Our Impact: On Purpose Impact Report 2023
Introduction to our impact report
As individuals we live, and as organisations we operate, in increasingly turbulent times. The polycrisis, as it has been christened, manifests itself in creaking health and social care systems, widespread strike action, citizen unrest, the cost-of-living crisis, the fraying of democratic certainties and the advent of war on the continent of Europe. And that’s before we even consider the escalating climate and biodiversity crisis.
Writing an impact report in this environment - detailing the good we believe we have done in the world - seems quaint. And yet, what one does, and how one does it, matters and organisations should be held to account for that.
More importantly organisations must learn both from what goes well and from what doesn’t. It is in this spirit that we offer this blog on our impact over the past year.
At a higher level, as an organisation, we are trying to learn how we can best equip the people we are privileged to work with, to become leaders that make a meaningful contribution to navigating the polycrisis. We believe this has to do with being ambitious, about fundamentally reimaining, and practically working towards, a very different type of economy - about helping to bring about the transformation we need.
As we are trying to make this happen, we are also learning the importance of transforming ourselves - finding new ways of working together across cities, experimenting with innovative management approaches and putting into practice what we preach on our programmes.
None of these journeys are easy and we cannot make many commitments about the outcomes we will achieve. What we do commit to though, is to make sure that we learn from everything we do, and put this in service of catalysing the transformation we need.
On Purpose develops people to take on the greatest challenge of our time: to transform our economy from profit to purpose.
Our world needs an economy that works for all and operates within the means of our planet and without the injustices of today.
This requires a fundamental shift, led by people who transform the organisations in which they work, from an economy of profit to an economy of purpose: an economy that serves the wellbeing of all, now and for all time.
We are the home for these leaders: a community that develops, challenges and sustains itself and others, to help bring about such an economy.
Changes in board governance
Since our last impact report in 2022, we have worked on several governance related issues:
We have appointed a new chairperson, Howard Bell, replacing Will Day whose term had come to an end. We also appointed Ezgi Akarsu as our new Fellows’ Rep, who is selected from our community of alumni, replacing Kate Richardson.
We have created a new Fellows’ Advisory Board (FAB) consisting of two Fellows from each of our programme Cities, including the Fellows’ Rep. They are working to invigorate the Fellowship and help Fellows self-organise into an ever more impactful community of transformational leaders.
We have been trying out some new ways of working as a board with a different style of leadership from our chair. With the FAB, we are learning to navigate how a team of volunteers and full time staff can work together on the same agenda and reinforce each other's efforts, rather than get in each other's way.
New organisational values
In 2022, we developed together a new set of organisational values, which are shorter and, we hope, more memorable than our last set. We believe they provide not only a good insight into how On Purpose works, but also a set of practical guide-rails for our decision-making and we regularly discuss them at all levels of the organisation.
At On Purpose, we:
- Choose optimism: We believe in a better future and that everyone has a part to play in making it happen.
- Learn together: Magic happens when we welcome diversity and learn together.
- Step up: We take action in the interest of the whole.
- Engage our head and heart: We are proud to be strong problem solvers, we are more proud to be a caring community.
- Act with integrity: We walk our talk and live up to our responsibilities
We have developed and clarified new organisational policies in the area of how we reward and recognise colleagues, paying particular attention to being aware and taking account of differences across our programme cities.
We have also reviewed and updated our reserves policy - relating to the level of earned profits we set aside that gives us greater flexibility to deal with external shocks or other unforeseen challenges.
We continue to learn how to try and reward and recognise people fairly across three very different economies where levels of taxation, state provision of benefits and cultural expectations are very different.
We survey all colleagues monthly to understand people’s wellbeing. Anonymised results are fed back at city level and included in monthly team conversations.
The average team wellbeing score across the whole team for 2023 so far is 8.4/10 vs. a target of 8.2. This is, at least partly, related to efforts that city teams have made on actively managing team wellbeing, reducing working hours and paying attention to team culture. This was a particular point of focus since the start of 2022.
Practically, we also reviewed and updated the reward and recognition policy including financial and non-financial benefits across all cities. In accordance with our policy we increased remuneration for 2023 in all cities, to balance the effects of inflation. This applied to all colleagues with the exception of the most senior staff, whose increases were capped at a lower level.
To help us learn as an organisation as well, we also hold regular all-team learning sessions on topics of mutual interest and we allocate an amount of £750/750€ to each colleague as a personal learning budget.
We have been able to learn, across all three cities, different approaches to increasing the wellbeing of our colleagues. From making conscious efforts to reduce working hours, clarifying approaches to flexible work to experimenting with different forms of transparency we have been able to make a real difference to how (much) people work in the organisation.
Associate learning & development
Our programme aims to transform Associates so that they, in turn, can help lead the wider transformation we need - in the organisations within which they work and the economy as a whole.
We measure our impact with Associates with the help of a series of carefully coordinated surveys and can report that of Associates who completed the programme in 2022:
We are actively experimenting with ways to increase the systemic competencies of Associates during the programme and would like to increase the figure of 45% to be more comparable to other levels we achieve. This involves a combination of evolving both the content of the programme and its learning methodology.
Taking a longer term view, of 2021 Associates:
"I truly believe this is one of the best things I've ever done. It's been life-changing."
