of the time and reimburses your travel costs.

Is this programme full-time?

Yes. The placements will be full-time, and the training and associated assignments will mean you have a busy schedule.

When does the programme happen?

The programme runs from April – March and from October – September. You can view whether applications are currently open, and apply, here.

Why do you have companies like O2 and charities like Comic Relief in your placements? They’re not social enterprises.

On Purpose aims to develop the next generation of leaders across all kinds of purpose-driven organisations. These include social divisions of profit seeking companies and charities. Also, we believe that the next generation of leaders will need to bring together the best from all sectors. Placements in the private and charitable sectors will help you learn and develop the skills you will need to overcome challenges that social enterprises and other purpose-driven organisations face.

What do you mean by coaching?

All our coaches are experienced professionals who have not only done significant amounts of coaching at senior and executive levels in organisations but have also had careers in business themselves.

You’ll meet with your coach each quarter on a one-to-one basis.  This is an opportunity for you to take a step back from the details of your placement and the pace of the year.  You’ll be able to discuss what it is you’re taking from the year and what areas you feel you need to be making a more concerted effort with given your goals. You might find, like Associates have in the past, it’s a good time to consider decisions around your career.

The coaches are independent of On Purpose and their objective is to support your leadership development; expect to be challenged to find your own solutions based on your own strengths and values.

Who is behind On Purpose?

For details about the On Purpose core team, and the rest of our community members, click here. On Purpose is supported by leaders across the private and social sectors, who are providing placements, training or both.

Is On Purpose a charity?

We are a company limited by guarantee that specifies that it is non-profit. That means we have no shareholders and re-invest any profits we make back into the organisation. Because we are a social enterprise programme, we have taken care to design a business model that can operate in a financially sustainable way.

What is On Purpose’s business model?

We are a social enterprise ourselves, so we aspire to cover our own costs without needing to rely on grants or donations. Our income comes mainly from placements hosts, in two ways: First, placement hosts pay On Purpose a fee (£6K-£11k) for being part of the programme; second, if they hire an Associate after the programme, they pay On Purpose another fee (of £11k-£16.5k).

Will you help me find a job after the placements end?

We will certainly help you find a job after On Purpose. We hope that it might be in one of the placement organisations or other organisations in the On Purpose network. Obviously, we can’t guarantee you a job, but you will be part of a powerful network.

Do people stay in touch after they leave On Purpose?

On Purpose’s growing alumni network is one of the programme’s core strengths. Once you complete the leadership programme you become an On Purpose Fellow. We keep in close touch with Fellows through social events and including them in the selection, training and mentoring of new Associates.

How does Brexit impact EU applicants?

The current advice from the UK Government is as follows:

“The UK government has reached an agreement with the European Union on citizens’ rights in negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This will provide certainty about the future to millions of EU citizens and their families in the UK. Most importantly, it will allow you to stay here after we leave the EU on 29 March 2019, and to continue to access public funds and services.

Agreement on rights for EU citizens and their families

The agreement we have reached for EU citizens and their families is:

  • People who, by 29 March 2019, have been continuously and lawfully living here for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means they will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and go on to apply for British citizenship
  • People who arrive by 29 March 2019, but won’t have been living here lawfully for 5 years when we leave the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
  • Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 29 March 2019 will also be able to apply for settled status, usually after 5 years in the UK.
  • Close family members (spouses, civil and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join EU citizens after exit, where the relationship existed on 29 March 2019.

EU citizens with settled status or temporary permission to stay will have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.

EU citizens who arrive in the UK after EU exit

After the UK has left the EU on 29 March 2019 there will be an ‘implementation period’ of around 2 years to prepare and implement our future arrangements with the EU.

EU citizens and their family members who arrive in the UK during the implementation period will be able to live, work and study here as they do now, but they’ll need to register with the Home Office if they intend to stay here longer than 3 months. We will publish more details about this registration scheme as soon as possible.

We propose that the following arrangements should apply to EU citizens and their family members who arrive in the UK (and have registered) during the implementation period and who want to stay afterwards:

  • Once they have been continuously and lawfully living here for 5 years they will be able to apply to stay indefinitely.
  • They can apply for a temporary status in UK law that will enable them to stay beyond the end of the implementation period. This means that they will be able to continue working, studying or being self-sufficient until they have reached the 5-year point.
  • They will need to apply for this temporary status either during the implementation period or in the 3 months after the implementation period ends.
  • After the implementation period ends, EU citizens – who arrived during that period – can be joined here by family members under arrangements that will be on a par with the arrangements applying to British citizens who want to joined by a non-British family member.

EU citizens who live in the EU but travel to work in the UK during the implementation period will be able to apply for permission to continue doing this after the period ends.

These arrangements are separate from the settled status scheme available to EU citizens lawfully living in the UK before 29 March 2019.

Irish citizens won’t need to register or apply for leave to remain.

For EU citizens arriving after the implementation period ends, we’re carefully considering a range of options for the future immigration system and will set out our plans in the coming months.”


Source: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/status-of-eu-nationals-in-the-uk-what-you-need-to-know

Retrieval date: 15th March 2018

Register your interest

Applications for our April 2019 cohort are closed. Click on the button below to register your interest in joining our next cohort of October 2019. The button on the right will lead you to our Associate Brochure.