Joined up thinking, seeing the bigger picture, and thinking outside the box. Like many professions, the arts world has been infiltrated with government buzzwords, writes Iona Horsburgh.These phrases have become the trendy terminology, but what do they actually mean in practice?
This is where organisations like Common Purpose come in. For 12 months I was able to prod, poke, question and generally be an intellectual voyeur into professions ranging from the creative to the judicial ? giving me the chance to find out.

The Common Purpose course covered a wide variety of issues, with one day a month devoted to themes including democracy, education, healthcare, law and order, the economy and many more. Each day consisted of talks, visits, discussion, presentations and debate. Luckily, there was always plenty of chocolate on hand to help us through the intensive twelve-hour days.

Each session made a profound impression on me, not only through the crash course of complex issues that surrounded each debate and topic, but also through the impact of some of the speakers themselves. The representatives from each sector were major players: chief executives, city leaders ? the crème de la crème. Some were passionate and informed, interested in the wider implications of their plans; others were disappointing, clearly not interested in listening to other opinions or consulting with those that were affected. There were some days I went home wondering how the region even functioned when some of those in charge were such poor thinkers and visionaries. This is clearly what Common Purpose seeks to change - taking around 35 people from a wide range of sectors and giving them the time to find out how decisions made in one sector can impact in another.

Some of the sessions reflected a more personal experience. When we visited Walton Prison, it was only a couple of months after I?d been burgled, and I found it really cathartic meeting young lads who had carried out similar crimes. They weren?t the evil burglars that I?d conjured up in my mind ? just young lads who?d made some wrong choices. After talking to many of them, and listening to their histories, it seemed hardly surprising they?d made those decisions. The visit strengthened my resolve to be part of the type of organisation that made a difference, through working in the community and maybe making some positive change.

Common Purpose isn?t like a standard training course where you come back able to work some new piece of computer software. It has changed my perception of my job and how I see my company?s role within society. It?s clear to me that if we all thought of the impact of our company?s decisions in a wider context we could live in a more advanced society. I have learnt in one year information ? about companies in a huge range of sectors - that would have taken me years to have otherwise accumulated. I have also made great contacts and friends amongst the team I was on the course with.

Joined up thinking, working across boundaries and seeing the bigger picture. These are easy statements to make, but for me they have a real resonance now and I am delighted to have learnt such valuable and real lessons at such a point in my career.

Iona Horsburgh is Operations Director for the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology t: 0151 709 2663 e: fact@fact.co.uk w: http://www.fact.co.uk