Associate, October 2021 cohort, London
"It was a brilliant year, stimulating throughout. Amazing people in the cohort and core team and I fell in love with learning again. I've come out of the other side with pathways into the sort of opportunities I couldn't have imagined beforehand."
Associate, April 2022 cohort, London
"The Associate Programme [...] allowed me, through its many different aspects, to thrive. It reconnected me to my values [...], gave me the space to experiment and two projects from which I learnt a lot. I was gently able to redefine [...] both my professional and private life."
Associate, October 2021 cohort, Paris
Placement hosts’ satisfaction with their Associates has been consistently high, with an average rating of 9.2 and 9.0/10 for the cohorts graduating in 2022.
This is born out by qualitative feedback as well:
“Incredibly smart, motivated value oriented talent who can put intense energy behind a project for six months.”
Placement, October 2021 cohort, London
“As an impact-led scaleup, the overall value of the programme is great in the sense that it connects us to some bright minds in the industry who want to work somewhere different and have a positive impact.”
Placement, April 2021 cohort, London
“We enjoyed participating. The Associates’ insights were useful and the support that came with a fresh pair of eyes, helped us a lot. Both Associates were very engaged and generated a lot of value.”
Placement, April 2022 cohort, Berlin
“The Associate integrated admirably into the team, took the lead in several areas and transmitted know-how to the team.”
Placement, April 2021 cohort, Paris
We continue to learn about how our Associates can add value to placements and what placements offer great learning opportunities for Associates. This manifests itself in how we find and select organisations to work with. We are also continuously trying to learn more about how better to tie placements into our wider community.
The On Purpose community
The impact we seek does not end with the programme. We are growing a committed community of people who support, challenge and empower each other as they continue to strive for the transformation we need.
“The automatic support and help from the community - both within our cohort and the wider On Purpose community - has impressed me and has had a long-lasting effect on me. People who don’t know each other and have never met help each other with all kinds of challenges and/or questions, based only on having similar values and the shared idea of being part of a positive shift in our society. How great is that?
I will carry this commitment to be helpful to others, without expecting anything in return, into my professional and personal life.”
Fellow, April 2020 cohort, Berlin
We are proud to see the profound impact the programme has on the lives of our Associates and Fellows. We know though that we are not yet fulfilling the potential of our community and this has been and continues to be a point of learning and improvement for us. We particularly want to learn how to provide long-term learning opportunities for our community and have launched several experiments for how to make this a reality.
We are also conscious of wanting to develop our wider community which includes our pro bono trainers, mentors and coaches and our placement hosts. We are hugely grateful for the support we receive and are hoping to continue to strengthen ties with this extended community.
“It's an honour to be involved with OnPurpose and be able to pay it forward by providing coaching to the ever growing roster of inspiring Fellows.”
“The idea behind On Purpose speaks to me – especially the aspect of contributing to a sustainable economy and the integration of economic, social and environmental interests. I’m therefore very happy to accompany Associates on their journey, as they reorient themselves.”
In January 2021, we declared a climate emergency and committed to become climate neutral by 2025. Since then we have taken active steps to reduce our carbon emissions, estimated our carbon footprint and have, for the last two years already, offset any remaining emissions we have caused.
The tangible steps we have taken to reduce our emissions include:
- Stopped flying for work - any travel between our cities in London, Paris and Berlin, as well as to all-team offsites, has happened by train
- We have held all interviews for the programme applicants virtually, which has eliminated any flights to attend interviews
- We have also instituted a new policy to encourage colleagues to avoid flying in their private lives too and now offer up to two additional days of holidays per year for team members who take the train for personal journeys which might usually be traveled by plane
- In the Berlin office, we either provide free public transport tickets for travel all over Germany, or provide a bike subscription via Swapfiets. In addition, colleagues also get reductions on train tickets
As attitudes and best practices around what constitutes being climate neutral change, we are reviewing the value of undertaking regular, detailed measurement exercises, vs. investing the same resources directly into reducing our footprint or offsetting our emissions.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
We have continued to focus on ensuring that we, as an organisation, and the programmes we run make progress towards being more diverse, equitable and inclusive. Over the past few years, we have focused on the advertising for, and the recruitment of Associates to our programmes and within this becoming more aware of the biases we hold and finding ways to mitigate them. Each city has taken steps in accordance with their local laws, culture and expectations.
In London, for example, we no longer take CVs into account during our first screening of applications but rely rather on a set of three short essay questions which are kept anonymous and distributed randomly amongst those marking the answers.
This summer we also started a higher-level piece of work on articulating more explicitly our organisation-wide approach to DEI. We started with a detailed survey of all colleagues and board members followed by a board conversation to discuss the results. We are now planning the next stages of this work. As we work through this, we are looking to learn with and from those who have experience of and expertise in these issues.
B Impact Assessment scores
We are proud that we are one of the UK’s founding B Corps and that our B Corp status now extends to all three cities in which we operate. Our latest impact assessment scores date from January 2022 and are listed below. We have included the headings of the corresponding sections from above in brackets.
Governance (governance): 16.3
Workers (colleagues): 21.9
Community (DEI): 10.4
Environment (environment): 4.1
Customers (core impact): 27.3
As we reflect on our journey, we want to express our immense gratitude to each and every one of our community who enable us to continue developing transformational leaders. Guided by our values, and with the continued support and dedication of our resilient community, we are confident we'll be able to continue learning as an organisation and strive for the transformation we need.